IBM Expands POWER5 Server Portfolio

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Last Tuesday, IBM took a decisive step to bring its two POWER server families closer to each other. The company unveiled the eServer p5, a product line that is virtually identical to the eServer i5 in its hardware and overall capabilities. IBM also unveiled i5 and p5 systems that scale both server families up to 16 processors. The new servers set performance records that will be extremely difficult for Big Blue's competitors to beat.

Like the eServer i5, the eServer p5 combines the robust performance of the POWER5 processor with On Demand features such as dynamic micropartitions, On/Off Capacity On Demand, and virtual I/O subsystems. In these and many other areas, the p5 has the same capabilities as the i5. This will soon include the ability to run the i5/OS operating system, though IBM will only support i5/OS on high-end p5 models and will limit the number of i5/OS partitions that the p5 can host. The p5 also supports AIX 5L 5.2 and 5.3 as well as POWER versions of Linux from Red Hat and SuSE.

Packaging the POWER

Besides matching the i5 in its overall capabilities, the p5 is similar to its sibling in its packaging and pricing. If you are familiar with the i5 model lineup, you will note that the p5 models in the following table are almost mirror images of the i5 models that IBM announced back in May.



The eServer p5 Product Family
Model
520
550
570
570
Express Edition
Processor
2-way
POWER5 1.65GHz
2- to 4-way
POWER5 1.65GHz
2- to 16-way
POWER5
1.9GHz
2- to 8-way
POWER5
1.5GHz
Performance
(rPerf Rating)
9.86
9.86 to 19.66
11.16 to 77.45
N/A
Memory (Maximum)
32GB
64GB
256GB
512GB
Disk Storage (Maximum Internal)
8.2TB
15.2TB
38.7TB
38.7TB
Max LPARs
20
40
160
80
OS Support
AIX 5L 5.2
AIX 5L 5.3
Linux
AIX 5L 5.2
AIX 5L 5.3
Linux
AIX 5L 5.2
AIX 5L 5.3
Linux
i5/OS
AIX 5L 5.2
AIX 5L 5.3
Linux
i5/OS

While the similarities between the two model lines are striking, they differ from each other in several ways. First, unlike the i5, the p5 currently has no uniprocessor models. IBM intends to change that in the future by bringing a uniprocessor version of the Model 520 to market. Second, the p5 family has a Model 550 that houses two to four processors in either a deskside or rack-mounted unit. By contrast, the i5 has no Model 550, and its 2/4-way Model 570 only comes in a rack-mounted package. Third, the p5 has an Express Edition of its Model 570 that has similar performance to the pSeries Model 650. On the i5, all of the Express Editions are Model 520 configurations with single processors.

While IBM may not be offering Express Editions of its entry-level p5 servers, it is fielding a similar offering known as p5 Value Paks for the Model 520 and 550. The offerings, which are somewhat analogous to Express Editions, include a Model 520 that sells for slightly more than $10,000 and a two-way Model 550 that costs a little over $20,000.

All packaging differences aside, the p5 models provide an enormous performance boost to IBM's premiere UNIX server. IBM has clocked the 16-way Model 570 at 809,144 transactions per minute on the TPC-C benchmark. That is more than 2.5 times the TPC-C performance of Hewlett-Packard's 16-way Integrity server running Intel's Itanium processor. It is also around 50% faster than the 64-way HP 9000 Superdome. Indeed, as a rule, customers will find that the p5 can perform as well as or better than Itanium servers with twice the processors. As for servers running HP's PA-RISC or Sun Microsystems' UltraSPARC chips, the p5 can outperform models with three to four times the number of processors. It does so at price/performance levels that are significantly better than those of PA-RISC and UltraSPARC servers and similar to those of Itanium servers.

Just as importantly, the p5 is the first of IBM's UNIX servers to offer the same sophisticated partitioning and workload management capabilities as the company's iSeries and i5 servers. Like the i5, the p5 supports up to 10 logical partitions (LPARs) per processor and can resize LPARs on the fly if a partition requires additional capacity to meet workload demands. It can also activate standby processors to provide that capacity. These and other virtualization features allow the p5 to provide superior capacity and performance management over competitive UNIX servers.

More i5 Muscle

The eServer p5 was not the only server in the spotlight last Tuesday. IBM also delivered on its promise to scale the eServer i5 up to 16 processors by unveiling three new systems in the Model 570 family. The company also unveiled High Availability Editions of both the Model 520 and the Model 570, a Capacity Backup version of the Model 570, and Express Editions of the Model 520 that offer RAID disk storage protection. Finally, the computer giant replaced its original 1/2-way and 2/4-way versions of the eServer i5 Model 570 with two new processor feature codes. These new systems have modified processor boards that allow them to support twice the memory of the original systems.

The following table provides specifications for the expanded Model 570 family. Because of a lack of space, I have not included the Model 570 Capacity Backup system in the table. However, I can tell you that the system is a 2/16-way model that delivers 6,350 to 44,700 CPWs and is in software tier P30. Otherwise, it has the same specifications as the 13/16-way Model 570.

 

The Expanded eServer i5 Model 570 Family
Processor Feature Codes
570-0930
570-0921
570-0922
570-0924
570-0926
Processor
1/2-way
POWER5 1.65GHz
2/4-way
POWER5 1.65GHz
5/8-way
POWER5
1.65GHz
9/12-way
POWER5
1.65GHz
13/16-way
POWER5
1.65GHz
Processor CPW Range
3000-6000
6350-12000
15200-23500
25500-33400
36300-44700
Editions
Standard
Enterprise
High Avail.
Standard
Enterprise
High Avail.
Standard
Enterprise
High Avail.
Standard
Enterprise
High Avail.
Standard
Enterprise
High Avail.
On Demand Capabilities
Processors
Memory
Reserve COD
Processors
Memory
Reserve COD
Processors
Memory
Reserve COD
Processors
Memory
Reserve COD
Processors
Memory
Reserve COD
Memory (Maximum)
64GB
128GB
256GB
384GB
512GB
Disk Storage (Maximum)
19TB
39TB
58TB
77TB
96TB
IXS/IXA Cards (Maximum)
18/8
36/16
48/32
48/48
48/60
Max LPARs
1-way: 10
2-way: 20
Supports AIX
2-way: 20
4-way: 40
Supports AIX
5-way: 50
8-way: 80
Supports AIX
9-way: 90
12-way: 120
Supports AIX
13-way: 130
16-way: 160
Supports AIX
OS/400 Release Support
i5/OS
i5/OS
i5/OS
i5/OS
i5/OS
Software Tier
P30
P30
P40
P40
P40

The expanded Model 570 allows the eServer i5 to scale up to a maximum CPW rating of 44,700. Since that is almost 20% faster than the largest iSeries 890, the eServer i5 family can now replace any iSeries model. If you need the kind of performance that the new Model 570s offer, however, you will have to wait a little longer to get one. IBM will ship the new systems on August 31, the same date that it will ship support for AIX 5L 5.3 running on eServer i5 LPARs. By the way, August 31 is the same date that SuSE plans to ship its Linux Enterprise Server 9.0 for POWER servers. Red Hat intends to ship a release of Enterprise Linux AS 3.0 that is optimized for POWER5 servers on September 30.

There is much more that I could write about the newest POWER5 servers, but it will have to wait for another article. I'll be back next week to dive into the details of the announcements, so stay tuned.

Lee Kroon is a Senior Industry Analyst for Andrews Consulting Group, a firm that helps mid-sized companies manage business transformation through technology. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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