IBM Tweaks Power Systems Hardware Here And There
April 26, 2021 Timothy Prickett Morgan
First of all, our apologies for taking so long to get to the hardware roundup from the April 13 Power Systems announcements, which brought us new Technology Refreshes for IBM i 7.3 and IBM i 7.4. There were a few changes to the hardware lineup as well, and let’s go through them now.
As you can see from announcement letter 121-013, IBM has done a refresh on the 2.5-inch flash drives used in the Power9-based server line. According to Douglas Gibbs, offering manager for peripherals at the Cognitive Systems division that is responsible for the Power Systems lineup, this is an occasional refresh from manufacturers that IBM does from time to time as underlying flash technology and drive firmware gets updated. In this case, the NAND flash in the mainstream and enterprise flash drives has not really changed, and this is about firmware and some pricing tweaks here and there. Some prices have gone down, many are the same, and none have increased is how Gibbs characterized this change. The duty cycle on the drives is also changed in some cases, which leads me to believe that Big Blue might be shopping new components to lower its prices. The mainstream drives, which are used for read-heavy workloads and for boot devices, are now rated at 1 drive write per day (1 DWPD), and at the capacities that they have this is a tremendous amount of write change that a drive rated at 3 DWPD or 5 DWPD, as the NVM-Express versions of the drives have, is overkill for IBM i and AIX shops.
Here are the new mainstream flash drives in the lineup:
These mainstream drives can be used in the Power E980, Power E950, Power S924, Power S914, Power S922, Power L922, Power H924, and Power H922 servers. The 931 GB drives cost $1,199, the 1.86 TB drives cost $2,499, the 3.72 TB drives cost $4,499, and the 7.44 TB drives cost $7,999.
The enterprise-class drives, which are tweaked to have excess capacity to have better performance on writes and to not wear out from a lot of writing – which flash definitely does – have been rated at 10 DWPD, which is totally overkill for a lot of IBM i shops but both customers and Big Blue like to be conservative. Here they are:
These drives can be used in the same machines as the mainstream ones above. They are considerably more expensive because they are tuned for a lot of writes and for a longer endurance. The 387 GB drive costs $2,149 and the 775 GB drive costs $3,049 for AIX and Linux, and oddly enough are cheaper for the IBM i shops (because they format down to a lower capacity thanks to the different block size used for IBM i, we think) at $1,949 for the 387 GB drive and $2,849 for the 77 GB drive. The 1.55 TB enterprise drive costs $5,349 for AIX, IBM i, or Linux.
IBM is also rolling out a new 800 GB NVM-Express U.2 flash drive that is aimed only at the IBM i base:
This drive can be used in Power S924, Power S914, and Power S922 servers, and it costs $1,499. Interestingly, it does not support VIOS, which means it cannot be used to support IBM i 7.1, which requires VIOS to run on Power9 iron.
Here is a handy dandy chart that Gibbs gave us to help you sort through your NVM-Express flash options on the entry Power9 machines:
All of these new flash drives became available in April 23, so we are not too far behind the eight ball on our reporting. . . .
Supply chain is a big issue in the IT market these days thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, as it is in other markets. So IBM is second sourcing some Fibre Channel adapters from Marvell as well as still selling the existing ones from Emulex. Feature #EN1J/#EN1K is a PCI-Express 4.0 Fibre Channel storage adapter that has two ports running at 32 Gb/sec speed and delivering 6,400 MB/sec of peak bandwidth per port; it costs $3,899. This adapter is only supported with IBM i using VIOS NPIV and VSCSI configurations. Feature #EN1E/#EN1F is a PCI-Express 3.0 Fibre Channel adapter that has four ports running at 16 Gb/sec and that delivers 1,600 MB/sec of bandwidth. It has the same VIOS restrictions when attached to IBM i, and costs $5,150.
In announcement letter 121-001, you will see that IBM has launched a new Hardware Management Console, which is model 7063-CR2. This is a one-socket server that has a six-core Power9 chip with a 130 watt thermal envelope and that has 64 GB or 128 GB of memory (pick one) and 77 GB/sec of peak memory bandwidth. The new HMC has two 1.8 TB SAS flash drives and uses an integrated 1 Gb/sec management port and has, for some reason, a pair of 10 Gb/sec Ethernet ports as optional. (They really are not optional.) This machine can run HMC code level V9R2M950, which means it can manage Power7, Power7+, Power8, or Power9 systems, and is the second generation of Power-based HMCs. At around $8,000, the CR2 variant of the HMC is a bit more expensive than the $7,000 price tag of the CR1 HMC. It will be available on May 21. By the way, in announcement letter 921-043, IBM announced that the CR1 edition of the HMC was withdrawn from marketing everywhere on Earth except India, Taiwan, Argentina, Mexico, or China.