Sundry April Power Systems Announcements
Released: April 18, 2016
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
As we reported recently in discussing IBMs Power processor roadmap for the next five-plus years, there is not going to be a Power8+ revamp of existing Power Systems machines. Rather, IBM has actually rejiggered the Power8 chip to create an alternative intended at supercomputing and deep learning works that permitspermits high-speed NVLink coupling in between Nvidia Pascal Tesla GPU coprocessors and the Power8 chip.
That implies there is no efficiency increase or list costsale price cut (or both) that is normally expected and provided with a plus variation of the Power chips. However as we expected, IBM has made a few tweaks to the Power Systems portfolio beyond the release of IBM i 7.3 and an Innovation Refresh upgrade for IBM i 7.2.
First up, IBM has actually goosed the memory capability on the midrange Power E850 server, mirroring the memory boost it supplied on the high-end Power E870 and Power E880 devices back in February. The Power8 machines, you will recall, are based on DDR3 memory chips and make usageuse Big Blues Centaur memory buffer chip, which permits IBM to scale up memory bandwidth on its systems and have a lot of memory sticks hanging off of a single processor socket, boosting the memory-to-processing ratio of the system. IBM makes its own CDIMM memory cards for its Power Systems line (or rather, develops them and agreements them out), and the fattest ones come in a 256 GB capability, twice that of the top-end 128 GB CDIMM modules that IBM shipped at first with the enterprise-class Power Systems bearing the E870 and E880 label and scaling to four, 8, or 16 sockets in a single NUMA system image.
In announcement letter 116-029, IBM launched support for the fatter 128 GB CDIMM sd card in the Power E850 servers, doubling their top-end memory capability to 4 TB. Formerly, it had just delivered CDIMMs with 64 GB capabilities, which topped the memory in the Power E850 at 2 TB across 4 sockets. We are fairly particular that if a client desiredwished to double up the memory capability once again on a special quote basis, IBM could put the fattest 256 GB CDIMMs in the Power E850 (possibly as a fat node in an in-memory database cluster) The function #EM 8S 128 GB CDIMM sd card costs $6,145, according to the costcatalog, but this looks incorrect to me. It is way too low. IBM charges around $156 per GB for the 256 GB card, which is the exact same cost IBM was charging for the 128 GB cards on the larger Power Systems machines. The price list also states that this is a DDR4 memory module, which I do not think it is since IBM was not expected to transfer to DDR4 main memory till the Power9 chip next year.
In addition, IBM has actually revealed a four-port PCI-Express RAID SAS adapter with 12 GB of cache memory that is aimedfocused on increasing the performance of flash SSDs on Power Systems iron. A pair of controllers using RAID 0 mirroring on SSDs had the ability to chew through 1.6 million I/O operations per second (IOPS) reading random information in 4 KB blocks; with RAID 5 information defense, the pair of controllers might hit 360,000 IOPS writing information arbitrarily in 4 KB blocks; and with a mix of 70 percent checks out and 30 percent writes (a typical distribution in the storage industry) was able to process data at a rate of 878,000 IOPS. The 12 GB adapter (feature #EJ 14, and designated as a plus version of an existing feature #EJ 0L card) costs $7,000, and it is just offered on machines utilizing the Power8 processor.
If you desirewish to bypass the PCI-Express software application stack and get even lower latency with flash drives, IBM has introduced 2 flash drives in an SSD type factor that support the NVM-Express method. Features #EC 54 and #EC 54 have 1.6 TB of capacity and feature #EC 57 has a 3.2 TB capacity. These NVM-Express drives offerprovide to 750,000 IOPS on random checks out and 3 GB/sec of sustained bandwidth with latency on writes as low as 25 microseconds. They are supported on Power S812L, S822L, S824L, S814, S822, S824, E870, or E880 devices and will quickly be supported on the Power E850 machine. Ah, but here is the catch: The device needs to be running Linux to use these quick flash drives. No word on when AIX and IBM i will get assistance, however they definitely should. The 1.6 TB unit costs $7,999 and the 3.2 TB unit costs $14,999.
If you desire regular, plain vanilla SSDs that do not have the advantages of the NVM-Express method (which eliminates a great deal of the SCSI chatter in the PCI-Express method that has no bearing whatsoever on flash memory), then IBM does have its fourth generation of flash SSDs that do plug into Power8 machines which do support IBM i 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3. These brand-new SSD are outlined in statement letter 116-036. These brand-new enterprise MLC flash drives can be found in a 2.5-inch type element and come in 387 GB and 775 GB capacities along with a brand-new 1.55 TB capability. These drives have about 50 percent much better higher IOPS on blended read/write workloads and a typical latency of around 12 microseconds, which is 20 percent much better than the third generation of SSDs sold by IBM in the Power Systems line. There are a slew of feature numbers for these drives, depending on if you desirewish to install them in Linux-only or multi-OS Power Systems devices, and the 1.55 TB SSD is just available on Power8-based devices. The 387 GB drive costs $2,649, or $6.85 per GB, while the 775 GB drive costs $4,449, or $5.74 per GB, and the 1.55 TB drive costs $7,779, or $5.02 per GB.
In addition to these basic purpose 2.5-inch drives, IBM has a 1.8-inch SSD in a 387 GB capacity likewise based upon eMLC4 flash technology that costs $2,399, or $6.20 per GB, and a 775 GB variation, which costs $4,199, or $5.42 per GB.
Lastly, there is a new 2.5-inch SAS SSD that is specifically created for read-intensive workloads and that can be found in a 1.9 TB capacity. This drive costs $4,399, or $2.32 per GB.
This would have been a lot more fun, undoubtedly, if there were actual Power8+ servers. It will be a long, long way up until Power9 equipment will be announced sometime in the 2nd half of 2017. Until then, IBM needs to do some wheeling and dealing on its existing Power8 systems, particularly with Intel using the competitive pressure with its newest Broadwell Xeon E5 v4 processors, introduced two weeks earlier.
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