Posts Tagged ‘Dell’

IBM’s POWER9 Races to AI

December 7, 2017

IBM is betting the future of its Power Systems on artificial intelligence (AI). The company introduced its newly designed POWER9 processor publicly this past Tuesday. The new machine, according to IBM, is capable of shortening the training of deep learning frameworks by nearly 4x, allowing enterprises to build more accurate AI applications, faster.

IBM engineer tests the POWER9

Designed for the post-CPU era, the core POWER9 building block is the IBM Power Systems AC922. The AC922, notes IBM, is the first to embed PCI-Express 4.0, next-generation NVIDIA NVLink, and OpenCAPI—3 interface accelerators—which together can accelerate data movement 9.5x faster than PCIe 3.0 based x86 systems. The AC922 is designed to drive demonstrable performance improvements across popular AI frameworks such as Chainer, TensorFlow and Caffe, as well as accelerated databases such as Kinetica.

More than a CPU under the AC922 cover

Depending on your sense of market timing, POWER9 may be coming at the best or worst time for IBM.  Notes industry observer Timothy Prickett Morgan, The Next Platform: “The server market is booming as 2017 comes to a close, and IBM is looking to try to catch the tailwind and lift its Power Systems business.”

As Morgan puts it, citing IDC 3Q17 server revenue figures, HPE and Dell are jockeying for the lead in the server space, and for the moment, HPE (including its H3C partnership in China) has the lead with $3.32 billion in revenues, compared to Dell’s $3.07 billion, while Dell was the shipment leader, with 503,000 machines sold in Q3 2017 versus HPE’s 501,400 machines shipped. IBM does not rank in the top five shippers but thanks in part to the Z and big Power8 boxes, IBM still holds the number three server revenue generator spot, with $1.09 billion in sales for the third quarter, according to IDC. The z system accounted for $673 million of that, up 63.8 percent year-on year due mainly to the new Z. If you do the math, Morgan continued, the Power Systems line accounted for $420.7 million in the period, down 7.2 percent from Q3 2016. This is not surprising given that customers held back knowing Power9 systems were coming.

To get Power Systems back to where it used to be, Morgan continued, IBM must increase revenues by a factor of three or so. The good news is that, thanks to the popularity of hybrid CPU-GPU systems, which cost around $65,000 per node from IBM, this isn’t impossible. Therefore, it should take fewer machines to rack up the revenue, even if it comes from a relatively modest number of footprints and not a huge number of Power9 processors. More than 90 percent of the compute in these systems is comprised of GPU accelerators, but due to bookkeeping magic, it all accrues to Power Systems when these machines are sold. Plus IBM reportedly will be installing over 10,000 such nodes for the US Department of Energy’s Summit and Sierra supercomputers in the coming two quarters, which should provide a nice bump. And once IBM gets the commercial Power9 systems into the field, sales should pick up again, Morgan expects.

IBM clearly is hoping POWER9 will cut into Intel x86 sales. But that may not happen as anticipated. Intel is bringing out its own advanced x86 Xeon machine, Skylake, rumored to be quite expensive. Don’t expect POWER9 systems to be cheap either. And the field is getting more crowded. Morgan noted various ARM chips –especially ThunderX2 from Cavium and Centriq 2400 from Qualcomm –can boost non-X86 numbers and divert sales from IBM’s Power9 system. Also, AMD’s Epyc X86 processors have a good chance of stealing some market share from Intel’s Skylake. So the Power9 will have to fight for every sale IBM wants and take nothing for granted.

No doubt POWER9 presents a good case and has a strong backer in Google, but even that might not be enough. Still, POWER9 sits at the heart of what is expected to be the most powerful data-intensive supercomputers in the world, the Summit and Sierra supercomputers, expected to knock off the world’s current fastest supercomputers from China.

Said Bart Sano, VP of Google Platforms: “Google is excited about IBM’s progress in the development of the latest POWER technology;” adding “the POWER9 OpenCAPI bus and large memory capabilities allow further opportunities for innovation in Google data centers.”

This really is about deep learning, one of the latest hot buzzwords today. Deep learning emerged as a fast growing machine learning method that extracts information by crunching through millions of processes and data to detect and rank the most important aspects of the data. IBM designed the POWER9 chip to manage free-flowing data, streaming sensors, and algorithms for data-intensive AI and deep learning workloads on Linux.  Are your people ready to take advantage of POWER9?

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

IBM Insists Storage is Generating Positive Revenue

May 19, 2017

At a recent quarterly briefing on the company’s storage business, IBM managers crowed over its success: 2,000 new Spectrum Storage customers, 1,300 new DS8880 systems shipped, 1500 PB of capacity shipped, 7% revenue gain Q1’17. This appeared to contradict yet another consecutive losing quarter in which only IBM’s Cognitive Solutions (includes Solutions Software and Transaction Processing Software) posted positive revenue.

However, Martin Schroeter, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (1Q’17 financials here), sounded upbeat about IBM storage in the quarterly statement: Storage hardware was up seven percent this quarter, led by double-digit growth in our all-flash array offerings. Flash contributed to our Storage revenue growth in both midrange and high-end. In storage, we continue to see the shift in value towards software-defined environments, where we continue to lead the market. We again had double-digit revenue growth in Software-Defined Storage, which is not reported in our Systems segment. Storage software now represents more than 40 percent of our total storage revenue.

IBM Flash System A9000

Highly parallel all-flash storage for hyperscale and cloud data centers

Schroeter continued: Storage gross margins are down, as hardware continues to be impacted by price pressure. To summarize Systems, our revenue and gross profit performance were driven by expected cycle declines in z Systems and Power, mitigated by Storage revenue growth. We continue to expand our footprint and add new capabilities, which address changing workloads. While we are facing some shifting market dynamics and ongoing product transitions, our portfolio remains uniquely optimized for cognitive and cloud computing.

DancingDinosaur hopes he is right.  IBM has been signaling a new z System coming for months, along with enhancements to Power storage. Just two weeks ago IBM reported achievements with Power and Nvidia, as DancingDinosaur covered at that time.

If there was any doubt, all-flash storage is the way IBM and most other storage providers are heading for the performance and competitive economics. In January IBM announced three all flash DS888* all flash products, which DancingDinosaur covered at the time here. Specifically:

  • DS8884 F (the F designates all flash)—described by IBM as performance delivered within a flexible and space-saving package
  • DS8886 F—combines performance, capacity, and cost to support a variety of workloads and applications
  • DS8888 F—promises performance and capacity designed to address the most demanding business workload requirements

The three products are intended to provide the speed and reliability needed for workloads ranging from enterprise resource planning (ERP) and financial transactions to cognitive applications like machine learning and natural language processing. Doubt that a lot of mainframe data centers are doing much with cognitive systems yet, but that will be coming.

Spectrum Storage also appears to be looming large in IBM’s storage plans. Spectrum Storage is IBM’s software defined storage (SDS) family of products. DancingDinosaur covered the latest refresh of the suite of products this past February.

The highlights of the recent announcement included the addition of Cloud Object Storage and a version of Spectrum Virtualize as software only.  Spectrum Control got a slew of enhancements, including new cloud-based storage analytics for Dell EMC VNX, VNXe, and VMAX; extended capacity planning views for external storage, and transparent cloud tiering for IBM Spectrum Scale.  The on-premises editions added consolidated chargeback/showback and support for Dell EMC VNXe file storage. This should make it clear that Spectrum Storage is not only for underlying IBM storage products.

Along the same lines, Spectrum Storage added VMware 6 support and the certified vSphere Web client. In the area of cloud object storage, IBM added native NFS access, enhance STaaS multi-tenancy, IPV6 support, and preconfigured bundles.

IBM also previewed enhancements coming in 2Q’17.   Of specific interest to DancingDinosaur readers will likely be  the likely updates to the FlashSystem and VeraStack portfolio.

The company is counting on these enhancements and more to help pull IBM out of its tailspin. As Schroeter wrote in the 1Q’17 report: New systems product introductions later in the year will drive improved second half performance as compared to the first. Hope so; already big investors are cashing out. Clients, however, appear to be staying for now.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

 

IBM’s Latest Flash Announcements Target Dell/EMC

August 26, 2016

The newest IBM storage, announced here earlier this week, aims to provide small, midsize, and global enterprises with virtualized SDS for primary storage and for cloud or cognitive applications and workloads. Central to the effort is IBM Spectrum Virtualize, which automates Storwize all-flash solutions intended to reduce the cost and complexity of data center and cloud environments. Entry pricing for the new storage starts at $19,000, which IBM describes as cost-conscious.storwize logo

IBM All-Flash for the midrange

In addition, IBM announced Flash In, a no-cost storage migration program targeting Dell/EMC customers that IBM hopes will bail out of the merged operation.

SDS in the form of IBM Spectrum Virtualize is central to making IBM’s latest all-flash offerings work for the broad set of use cases IBM envisions.  As IBM puts it: organizations today are embracing all-flash storage to deliver speed and response times necessary to support growing data workloads across public, private, and hybrid cloud environments, as well as the emerging demands of cognitive applications and workloads.

IBM Spectrum Virtualize promises to improve storage efficiency through features such as real-time data compression, thin provisioning, and snapshotting across nearly 400 different storage arrays from a multitude of vendors. That means organizations can leverage, even repurpose, physical storage capacity they already have as they scramble to meet the storage needs of new workloads.

Spectrum Virtualize also optimizes data security, reliability and operational costs. For example, the software automatically tiers and migrates data from one storage array to another, provides secure data-at-rest encryption, and remotely replicates data for disaster recovery and business continuity

The announcement centers around two products, the enterprise-class IBM Storwize V7000F and a midsize IBM Storwize 5030F,  which promise enterprise-class availability and function in a mid-range and entry-level all-flash storage array.  At the same time, both offer greater performance and require less time to provision and optimize systems. Coincidentally, IBM has just been recognized, for the third year in a row as a leader for Flash Storage in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Solid-State Arrays (SSA).

Specifically, the all-flash IBM Storwize V7000F improves performance by up to 45 percent and supports four times the clustering for scale-out and scale-up growth to help organizations manage rapidly growing datasets.  The midrange and entry level all flash IBM Storwize 5030F offers high performance and availability at a discounted entry point (noted above) to help clients control costs.

The all-flash Storwize V7000F and Storwize V5030F are also built to manage a variety of primary storage workloads, from database management systems, such as SQL Server and MySQL, to digital media sources that include broadcast, real-time streaming, and video surveillance. The new technology can also handle huge data volumes, such as IoT data.

Given the product line confusion that typically characterizes big technology platform mergers, IBM is looking to entice some Dell or, more likely, EMC storage customers to the new Storwize offerings. To that end, IBM is offering what it describes as a no-cost migration initiative for organizations that are not current IBM customers and seeking a smooth transition path from their EMC or Dell storage to the IBM family of all-flash arrays. BTW: EMC is a leading provider of z System storage.

While too early to spot any Dell or EMC customer response, one long time IBM customer, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, has joined the flash storage party. “With ever increasing volumes of customer and operational information, flexible and secure data storage is crucial to keeping our operation afloat (hope the pun was intended) as our company expands to hundreds of destinations worldwide,” said Leonardo Irastorza, Technology Revitalization & Global Shared Services Manager. The cruise line is counting on IBM flash storage to play a critical role, especially when it comes to ensuring exceptional guest experiences across its brands.

And more is coming: IBM released the following statement of direction: IBM intends to enhance IBM Spectrum Virtualize with additional capabilities for flash drive optimization and management. These capabilities are intended to help increase the service life and usability of flash drives, particularly read-intensive flash drives. The planned capabilities will likely include:

  • Data deduplication for workloads and use cases where it complements IBM’s existing industry leading compression technology
  • Improved flash memory management (mainly for garbage collection)
  • Additional flash drive wear management and reporting.

By implementing these capabilities in IBM Spectrum Virtualize they will be available for IBM Storwize family, FlashSystem V9000, and SAN Volume Controller offerings as well as VersaStack (the IBM/Cisco collaboration) and IBM PurePower systems.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

 

IBM z System Shines in 3Q15 Quarterly Report

October 23, 2015

IBM posted another down quarter this past Monday, maybe the thirteenth in a row; it’s easy to lose track. But yet again, the IBM z System provided a bright spot, a 15 percent increase compared with the year-ago period. Last quarter the z also came up a winner. Still the investment analysts went crazy, the stock tumbled, and wild scenarios, inspired by Dell’s acquisition of EMC no doubt, began circulating.

ibm-z13

IBM z13

However, don’t expect IBM to be going away anytime soon. DancingDinosaur is a technology analyst and writer, absolutely not a financial analyst (his wife handles the checkbook).  If you look at what has been going on in the past two years with z System and POWER from a technology standpoint these platforms are here for the long haul.  Most of the top 100 companies rely on a mainframe.  Linux on z has become a factor in roughly 70 percent of the leading shops. When DancingDinosaur last ran the numbers there still are about 5000-6000 active mainframe shops and the numbers aren’t dropping nearly as fast as some pundits would have you believe.

primary-linuxone-emperor

IBM LinuxONE

The z13 and LinuxONE are very powerful mainframes, the most powerful by any number of measures in the industry.  And they are a dramatically different breed of enterprise platform, capable of concurrently running mixed workloads—OLTP, mobile, cloud, analytics—with top performance, scalability, and rock solid security. The Open Mainframe Project in conjunction with the Linux Foundation means that IBM no longer is going it alone with the mainframe. A similar joint effort with the Open POWER Consortium began delivering results within a year.

The Dell-EMC comparison is not a valid one. EMC’s primary business was storage and the business at the enterprise level has changed dramatically. It has changed for IBM too; the company’s revenues from System Storage decreased 19 percent. But storage was never as important to the company as the z, which had long been its cash cow, now diminished for sure but still worth the investment. The dozens and dozens of acquisitions EMC made never brought it much in terms of synergy. IBM, at least, has its strategic imperatives plan that is making measurable progress.

IBM’s strategic imperatives, in fact, were the only business that was doing as well as the z. Strategic imperatives revenue: up 27 percent year-to-year; Cloud revenue up more than 65 percent year-to-date.  Total cloud revenue hit $9.4 billion over the trailing 12 months. Cloud delivered as a service had an annual run rate of $4.5 billion vs. $3.1 billion in third-quarter 2014.  Business analytics revenue was up 19 percent year-to-date. Be interesting to see what cognitive computing and Watson can produce.

Besides storage, the other dim spot in the IBM platform story is Power Systems.  Revenues from Power Systems were down 3 percent compared with the 2014 period. DancingDinosaur, long a fan of Power Systems, anticipates the platform will turn positive next quarter or the first quarter of 2016 as some of the new technology and products coming, in part, from the Open POWER Consortium begin to attract new customers and ring up sales. The new Power Systems LC Server family should attract interest for hybrid Cloud, Hyperscale Data Centers, and Open Solutions, hopefully bringing new customers. With online pricing starting around $6600 the LC machines should be quite competitive against x86 boxes of comparable capabilities.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

 


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