IBM Builds Out POWER8 Systems

Just in time for IBM Enterprise 2014, which starts on Monday in Las Vegas, IBM announced some new Power8 systems and a slew of new capabilities. Much of this actually was first telegraphed earlier in September here, but now it is official. Expect the full unveiling at IBM Enterprise2014.

The new systems are the Power E870 and the Power E880. The E870 includes up to 80 POWER8 cores in 32-40 nodes and as much as 4TB of memory. The Power 880 will scale up to 128 POWER8 cores and promises even more in the next rev. It also sports up to 16TB of memory, again with more coming. This should be more than sufficient to perform analytics on significant workloads and deliver insights in real time. The E880 offers also enterprise storage pools to absorb varying shifts in workloads and handle up to 20 virtual machines per core.

Back in December, DancingDinosaur referred to the Power System 795 as a RISC mainframe.  It clearly has been superseded by the POWER8 E880 in terms for sheer performance although the E880 is architected primarily for data analytics. There has been no hint of a refresh of the Power 795, which hasn’t even gotten the Power7 + chip yet. Only two sessions at Enterprise2014 address the Power System 795. Hmmm.

The new POWER8 machines boast some impressive benchmarks as of Sept. 12, 2014: AP SD 2-tier, SPECjbb2013, SPECint_rate2006 and SPECfp_rate2006).  Specifically, IBM is boasting of the fastest performing core in the industry: 1.96x or better than the best Intel Xeon Ivy Bridge and 2.29x better than the best Oracle SPARC. In each test the new POWER8 machine ran less than 2/3 of the cores of the competing machine, 10 vs. 15 or 16 respectively.

In terms of value, IBM says the new POWER8 machines cost less than competing systems, delivering 1000 users per core, double its nearest competitor. When pressed by DancingDinosaur on its cost analysis, IBM experts explained they set up new Linux apps on an enterprise class POWER8 system and priced out a comparably configured system from HP based on its published prices. For the new POWER8 systems IBM was able to hold the same price point, which turned out to be 30% less expensive for comparable power given the chip’s increased performance. By factoring in the increase in POWER8 performance and the unchanged price IBM calculated it had the lowest cost for comparable performance. Recommend you run your actual numbers.

The recent announcement also included the first fruits of the OpenPower Foundation, an accelerator from NVIDIA.  The new GPU accelerator, integrated directly into the server, is aimed at larger users of big data analytics, especially those using NoSQL databases.  The accelerator is incorporated into a new server, the Power System S824L, which includes up to 24 POWER8 cores, 1 TB of memory and up to 2 NVIDIA K40 GPU accelerators.  It also includes a bare metal version of Ubuntu Linux. IBM reports it runs extracting patterns for a variety of analytics, big data, and technical computing workloads involving large amounts of data 8x faster.

Another new goodie, one based on OpenStack, is IBM Power Virtualization Center (PowerVC), billed as new advanced virtualization management that promises to simplify the creation and management of virtual machines on IBM Power Systems servers using PowerVM or PowerKVM hypervisors. By leveraging OpenStack, it should enable IBM Power System servers to integrate into a Software Defined Environment (SDE) and provide the necessary foundation required for the delivery of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) within the Cloud.

Finally, as part of the Power8 announcements, IBM unveiled Power Enterprise Pools, a slick capacity-on-demand technology also called Power Systems Pools.  It offers a highly resilient and flexible IT environment to support of large-scale server consolidation and meet demanding business applications requirements. Power Enterprise Pools allow for the aggregation of compute resources, including processors and memory, across a number of Power systems. Previously available for the Power 780 and 795, it is now available on large POWER8 machines.

Am off to IBM Enterprise2014 this weekend. Hope to see you there. When not in sessions look for me wherever the bloggers hang out (usually where there are ample power outlets to recharge laptops and smartphones). Also find me at the three evenings of live performances: 2 country rock groups, Delta Rae and The Wild Feathers and then, Rock of Ages. Check out all three here.

Alan Radding is DancingDinosaur. You can follow this blog and more on Twitter, @mainframeblog. Also, find me at Technologywriter.com.

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2 Responses to “IBM Builds Out POWER8 Systems”

  1. OpenPOWER Starts Delivering the Goods | DancingDinosaur Says:

    […] DancingDinosaur reported on NVIDIA and its new GPU accelerator integrated directly into the server here. This too was an OpenPOWER Foundation-based initiative. Suddenly, DancingDinosaur is thinking the […]

  2. POWER as the x86 Killer at IBM Edge2015 | DancingDinosaur Says:

    […] alternative to closed, commodity-based data center servers. DancingDinosaur covered it last October here. Expect this theme to play out big at IBM Edge2015 in Las Vegas, May 10-15. Just a sampling of a […]

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