IBM Doubles Up Memory And I/O On Power Iron To Bend The Downturn
May 18, 2020 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Back in early January, before the coronavirus pandemic had kicked in outside of Wuhan, China, Big Blue decided to rejigger the pricing on the memory and flash storage used in the current Power8 and Power9 systems lineup. Small form factor flash drives had a price increase of 6 percent to 7 percent, fatter SAS drives had a price increase of 6 percent to 14 percent, and on some machines they went down 10 percent. NVM-Express flash cards had price decreases of 16 percent to 27 percent. Main memory prices were cut anywhere from 2.4 percent to 18.5 percent, with the fatter memory getting the steeper cuts.
At the time, we just figured these price changes were designed to pass through savings and costs as the supply chain was getting a little wonky and as both memory and flash prices have generally come down, particularly after the very aggressive price increases that started in 2017 and rolled through 2018. The industry is still not sure if shortages due to supply chain disruption will cause another price increase for memory or flash, but we are sure of one thing: Big Blue doesn’t seem to care about that right now, at least not with regards to its Power Systems line, which is at the long tail of the Power9 cycle and which was seeing sales soften worldwide even before the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing.
We surmise this by the fact that IBM has created a pair of Request for Price Quote (RPQ) deals, which have not been put out in customer announcement letters but which are revealed in the RPQ database in the IBM offering information system (formerly known as IBMLink to us old farts). We did some hunting around and found these two sets of Double Up deals, which are aimed at memory and NVM-Express flash cards used in Power Systems. Here ate the details on the Double Up Memory RPQs:
This double-shot of memory special deal is available on the so-called scale-up variants of the Power9 line, what you and I would no doubt just call entry servers, which is the single-socket Power S914 and the two-socket Power S922 and Power S924 machines. The four-socket Power E950 is the midrange box, and it does not support IBM i, and the 16-socket Power E980 is the enterprise or high-end box, and there are not Double Up Memory RPQs for these two machines as far as we know.
As the slide above says, this deal is available worldwide with a few restrictions in terms of processor features that have to be acquired and the deal tops out at 128 GB of total memory for the Power S914, 512 GB for the Power S922, and 1 TB for the Power S924 – half paid and half free. Customers in the healthcare and life sciences industries, who are presumably having system capacity issues during the pandemic can upgrade their memory with this deal, but every other industry has to buy a new system to get the deal. (Good on you, IBM.) This deal was apparently announced on February 10 and runs through the end of the second quarter of this year, which means June 30.
Just so you don’t have to go through the effort of looking up the RPQs for these memory deals, here they are:
- S914 Double Up Memory EM62 16 GB
- S914 Double Up Memory EM63 32 GB
- S922 Double Up Memory EM62 16 GB
- S922 Double Up Memory EM63 32 GB
- S924 Double Up Memory EM62 16 GB
- S924 Double Up Memory EM63 32 GB
In an effort to balance storage I/O and capacity against increased main memory capacity, there is also a set of RPQs for NVM-Express flash cards, called the Double Up I/O promotion, that IBM has announced, and the details are here:
The flash cards are not being promoted on the Power S914, which is a bummer for IBM i shops who like this machine and who are looking to dump internal or external disk for internal flash cards based on NVM-Express. IBM has two features that deliver either 1.6 TB or 3.2 TB of capacity in the entry Power9 machines, and given the performance and reliability advantages, any company with modest storage capacity requirements doing OLTP and batch work should really consider switching to NVM-Express flash at this point. (We will be doing a deep dive on this in the coming weeks.) While IBM i certainly is supported on the Power S922, the NVM-Express flash adapters that do support IBM i are not available on this deal. (We are not sure why.) The Power S924 does support NVM-Express flash with IBM i. We believe that you need to use VIOS to support it, and the virtual storage access rather than the native access that AIX and Linux enjoy means that IBM i will probably have a performance hit. But flash is so much faster than disk that it will seem like a processor upgrade when it all gets brought back into balance with flash storage.
Under the Double Up I/O deals, customers can only order a maximum of five flash drives, and they have to be on new systems. Healthcare and life sciences customers are allowed to upgrade their storage on existing systems with this deal, as with the memory deal above.
Just so you don’t have to go hunting and pecking for the flash RPQs for the Double Up I/O deal, here they are:
- S922 6 TB NVM-Express Flash Adapter for AIX/Linux
- S922 2 TB NVM-Express Flash Adapter for AIX/Linux
- S924 6 TB NVM-Express Flash Adapter for AIX/Linux
- S924 2 TB NVM-Express Flash Adapter for AIX/Linux
- S924 6 TB NVM-Express Flash Adapter for IBM i
- S924 2 TB NVM-Express Flash Adapter for IBM i
By the way, the double up memory and core deal for the Power8-based Power S814 entry server, which was certainly popular among the IBM i set and which was announced in November 2016 – yes, three and a half years ago – is still on the books as far as I know. This was an RPQ deal, too, and if a Power S914, Power S922, and Power S924 is overkill for you, this is another way you can get even more bang for your buck. And don’t forget to insist on memory price breaks on the Power8 iron that the Power9 iron got in February. IBM should not hold the fact that there is no very small Power S914 machine against customers.