Power9 Servers Get Updated Flash Drives
May 9, 2022 Timothy Prickett Morgan
IBM may be on the verge of launching its entry and midrange Power10 servers in July, as we reported last week, but that doesn’t mean it will not continue to sell Power9-based machines for now and out past the general availability of the Power10-based systems.
To that end, in announcement letter 122-042, IBM is adding new enterprise-grade flash drives in the U.2 form factor that is roughly analogous to a 2.5-inch disk drive. These new drives, which come from an unnamed source, support the NVM-Express protocol that speeds up flash drives (because they stop talking the SCSI disk protocol and talk native flash) as many new flash devices – be they in a U.2 disk format or an M.2 gumstick format or a PCI-Express adapter card format – do. These particular drives are rated at 3 drive writes per day, as calculated by doing 100 percent 4 KB random writes over a five-year period. (As you know full well by now, flash cells wear out as you write to them.) They are designed to plug into the front of the Power Systems chassis, which has a number of slots of U.2 devices. (The Power S924, for instance, has room for four front pluggable U.2 drives and then room inside for ten PCI-Express adapter cards.)
The new U.2 flash drives come in 800 GB, 1.6 TB, 3.72 TB, and 6.4 TB capacities and support IBM i, AIX, and Linux on the Power9 platform. In recent years, IBM has divulged the pricing of flash drives, but not so this time around.
It is not clear if IBM is switching flash product lines or flash vendors with this announcement, perhaps to get around a supply chain bottleneck, or getting higher performance devices. There are no feeds and speeds other than what we mentioned for these devices. The new U.2 drives will be available on May 27.
What we want to know is when IBM will support the flash ruler format espoused by Intel since 2017 and adopted in recent years by the storage industry – perhaps when the Power10 machines come out.