IBM Sunsets Big Iron Power8 Engines As Power9 Engines Loom
July 23, 2018 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Big Blue must be getting an itchy launch finger for the high end of the Power Systems lineup, and you can usually tell the company is ready to launch the new thing when it starts warning customers they better get their checkbooks out to buy the old thing while it is still available.
In announcement letter A18-0567, which came out on July 17, the warning was a bit shorter than usual, and we are not sure why. Perhaps IBM meant to give a warning and didn’t realize it was running out of certain Power8 processors aimed at Power E880 and Power E8880C enterprise-class processors. We don’t know. But what we can tell you is that effective that day, IBM stopped selling the 48-core processor complex for those two high end machines, which are among the most powerful ones that IBM sells in the Power Systems line. To be specific, the four card, 48-core processor features running at 4.02 GHz for these systems are no longer available for the plain vanilla servers or their Capacity BackUp (CBU) high availability mirror or SAP HANA (using the Integrated Facility for Linux) variants. These processors are not available for new system orders or for field upgrades from prior generations of Power7 and Power7+ machines alike.
IBM is suggesting that customers who are doing new orders of Power E880C machines should consider taking a 40-core Power8 complex running at 4.19 GHz or a 32-core Power8 complex running at 4.35 GHz. Our advice has always been to go with more clocks and the fewest cores possible because of the core-based software pricing for IBM i and third party applications, so this seems reasonable to us.
That said, it is probably more reasonable to see what IBM has in store for the “Zeppelin” Power E950 (one node, four socket) and “Fleetwood” Power E980 (two or four nodes, with eight or 16 sockets) servers that are expected sometime in the third quarter. That means any day now, more or less. With the Power9 chips offering considerably more performance per core – somewhere between 40 percent and 50 percent, depending on the clock speeds – than the Power8 chips they will replace, it makes sense to wait if you can and cut back on the number of cores even further. IBM has promised to offer upgrades from Power E870 and Power E880 to Power E970 and Power E980 machines. I had been guessing, way back in October 2017, that IBM would have this big Power9 iron out by this May. The one from two months ago. But that was just a hunch. The plan was good as of February, but it could have changed for all I know.