The Power S812 Gets Yet Another Stay Of Execution
July 6, 2020 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The Power S812 entry server, which is based on the Power8 processor and which has no analog in the Power9-based Power Systems lineup, has received yet another reprieve from being removed from the Big Blue product catalog. It is a wonder why IBM doesn’t just say it will sell this Lazarus machine indefinitely and get it over with, to be honest.
The Power S812, particularly the “Mini” variant that IBM announced on Valentine’s Day in 2017, are the skinniest – in terms of processing and memory capacity – of the Power Systems line that supports the IBM i operating system and integrated database. It heralds back to the amount of capacity that most systems during the Power5, Power5+, Power6, and Power6+ generations had, and thus it also demonstrates just how powerful a Power9 chip is and even more to the point how much oomph the future Power10 systems will have, even with only one core fired up. One core from the Power8 generation is enough database processor for a lot of the IBM i base – there are only so many orders that a small and medium business can take in a day, and systems have so much capacity these days and relational database tables have not scaled as fast as Moore’s Law at most companies, so they don’t need a huge wonking system with many of the fastest processors lashed together. There are large enterprises that do, but very few are hitting the ceiling on the Power E980 and Power E980 systems, and there are more than a few Power 770s, Power 780s, and Power 795s out there, churning through the database tables and running reports and processing transactions.
Back in October 2018, just about a year after the Power8 chips entered the field, first in supercomputer nodes in December 2017 and then through the commercial server line throughout 2018, IBM warned customers that on May 31, 2019 it would stop selling the Power S812 single-core machine, which was solely aimed at IBM i shops and comes with a 64 GB memory cap to make sure it is not used for AIX or Linux. But as that end date for the Power S812 loomed large, back in back in March 2019, IBM extended the life of the Power S812 and its Mini variant until November 29 of this year to help better plug the hole at the bottom of the product line. After thinking about it, and no doubt hearing complaints from small customers and the business partners who support them, in announcement letter 119-076, dated November 12, that IBM has once again extended the life of the Power S812 and its Mini variant, all the way out to June 2020. Features for the Power S812 machines that were previously withdrawn were also given a stay of product catalog execution. And last week, in announcement letter 120-035, on June 23, which was the 32nd anniversary of the launch of the AS/400 (based on the Tuesday date, not the calendar day June 21), IBM has once again revived the Power S812 and its Power S812 Mini variant, which it did not pull the plug on in June 2020 as expected.
Now, according to this latest announcement, these machines and their components and unique peripherals will be withdrawn on August 31, 2020, which is two months from now. That’s not a lot of time, and, again, we wonder that IBM doesn’t just keep selling these as long as customers want to buy them. It’s not like it is offering a special, geared-down P05-class machine aimed at entry customers or that it will think about doing it for future Power10 systems, which should have somewhere around 4X the performance per core of the Power8 chips and probably 4X the number of cores per socket, for a factor of 16X more throughput increase.
The wonder is not that the Power S812 and Power S812 Mini exists, but rather that Big Blue sets the goals so low for helping IBM i shops consolidate workloads and therefore has them craving for the smallest possible machine they can shell out money for.
If I were running IBM, I would have a few ways of trying to get IBM i customers to move more and more workloads to the Power iron. You need to skin Microsoft’s SQL server with a PostgreSQL or MySQL database and pull those analytical databases onto the Power Systems boxes. The advent of SQL Server 7 in 1998 has hurt the AS/400 and IBM i business more than anything else, it is safe to say, except for SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2008 and their successors. All of those databases talk to applications, and there is no reason they cannot be running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux partitions with a PostgreSQL database made to look like SQL Server, thus consolidating machines and maybe, just maybe, IBM i shops would move up to Power9 machines with dozens of cores and lots of memories and throw out a whole bunch – is it handfuls or dozens? – of external OLAP Servers and relational databases doing other work. Ditto for the application servers running atop Windows Server. If this code is running in C#, there are ways to support that on Linux. IBM just stopped getting imaginative and stopped looking at the actual companies using IBM i and their diverse IT needs and just looked at the IBM i operation solely. The opportunity is only as big as you make it. IBM used to focus its Migration Factory service on attacking Hewlett Packard and Sun Microsystems in the Unix space, and now that it owns Red Hat, it needs to target Microsoft and Windows Server workloads in the datacenters of its customers. This is how you do that. But Migration Factory was last heard of in 2017, and was concerned with Power8 migration (that’s to Power8, not off of Power8) as well as migrating SAP customers off Oracle, Sybase, Informix, and SQL Server databases to its own Db2 or to the SAP HANA in-memory database. IBM also had Migration Factory practice moving customers to MariaDB (a variant of MySQL that is not controlled by Oracle), EnterpriseDB (a commercial variant of PostgreSQL), and to the MongoDB document database.
If you are going to go through the trouble of adding native support for more and more open source databases, as IBM is doing, then leverage this as a means of getting more workloads on Power Systems iron within IBM i shops, not just AIX and Linux shops. Every Windows Server workload should be targeted with its Linux analog, and tools created to port them. It is a wonder that Red Hat didn’t already do such things, but it has been too busy selling infrastructure software to worry much about databases and application servers. There ought to be porting factories to move WebSphere to JBoss, to be sure, but also everything the many adjunct servers on the Windows Server platform does. Why? Because these run on Power processors and Windows Server does not. If Windows Server did run on Power iron, then we would be happy that for every one IBM i partition, there would be two dozen Windows Server partitions, conversation over. But that is not the case.
So, great that the Power S812 and Power S812 Mini are going to be around for two more months. This is good news for customers with modest needs, and that is OK. But we want IBM i shops to look around at all of those Windows Server machines and start attacking them, rather than the other way around as it has been for decades. Even Microsoft believes as much in Linux as it does Windows Server these days, after all.