Posts Tagged ‘Xeon’

IBM Jumps into the Next Gen Server Party with POWER9

February 15, 2018

IBM re-introduced its POWER9 lineup of servers  this week starting with 2-socket and 4-socket systems and more variations coming in the months ahead as IBM, along with the rest of the IT vendor community grapples with how to address changing data center needs. The first, the AC922, arrived last fall. DancingDinosaur covered it here. More, the S922/S914/S924 and H922/H924/L922, are promised later this quarter.

The workloads organizations are running these days are changing, often dramatically and quickly. One processor, no matter how capable or flexible or efficient will be unlikely to do the job going forward. It will take an entire family of chips.  That’s as true for Intel and AMR and the other chip players as IBM.

In some ways, IBM’s challenge is even qwerkier. Its chips will not only need to support Linux and Windows, but also IBMi and AIX. IBM simply cannot abandon its IBMi and AIX customer bases. So chips supporting IBMi and AIX are being built into the POWER9 family.

For IBMi the company is promising POWER9 exploitation for:

  • Expanding the secure-ability of IBMi with TLS, secure APIs, and logs for SIEM solutions
  • Expanded Install options with an installation process using USB 3.0 media
  • Encryption and compression for cloud storage
  • Increasing the productivity of developers and administrators

This may sound trivial to those who have focused on the Linux world and work with x86 systems too, but it is not for a company still mired in productive yet aging IBMi systems.

IBM also is promising POWER9 goodies for AIX, its legacy Unix OS, including:

  • AIX Security: PowerSC and PowerSC MFA updates for malware intrusion prevention and strong authentication
  • New workload acceleration with shared memory communications over RDMA (SMC-R)
  • Improved availability: AIX Live Update enhancements; GDR 1.2; PowerHA 7.2
  • Improved Cloud Mgmt: IBM Cloud PowerVC Manager for SDI; Import/Export;
  • AIX 7.2 native support for POWER9 – e.g. enabling NVMe

Again, if you have been running Linux on z or LinuxONE this may sound antiquated, but AIX has not been considered state-of-the-art for years. NVMe alone gives is a big boost.

But despite all the nice things IBM is doing for IBMi and AIX, DancingDinosaur believes the company clearly is betting POWER9 will cut into Intel x86 sales. But that is not a given. Intel is rolling out its own family of advanced x86 Xeon machines under the Skylake code name. Different versions will be packaged and tuned to different workloads. They are rumored, at the fully configured high end, to be quite expensive. Just don’t expect POWER9 systems to be cheap either.

And the chip market is getting more crowded. As Timothy Prickett Morgan, analyst at The Next Platform 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 family. 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.

Morgan went on: IBM differentiated the hardware and the pricing with its NVLink versions, depending on the workload and the competition, with its most aggressive pricing and a leaner and cheaper microcode and hypervisor stack reserved for the Linux workloads that the company is chasing. IBM very much wants to sell its Power-Linux combo against Intel’s Xeon-Linux and also keep AMD’s Epyc-Linux at bay. Where the Power8 chip had the advantage over the Intel’s Haswell and Broadwell Xeon E5 processors when it came to memory capacity and memory bandwidth per socket, and could meet or beat the Xeons when it came to performance on some workloads that is not yet apparent with the POWER9.

With the POWER9, however, IBM will likely charge a little less for companies buying its Linux-only variants, observes Morgan, effectively enabling IBM to win Linux deals, particularly where data analytics and open source databases drive the customer’s use case. Similarly, some traditional simulation and modeling workloads in the HPC and machine learning areas are ripe for POWER9.

POWER9 is not one chip. Packed into the chip are next-generation NVIDIA NVLink and OpenCAPI to provide significantly faster performance for attached GPUs. The PCI-Express 4.0 interconnect will be twice the speed of PCI-Express 3.0. The open POWER9 architecture also allows companies to mix a wide range of accelerators to meet various needs. Meanwhile, OpenCAPI can unlock coherent FPGAs to support varied accelerated storage, compute, and networking workloads. IBM also is counting on the 300+ members of the OpenPOWER Foundation and OpenCAPI Consortium to launch innovations for POWER9. Much is happening: Stay tuned to DancingDinosaur

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his work at and here.

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.

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