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IBM Streamlines Systems to Double Down the Clock

By Andy Patrizio (Send Email)
Posted Apr 9, 2008


SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – IBM made a series of announcements related to its high-end computing products that includes the end of two product line names and adopting a trick popular among techies who overclock their computers to get more performance.

What do you get when you merge System p and System i? One very big, fast piece of iron.

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The System p and System i officially go bye-bye in favor of the new Power System brand. Previously, IBM had two separate lines of parts for the System p, its POWER processor-based Unix systems, and System i, formerly known as the AS/400 midrange system. They were very similar but had different part identifiers, different model numbers and so on.

This unnecessary duplication had been driving IBM clients a little crazy. "Clients would tell us System p looks like System i but I can't share assets. So they've been asking us to unify the lines to reduce complexity within their environments," Ross Mauri, general manager of the IBM Power Systems unit, told InternetNews.com.

Now the two are combined into one product line, using the same parts, processors and case chassis. The operating systems, AIX or I5OS, now simply called i, are just check box items along with the rest of the system and can both be installed on a virtualized server, Mauri noted.

"This is the final step in a multi-year move to consolidate the two lines," Jean Bozman, IDC vice president told InternetNews.com. "There are two benefits to this; one, it consolidates the two lines into one for customers, and two, it means fewer parts for IBM to have to track."

Since the two systems had almost identical parts, save for slight differences in the System i storage subsystem, it made sense to consolidate them, she said. "What this means is System i users can now consolidate their workloads onto Unix," said Bozman.

Super fast, Supercomputer Updates

Along with the end of the two lines comes three new refrigerator-sized boxes. In the case of the giant Power 575 supercomputer and Power 595, that's a fridge big enough to feed a football team, as both stand around seven feet tall, are almost as deep and are packed with equipment.

The new Power 575 holds up to 448 processor cores per rack, an extremely dense system for which air-cooling is not enough. So IBM is embracing water-cooling, something it hasn't done in years but is all the rage among the overclocker/hobbyist community these days.

Air-cooling is just not effective in a highly dense scenario like the 575, dubbed the Hydro-Cluster, which features 14 2U nodes per rack, with 16 dual-core POWER6 chips per rack and 256GB of memory. So cold water is piped in to cool the chips, then pumped out and chilled and re-circulated.

By water-cooling the processors, IBM claims cooling efficiency up to 4,000 times that of air-cooling. It also said this method is three times more power efficient than air-cooling.

IBM also showed off two other systems; the refreshed midrange Power 570 and the Power 595 supercomputer. The 570 has been updated with the new POWER6 processors and added two new features: Hot Mode, which allows adding and removing new equipment while it's powered up, and support for greater application consolidation. Now AIX, i, x86 and Linux apps can all be run on virtualized servers on the 570.

The 595 supercomputer uses 5GHz POWER6 processors, the fastest IBM produces, and up to 4TB of memory. IBM claims benchmarks show it has twice the performance of an HP SuperDome server on SAP application benchmarks and three times the performance of a SuperDome or Sun Fire server in Java applications.

IBM is continuing to tweak Sun's and HP's noses by offering a trade-in program, where customers of old Sun and HP hardware can trade in their servers for the new hardware. A fully configured SuperDome might get as much as $512,000 in trade-in credit, not small change for these multi million dollar servers.

This article was originally published on InternetNews.com.

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