Posts Tagged ‘Intel’

Open POWER Consortium Aims to Expand the POWER Ecosystem beyond IBM

August 7, 2013

With IBM’s August 6 announcement of new POWER partners, including Google, not only is IBM aiming to expand the variety of POWER workloads but establish an alternative ecosystem to Intel/ x86 that continues to dominate general corporate computing.  Through the new Open POWER Consortium, IBM will make  POWER hardware and software available for open development for the first time as well as offer open-source POWER firmware, the software that controls basic chip functions. By doing this, IBM and the consortium can enable innovative customization in creating new styles of server hardware for a variety of computing workloads.

IBM has a long history of using open consortiums to grab a foothold in different markets;  as it did with Eclipse (open software development tools), Linux (open portable operating system), KVM (open hypervisor and virtualization), and OpenStack (open cloud interoperability). In each case, IBM had proprietary technologies but could use the open source consortium strategy to expand market opportunities at the expense of entrenched proprietary competitors like Microsoft or VMware.  The Open POWER Consortium opens a new front against Intel, which already is scrambling to fend off ARM-based systems and other lightweight processors.

The establishment of the Open POWER Consortium also reinforces IBM’s commitment to the POWER platform in the face of several poor quarters. The commitment to POWER has never really wavered, insists an IBM manager, despite what financial analysts might hint at. Even stronger evidence of that commitment to POWER is POWER8, which is on track for 2014 if not sooner, and POWER9, which is currently in development, he confirmed.

As part of its initial collaboration within the consortium, IBM reported it and NVIDIA will integrate NVIDIA’s CUDA GPU and POWER.  CUDA is a parallel computing platform and programming model that enables dramatic increases in computing performance by harnessing the power of the graphics processing unit (GPU).  GPUs increasingly are being used to boost overall system performance, not just graphics performance. The two companies envision powerful computing systems based on NVIDIA GPUs and IBM’s POWER CPUs  and represent an example of the new kind of systems the open consortium can produce.

However, don’t expect immediate results.  The IBM manager told DancingDinosaur that the fruits of any collaboration won’t start showing up until sometime next year. Even the Open POWER Collaboration website has yet to post anything. The consortium is just forming up; IBM expects the public commitment of Google to attract other players, which IBM describes as the next generation of data-center innovators.

As for POWER users, this can only be a good thing. IBM is not reducing its commitment to the POWER roadmap, plus users will be able to enjoy whatever the new players bring to the POWER party, which could be considerable. In the meantime, the Open POWER Consortium welcomes any firm that wants to innovate on the POWER platform and participate in an open, collaborative effort.

An even more interesting question may be where else will IBM’s interest in open systems and open consortiums take it. IBM remains “very focused on open and it’s a safe bet that IBM will continue to support open technologies and groups that support that,” the IBM manager told DancingDinosaur.  IBM, however, has nothing to announce after the Open POWER Consortium. Hmm, might a z/OS open collaborative consortium someday be in the works?

SHARE will be in Boston next week. DancingDinosaur expects to be there and will report on the goings-on. Hope to see some of you there.  There also are plans for a big IBM System z/Power conference, Enterprise Systems 2013, toward to end of October in Florida.  Haven’t seen many details yet, but will keep you posted as they come in.

IBM zEC12 vs. Itanium HP Superdome 2

November 16, 2012

Last week HP introduced its newest, top-of-the-line HP Integrity Superdome 2 server. This is the closest HP offers as a direct rival to the zEnterprise mainframe family.  The new machine is based on HP enhancements and the Intel Itanium processor 9500 series.  It can handle transactions 3x faster than previous generations while using 21% less energy. According to HP, users can realize a 33% savings in TCO over the previous generation of Superdome 2.

The new HP server is part of HP’s Converged Infrastructure, which is designed to provide hybrid computing by supporting its HP-UXHP NonStop and OpenVMS operating systems. Over time, HP notes, the Converged Infrastructure will encompass mission-critical x86 platforms to deliver a single, unified infrastructure for UNIX, Windows Server, and Linux environments.

This sound a lot like IBM’s zEnterprise hybrid computing strategy, which IBM introduced over two years ago through the zEnterprise-zBX combination.  Earlier this week IBM reported over 150 zBX cabinets and 1200 blades have been shipped, somewhat more than the 100+ zBX cabinets IBM had reported shipping a few months back when DancingDinosaur last checked. Clearly, z-based hybrid computing is gaining traction. Today, the IBM top-of-the-line hybrid computing server is the zEC12.

The Intel Itanium 9500 is the latest Itanium processor; the one Oracle prematurely announced dead and planned to stop supporting. It took HP over a year to win its lawsuit against Oracle, currently being appealed, to even get to this point.

The Itanium 9500 indeed is high performance.  It contains 3.1 billion transistors and supports up to 8 cores, twice as many as the previous-generation Itanium. According to published specs, it offers up to 54 MB of on-die memory, and enables up to 2 TB of low voltage DIMMs in four-socket configurations. The Itanium 9500 provides up to 2.4x performance scaling and 33% faster I/O speed over the previous generation, with frequencies ranging from 1.73 GHz at a power level of 130 watts, to 2.53 GHz at 170 watts.

In most key ways, the zEC12 beats the Itanium 9500, starting with its 5.5 GHz core processor and an increase in the number of cores per chip (from 4 to 6). Itanium touts 8 cores per chip but they are slower, half the speed or less.  The zEC12 indeed is faster and brings 101 user-configurable engines. IBM calculates the machine delivers 50% more total capacity in the same footprint.

The zEC12 also supports up to 3TB of RAIM (Redundant Array of Independent Memory), which protects against memory loss. In addition, the processor has been optimized for better software performance, particularly for Java, PL/1, compilers, and DB2.  Like its predecessor it handles out of order instruction processing and multi-level branch prediction for complex workloads. Large caches, almost 2x more on the chip, speed data to the processor. In addition, Flash Express provides 1.6 TB of usable capacity (packaged in pairs for redundancy, 3.2 TB total) to streamline database paging.

The Itanium 9500 chip and HP’s Superdome 2 server certainly won’t be a dog.  Let the chip geeks and benchmark zealots debate the finer technical points in the coming months.  But with the zEC12’s new availability and security enhancements, and a robust hybrid infrastructure it will be hard to beat the zEC12 for almost any mix of workloads, and that may be the key—the wide mix of workloads. While maintaining IBM’s core mainframe strengths in data serving and transaction processing, the zEC12 also brings a scalable and secure data repository for the enterprise, especially with the new Crypto Express4S card.  More than that, it can perform as a private enterprise cloud almost out of the box, and it is also a cost-effective solution for large-scale consolidation. With the zEC12, DB2 for z/OS, and the IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator (IDAA) you can run both your OLTP and data warehouse workloads as one integrated workload in real time.

And then there is the new Transactional Execution Facility, which IBM brought over from supercomputing and is designed to help eliminate software locking overhead that can impact performance. It uses parallelism to drive higher transaction throughput. IBM’s Java Runtime Environment is expected to exploit the Transactional Execution Facility in an upcoming maintenance release. The new XL C/C++ compiler also is planned to leverage the Transactional Execution Facility. And there is much more.

In short, DancingDinosaur does not expect z shops to flock to Itanium.  However, a little reinvigorated competition is always good to drive innovation and restrain pricing.

HP-UX and AIX : The Difference is POWER7

July 10, 2012

HP’s enterprise-class UNIX operating system, HP-UX, faces a stark future compared to IBM’s AIX. The difference comes down to the vitality of the underlying platforms. IBM runs AIX on the POWER platform, now at POWER7 and evolving to POWER8 and even POWER9 (although the naming may change)—a dynamic platform if ever there was one. Meanwhile, HP-UX has been effectively stranded on the withering Itanium platform. Oracle has stopped development for Itanium, and Intel, HP’s partner in Itanium, has been, at best, lackluster in its support.

It not clear whether HP-UX is a better UNIX than AIX, but in an industry driven by ever increasing demands for speed, throughput, cost-efficiency, and energy efficiency, the underlying platform matters. HP-UX customers surely will outgrow their Itanium-based systems without a platform boost.

“There’s no question that [our] Business Critical Server business has been hurt by this,” said HP CEO Meg Whitman in the transcript of an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s All Things D column. The business, which had been growing 10% a year before Oracle spurned further support of Itanium now is declining by 20-30% a year (Ouch!).  So Whitman is counting on two things: 1) winning its lawsuit against Oracle, which is still making its way through the courts and 2) porting HP-UX to an advanced x86 platform, namely Xeon. “Ultimately we’ve got to build UNIX on a Xeon chip, and so we will do that,” she told All Things D. All spring long there had been hints that this was imminent, but an official HP announcement never materialized.

Of course Oracle wants the HP customers running Oracle on HP-UX with Itanium to jump to its Sun platform.  IBM, however, has been wooing and winning those same customers to its System z or POWER platforms. Oracle runs on both the z and POWER platforms.  Running Oracle on Linux on System z yields substantial savings on Oracle licensing. But IBM wants to do even better by migrating the Oracle shops to DB2 as well, with incentives and tools to ease the transition.

What HP customers also get when they move to POWER or to the z is a platform in both cases with a real platform future, unlike either Itanium or Sun’s server platforms. DancingDinosaur has long extolled the zEnterprise and hybrid computing, but POWER is dynamic in its own right and when you look at the role it now plays in IBM’s new PureSystems, another IBM hybrid platform, POWER becomes all that more attractive.

From the start HP with HP-UX and Itanium was bound to have to settle for compromises given the different parties—HP, Intel, Oracle—involved. With POWER7, IBM system developers got exactly what they wanted, no compromises. “We gave the silicon designers a bunch of requirements and they gave us our wish list,” says Ian Robinson, IBM’s PowerVM virtualization and cloud product line manager. As a result POWER7, which runs AIX, Linux, and System i on the same box, got a slew of capabilities, including more memory bandwidth and better ways to divide cores.

POWER7, which amazed the IT world with its stunning Watson victory at Jeopardy, also is turning out to be an ideal virtualization and cloud machine. The rate of virtualization and cloud adoption by POWER7 shops is running something north of 90%, notes Robinson. The adoption of PowerVM, the POWER7 hypervisor built in at both the motherboard and firmware levels is close to 100%. And now POWER7 is a key component of IBM’s PureFlex initiative, a major IBM strategic direction.

Meanwhile, Whitman is fighting a costly court battle in the hope of coercing grudging support for the Itanium platform from Oracle. The trial began in June and mud has been flying ever since. Even if HP wins the case, don’t expect the story to end soon. Using appeals and delay tactics Oracle could put off the final outcome so long that Itanium will have shriveled to nothing while POWER7 continues along IBM’s ambitious roadmap.

IBM vs. Oracle HP Itanium

June 24, 2011

It was mind boggling enough when Oracle bought Sun Microsystems in April 2009, ostensibly to create “the only company that can engineer an integrated system – applications to disk – where all the pieces fit and work together..,” as Oracle CEO Larry Ellison declared at that time. Huh, had he ever heard of IBM?

Since then, Oracle has done nothing with Sun or SPARC while IBM has been converting Sun customers to System z and Power platforms by the hundreds. So, what possibly could Oracle been thinking when it recently declared Intel’s Itanium chip dead before Intel or HP did other than to hand IBM another banquet of system conversions to feast on? It’s not like Oracle can offer new Sun/SPARC servers as a viable replacement for Itanium. To the contrary, Oracle reported Q4 hardware sales down 6% year-over-year.

Let the IBM feasting begin. The company has identified several thousand potential HP Itanium prospects and started rolling out its strategy to bring them over to System z, Power, or System x.

In truth, Itanium already wasn’t doing well before Oracle stuck a knife in it. As IBM interprets the IDC market data it extended its lead in the UNIX servers in Q4 2010 by capturing 53.9% revenue share of that segment, gaining 5.9 points of share over competitors and leading the second-place vendor, HP, by more than 30%. If you then consider the huge gains made by the System z in the high end server market following the introduction of the zEnterprise, IBM clearly dominates the high end server market over both HP and Oracle/Sun. The latest IDC server market report, May 2011, can be found here.

For the high end server market, the choices are clear: after two years under Oracle Sun/SPARC is going nowhere and, despite what Intel may still say, Itanium isn’t going anywhere either, especially after what Oracle just did to it and HP. The only platforms capable of running enterprise-class UNIX or Linux applications are IBM System z (z10, z196, zEnterprise/zBX) and IBM Power Systems with Power7. At some point Intel may rev up Xeon but that would be well into the future.

Of course, IBM also provides high end x86 systems, the eX5 platform that uses the Xeon processor. And if you need a more enterprise-capable version of x86, the zEnterprise will be sporting x blades running Linux before the end of the year and ultimately run Windows.

Meanwhile, IBM is ramping up a worldwide full court press to win nervous or disgruntled or frustrated Itanium customers to one or another IBM platform. To date, it has had its biggest success in terms of conversions to the Power platforms. In 2009, it reports migrating over 600 customers to Power, 85% of which came from Sun or HP.  Over the past four years, IBM has migrated over 2000 companies to Power, again most coming from Sun or HP.  Earlier this year IBM reported that 61 companies adopted the System z platform either for the first time or returning after a long absence and some came from HP systems. You will find case studies on several of those HP refugees here and here.

To facilitate the exodus from Itanium to an IBM platform, IBM is offering help and incentives. The Stop & Think program brings a variety of technical and financial assessments to help reduce data and application management costs by up to 30%. If the organization wants to shift from the Oracle database to DB2 it will save one-third the cost and be able to cut the number of FTEs needed to administer the database by over half. Similarly, the Breakfree program offers a three-year 50% TCA savings. Along the way, IBM will discount or bundle in Migration Factory to actually get you there.

IBM recently compared an HP Itanian Superdome 12 with 32 cores and the Oracle database with an IBM Power 770 with 16 cores and migration to DB2 via IBM Migration Factory with the Breakfree discount applied. The 3-year HP cost, including the usual Oracle discounting end up 50% more than the 3-year IBM Power/DB2/Breakfree deal. Then IBM’s financing group will work the numbers to smooth the transition costs over the three years.

Most of IBM’s migration customers go with the Power platform. For those that want the advantages of the System z or zEnterprise there likely will be some very good deals cropping up this summer with the widely expected introduction of lower cost business class z196 machines and, probably, deeply discounted hardware/software/maintenance System z Solution Edition bundles. Since those are usually reserved for new workloads, a migration customer should automatically qualify.

If you were an HP Itanium customer or a Sun/SPARC customer pondering your organization’s IT roadmap, what would you do?


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