IBM Announces New POWER7 Servers

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Along with new medium and high-end servers is a refresh of its development tools.


IBM this week introduced a new line of midrange and upper-tier servers based on the POWER7 chip. These servers promise to give users a lot more value for their investment and tremendous savings on energy costs.


The market opportunity for IBM is in converting HP and Sun servers over to IBM POWER7 servers. With its Migration Factory having converted more than 500 clients over to IBM in 2009, the company is on a roll to ramp up the conversions in 2010. Whether Oracle's acquisition of Sun changes the dynamic remains to be seen, but it's clear that Oracle is positioning itself to compete head to head against IBM in both hardware and database markets.


The timing couldn't be better for IBM to introduce its new line of POWER7 servers in light of the Oracle coup. For the moment at least, IBM would appear to have the advantage in the leapfrogging that occurs among processor vendors. The new POWER7 chips provide four, six, or eight cores per socket; speeds of from 3.0 to 4.14 GHz; up to four threads per core; integrated eDRAM L3 cache; and an advanced energy-optimization mechanism. The servers are EPA ENERGY STAR-qualified and offer advanced workload optimizing capabilities.


The first four servers in the POWER7 lineup include the Power 750 Express, Power 755 for HPC, Power 770, and Power 780. There is nothing for now to replace the JS blades or the Power 520, but the Power 750 is positioned to replace the older Power 550 while the Power 770 is intended to replace the Power 570.


The big goal today seems to be cutting energy use, and the energy cost-savings that appear to be possible from stepping up to the new POWER7 processor eventually might pay for the whole system. Certainly, consolidating onto a single more powerful server can save on software licensing costs, and IBM is counting on that fact to appeal to the market with its new hardware.


Scalability is another factor that comes into play when trying to save on costs. The number one reason that IT managers deploy virtualization solutions is workload consolidation; the more workloads that can be combined onto a single server, the greater the cost reduction. POWER7 servers in combination with IBM's PowerVM virtualization software allow for much higher consolidation ratios than were previously possible, according to IBM.


IBM is almost gleeful in its use of comparative figures against the competition and claims that by consolidating a 964-core HP Superdome onto one Power 780 system, users can reduce the floor space required by up to 91 percent and reduce the processing cores by 88 percent. It's assumed that the HP Superdomes are operating at only 25 percent utilization and running 576 cores at 1.6 GHz. The utilization rate for the Power 780, however, is assumed to be 75 percent running on 64 cores at 3.8 GHz. The annual savings in energy costs? A cool $139,000, according to IBM.


Comparing the Power 770 to today's Power 550 running the POWER6 chip reveals some interesting differences. For about the same price, a new Power 770 would run 16 cores at 3.1 GHz versus eight cores at 5 GHz for the Power 550.


The new Power 780 offers some interesting new technology with its TurboCore feature for databases--in which users can turn off four of the eight cores and L2 cache--Intelligent Threads that utilize more threads when needed, and Active Memory Expansion that provides more effective memory, there clearly are some whiz-bang features to explore over the next few months. IBM says TurboCore is designed to help ease any transition to highly parallel multi-core systems.


As with most IBM hardware announcements, initial release is only the beginning of what generally turns into a larger family of servers, and that appears to be the case with the POWER7, but IBM isn't making any promises on smaller POWER7 servers. IBM's statement of direction says the company will deliver a new high-end server in 2010 with up to 256 POWER7 processor cores that is designed to operate within the same physical footprint and energy envelope of the current 64-core Power 595. The company also plans to provide an upgrade path from the current Power 595 with 12X I/O to the new POWER7 high-end server. For the time being, however, those who want to upgrade from their Power 520s--largely the IBM i crowd--will simply have to wait. Perhaps it's a sign of the times in which the AIX platform apparently is getting the lion's share of the company's resources.


Also in 2010, IBM is repackaging IBM Systems Director into IBM Systems Director Express Edition, Standard Edition, and Enterprise Edition. Express is for basic monitoring and updates; Standard includes energy management, virtual image management, and network management; and Enterprise includes system tools deployment, advanced energy reporting, advanced discovery, and monitoring.


The company also announced a refresh on its Rational development tools that is designed to allow for a common developer desktop across all operating systems and languages and a common development infrastructure for Power and the world around it. The idea is to have an integrated development environment supporting edit, compile, and debug of AIX, IBM i, and Linux applications on Power Systems from a Windows workstation. The strategy is to use one tool to support multiple environments and provide state-of-the-art tools for the three Power Systems in the form of Rational Developer for Power Systems Software (or RDPower). RDPower replaces RDi, allowing for RPG and COBOL development for i, and C/C++ and COBOL development for AIX. The new tool supports RPG, i COBOL, i C/C++, Java, and EGL and is integrated with Zend Studio for PHP development.


We'll have more in future issues on this new line of servers and tools, but it's clear IBM is putting a lot of horsepower in what it believes to be a superior chipset.


Chris Smith

Chris Smith was the Senior News Editor at MC Press Online from 2007 to 2012 and was responsible for the news content on the company's Web site. Chris has been writing about the IBM midrange industry since 1992 when he signed on with Duke Communications as West Coast Editor of News 3X/400. With a bachelor's from the University of California at Berkeley, where he majored in English and minored in Journalism, and a master's in Journalism from the University of Colorado, Boulder, Chris later studied computer programming and AS/400 operations at Long Beach City College. An award-winning writer with two Maggie Awards, four business books, and a collection of poetry to his credit, Chris began his newspaper career as a reporter in northern California, later worked as night city editor for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, and went on to edit a national cable television trade magazine. He was Communications Manager for McDonnell Douglas Corp. in Long Beach, Calif., before it merged with Boeing, and oversaw implementation of the company's first IBM desktop publishing system there. An editor for MC Press Online since 2007, Chris has authored some 300 articles on a broad range of topics surrounding the IBM midrange platform that have appeared in the company's eight industry-leading newsletters. He can be reached at



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