A Smorgasbord Of Power Systems Stuff
September 19, 2022 Timothy Prickett Morgan
It is usually pretty quiet on the IT front in the wake of the American Labor Day holiday, especially with a lot of European countries also having bank holidays around that time and many schools just starting back up again. Here in 2022, it is no different, although IBM did uncharacteristically launch the full subscription entry Power S1014 server aimed at IBM i customers on September 6.
In any event, in the weeks surrounding the holiday, Big Blue did a bunch of stuff relating to the Power Systems platform and we want to tell you about it so you stay informed. None of these are huge things, mind you, but each thing does affect a bunch of customers in the IBM i base, which is why we are bringing it up.
Along with that full subscription Power S1014, IBM on September 6 also put out a number of enhancements for the new Power10 machinery. In announcement letter 122-101, you will find that Active Memory Expansion, which is the hardware-assisted memory compression that IBM created for the AIX platforms running on Power iron, is now available on the Power S1014, the Power S1022 and Power L1022, and the Power S1024 and Power L1024 systems. We have often wondered why IBM has not offered memory compression, which significantly reduces the cost of memory for AIX workloads, is not available on IBM i and Linux, particularly since it can increase the effective memory capacity of a machine by 2X or more. AME is a chargeable feature, which means IBM could make a fair amount of money on it, and would be particularly useful on those Power10 S1014 configurations that are stuck at 64 GB of physical memory. With memory being a very expensive component in the system, and sometimes in short supply, IBM could cut customers a break and port AME to IBM i and Linux.
Anyway, the AME feature for the entry Power iron is available on September 16.
In this announcement, IBM also said, quite generously, that one-core base processor activations on entry Power9 machines can be exchanged for Power10 one-core base processor activations, which is meant “to help facilitate scale-out capacity migration.” The wording of this was exactly backward, saying that Power10 capacity could be exchanged for corresponding Power9 capacity, but that makes no sense whatsoever. So, we are telling you what IBM must have meant, unless it really does want those few customers who have moved to Power10 iron to downgrade to Power9. Which, as we say, seems unlikely. 4 TB memory activations are also listed as being convertible on the Power E980 to the Power E1080, but the announcement letter doesn’t explain this.
These tweaks to core and memory activation became available on September 6.
In announcement letter 122-109 from August 23, IBM revised the availability date on its 256 GB differential DIMM buffered DDR4 main memory. Right now, these DDIMMs, which are a custom IBM product using standard DDR4 memory running at 2.67 GHz for the fat cards and 2.93 GHz for the skinnier cards, are only available in 32 GB, 64 GB, and 128 GB capacities. As usual, the fatter cards run slower to keep the heat from burning them up, which has been the case for IBM memory as long as we can remember (and indeed any other high density server memory now that we think on it). These particular 256 GB memory modules were expected on November 18, and their delivery has slipped to December 8. By the way, these modules are sold in pairs as memory feature cards, just so you don’t get confused and think IBM is making 512 GB memory modules. It isn’t. But it has in the past with its “Centaur” buffered memory.
In announcement 122-103, also from August 23, IBM is adding Enterprise Storage Pools 2.0 floating core support to its Power Solutions Editions for Healthcare bundles, which is mostly aimed at the Electronic Health Record system from Epic Systems that is popular on AIX on Power but also available on Linux on Power and Linux on X86. Now, software licenses for healthcare records systems (from Epic or otherwise) can be assigned to a pool of machines and a pool of cores, with on-demand activations and deactivations and high availability live migration of running partitions across a group of machine on a network.
All software on the Power Systems platform should be sold this way. And all machines, from one core to 256 cores, should have this capability. Every competitive edge IBM has against X86 platforms has to be sharpened and wielded in the field like a berserker.
Finally, IBM is having another case of withdrawal symptoms, which is luckily going to be cured with sales of lots of Power10 machinery.
In announcement letter 922-098, IBM is withdrawing a whole slew of old stuff from marketing. Just as a for instance, effective September 13 you could no longer get V5R3 installed on a Power 570 or a Power 595 system dating from 2005. There is a bunch of stuff relating to Power7, Power7+, Power8, and even first generation Power9 machines (the ones that did not have the full I/O activated). So look carefully through this list to see if any of this affects the Power Systems iron in your shop – or any you might buy from IBM’s or a third party second hand if that is how you roll.