Tweaking Systems And Withdrawal Symptoms
March 4, 2019 Timothy Prickett Morgan
A system product line does not always come out finished and complete, all at once, and its retirement from the sales catalog and the field is not always a simple and smooth thing, either. After a certain amount of criticism from its largest customers, Big Blue last year decided that it would get a little bit more orderly about the latter, as machines are withdrawn from marketing and eventually support. As for the former, well, there are always some nips and tucks that are done here and there as parts of the system are tweaked to meet specific customer demands.
Let’s talk about the tweaks first. Back on February 12, in announcement letter 119-007, IBM announced that it was allowing customers to have three Power9 processors – not the two processors or four processors that would be consistent with the unspoken power of two rule in the IT sector – installed in a Power E950 midrange server. This may cause some customers’ heads to explode, particularly when you consider that there is an 11-core Power9 processor option for the Power E950, which also violates the unspoken rule that the number of cores on a processor has to be divisible by two. It has been a long time since I have seen a triadic processor complex, but there ya go. IBM i shops won’t have to worry about this, of course, since IBM i is not supported on the Power E950 – for reasons that we do not agree with, as is well known.
In that same announcement letter, IBM has put out a slew of adapter cards for both the midrange Power E950 and the enterprise-class Power E980 systems, code-named “Zeppelin” and “Fleetwood,” respectively. These include a two-port 100 Gb/sec Ethernet card that supports the RoCE implementation of RDMA to reduce the latency in the Ethernet stack and that plugs into a PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slot (and which we suspect chokes it a bit) as well as a two port 100 Gb/sec Ethernet card that supports native RDMA that plus into a PCI-Express 4.0 x16 slot that has twice as much bandwidth (and therefore probably doesn’t choke).
In announcement letter 119-018, from February 26, IBM is offering a processor upgrade and memory enhancements on the Power E980. The processor upgrade Feature #EH0E allows for Power8 processors to be upgraded to Power9 processors, presumably as part of a Power E870 or Power E880 upgrade to a Power E980 system. The pricing information was offline as we went to press, so we cannot see what this processor upgrade costs. In this same announcement letter, IBM is offering 512 GB memory activations for the Power E980, and is also allowing for 500 GB chunks of memory in a pool of systems to be activated to move around that pool of machines. Again, here we are violating the power of two rule; memory should only be activated and pooled in 512 GB chunks. . . . And again, we can’t see the prices thanks to the pricing system being offline.
This is admittedly a little bit inside baseball in terms of hardware tweaks, we realize. But our job is to tell you what is going on. We don’t judge; we nudge.
That brings us to product withdrawals. IBM has promised to try to get all of these lined up at the same time so customers and partners are not going crazy trying to keep track of what is in and what has been torn out of the product catalog. Going forward, IBM will withdraw a certain generation of Power gear all at once, and worldwide, to the best of its ability and make a lot of noise about that so everyone is on the same page about what is going dark and when they have to move. It has been very tough to keep track of all of this over the years, and causes a certain amount of grief. There is still a bit of mop up to get everything properly synchronized, however.
So, in announcement letter 919-003, dated January 22, we see that effective April 19 of this year, IBM will no longer sell the Power S822LC, which is a Linux only implementation of the two-socket Power8 system that was replaced by Power9 equivalents last year. This machine does not support IBM i, but there are some customers who do have Linux-only machines in IBM i shops, and there are other companies that buy Linux-only machines, too. In announcement letter 919-018, we see that IBM will mothball a few more of the Linux-only Power8 machines on August 30 of this year; these machines include the two-socket Power S821LC, Power S822LC for Big Data, and the Power S822LC for HPC (the latter being the prototype system for the Power9-based AC922 system). On October 31 of this year, that will be the last day you can get a Power E770 or E780, based on the Power7+ processor, as well as the Power E850C, the Power E870C, and Power E880C based on the Power8 processor. Model conversions between these machines and newer Power9 iron are also being torn out of the catalog starting October 31. On March 15, there are a slew of older regular PCI-Express and NVM-Express flash drives that are being removed. You should check out the listing to see if you need any of these units to flesh out your systems with like components.