If you hadn’t noticed how x86 systems have been maturing over the past decade you might be surprised at the introduction yesterday of IBM’s newest entry in the x86 world, the X6. The X6 is the latest rev of IBM’s eX5. If you didn’t already think the eX5 was enterprise-class, here’s what IBM says of the X6: support for demanding mission and business critical workloads, better foundation for virtualization of enterprise applications, infrastructure that facilitates a private or hybrid cloud model. Sound familiar? IBM has often said the same things about its Power Systems and, of course, the zEnterprise.
As the sixth generation of IBM’s EXA x86 technology it promises to be fast (although the actual speeds and feeds won’t be revealed for another month), 3x the memory, high availability features that increase reliability, use of flash to boost on-board memory, and lower cost. IBM hasn’t actually said anything specific about pricing; published reports put X6 systems starting at $10k.
More specifically, the flash boost consists of integrated eXFlash memory-channel storage that provides DIMM-based storage up to 12.8 terabytes in the form of ultrafast flash storage close to the processor. This should increase application performance by providing the lowest system write latency available, and X6 can enable significantly lower latency for database operations, which can lower licensing costs and reduce storage costs by reducing or eliminating the need for external SAN/NAS storage units. This should deliver almost in-memory performance (although again, we have to wait for the actual speeds and feeds and benchmarks).
The new X6 also borrows from the System z in its adoption of compute book terminology to describe its packaging, adding a storage book too. The result: a modular, scalable compute book design that supports multiple generations of CPUs that, IBM promises, can reduce acquisition costs, up to 28% in comparison to one competitive offering. (Finally some details: 28% acquisition cost savings based on pricing of x3850 X6 at announcement on 2/18 vs. current pricing of a comparable x86 based system that includes 2 x Intel Xeon E7-4820 [v1] processors, 1TB of memory [16GB RDIMMs] 3.6TB of HDD storage, and Dual Port 10GBe SFP+ controller. x3850 X6 includes 2 Compute Books, 2 x Intel Xeon E7 processors, 1TB of memory [16GB RDIMMs], 3.6TB of HDD storage, and Dual Port 10GBe SFP+ controller.)
X6 also provides stability and flexibility through forthcoming technology developments, allowing users to scale up now and upgrade efficiently in the future based on the compute/storage book design that makes it easy to snap books into the chassis as you require more resources. Fast set-up and configuration patterns simplify deployment and life-cycle management.
In short, the book design, long a hallmark of the System z, brings a number of advantages. For starters, you can put multiple generations of technology in the same chassis, no need to rip-and-replace or re-configure. This lets you stretch and amortize costs in a variety of ways. IBM also adds RAS capabilities, another hallmark of the z. In the case of X6 it includes features like memory page retire; advanced double chip kill; the IBM MEH algorithm; multiple storage controllers; and double, triple, or quadruple memory options.
Server models supported by the X6 architecture currently include the System x3850 X6 four-socket system, System x3950 X6 eight-socket system, and the IBM Flex System x880 scalable compute nodes. IBM also is introducing the System x3650 M4 BD storage server, a two-socket rack server supporting up to 14 drives delivering up to 56 terabytes of high-density storage — the largest available in the industry, according to IBM. (More tidbits from the speeds and feeds to come: Compared to HP two-socket servers supporting a maximum of 48 TB storage with 12 x 3.5″ drives, and Dell two-socket servers supporting a maximum of 51.2 TB storage with 12 x 3.5″ and 2 x 2.5″ drives X6 delivers 46% greater performance—based on Intel Internal Test Report #1310, using SPECjbb*2013 benchmark, July 2013.). IBM’s conclusion: X6 is ideally suited for distributed scale-out of big data workloads.
The X6 systems come with a reference architecture that simplifies deployment. To make it even simpler, maybe even bullet-proof, IBM also is introducing the X6 as a set of packaged solutions. These include:
- IBM System x Solution for SAP HANA on X6
- IBM System x Solution for SAP Business Suite on X6
- IBM System x Solution for VMware vCloud Suite on X6
- IBM System x Solution for Microsoft SQL Data Warehouse on X6
- IBM System x Solution for Microsoft Hyper-V on X6
- IBM System x Solution for DB2 with BLU Acceleration on X6
These are optimized and tuned in advance for database, analytics, and cloud workloads.
So, the X6 bottom line according to IBM: More performance at 40%+ lower cost, multiple generations in one chassis; 3X more memory and higher system availability; expanded use of flash and more storage options; integrated solutions for easy and worry-free deployment; and packaged solutions to address data analytics, virtualization, and cloud.
IBM packed a lot of goodies into the X6. DancingDinosaur will take it up again when IBM presents the promised details. Stay tuned.
Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter: @mainframeblog