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Power and the Mainframe

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Jul 17, 2009


In the past, ServerWatch has attempted to cram every single IBM server into one article. That meant squashing each of IBM's many server lines into a paragraph or two. To bring you more information about each, going forward, IBM's offerings will be split into two Snapshots — the first of which will cover the mainframe (System z) and Power Systems (the combination of Systems p and i). Next week's Snapshot will showcase System x and IBM blades, rounding out our IBM coverage.

Power Systems

Server Snapshots: Think x86 servers are the only ones worth looking at? IBM's mainframe (System z) and Power Systems (the combination of Systems p and i) may not be "standard," but they're powerful enough for pretty much any task thrown at them.

As one of the few surviving chip technologies not on the x86 platforms, IBM continues to invest heavily in its Power architecture, particularly in the direction of virtualization. One of the latest advances is the ability to run UNIX, IBM i and Linux applications together on a single server using IBM PowerVM. In addition, IBM Systems Director enables physical and virtual servers to be managed more easily.

"IBM Systems Director is a new foundation for enterprise platform management, spanning multiple platforms and operating environments," said Steve Sibley, Power Systems platform manager at IBM (Armonk, N.Y.). "Systems Director helps clients deploy, monitor, analyze, optimize and update Power servers and storage."

The company also announced a new version of Active Energy Manager, which is an extension to Systems Director that provides advanced energy control options. This is designed to boost performance per watt by slowing processor clock speed or putting processors in a "nap" mode when not in use. It also allows users to set an energy cap for a single Power6 server or across a pool of Power6-based servers.

In addition, IBM has launched new processor options — doubling the cores on the Power 570 to 32-cores — and has introduced 5.0 GHz processors in the Power 570 and Power 550.

The Power 570 starts at just four cores, but it can be upgraded to a full 32-core system. Another feature on the 570 is hot-node add, which allows the installation for more server modules without having to take the system down. The 570 also supports 4.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz Power6 processors, which were previously available only in the Power 595.

The Power 560 Express is a new Power6 server that features 4-, 8- and 16- core configurations and is designed to help businesses consolidate multiple UNIX, i or x86 workloads onto smaller footprints.

"The Power 560 Express is ideal for mid-sized businesses as application performance increases as your system and business grows," said Sibley. "This server also has flexible operating systems options, allowing customers to choose the operating system that best suits their application and business needs, from AIX, IBM i and Linux systems."

IBM also introduced new Power 520 and 550 Express servers with POWER6 processors. These servers operate at 4.7 GHz and 5.0 GHz. The 520 supports up to four 64-bit cores and up to 64GB RAM. The 550 supports up to eight 64-bit cores and 256GB RAM.

While IBM consolidated its System i and p server lines under the Power banner, System i resources remain available for clients, and the Power Blade Express Servers have been enhanced to operate on i servers.

System z

The biggest news for System z since the last IBM Server Snapshot is the release of the z10BC (Business Class) mainframe, complete with its new processor. The z10 BC is nearly 40 percent faster, has an increase in total capacity of more than 50 percent and has nearly four times the maximum memory compared to its predecessor, the z9 BC.

"The design of the IBM System z10 processor chip is the most extensive redesign in over 10 years, resulting in an increase in frequency from 1.4 GHz (z9 BC) to 3.5 GHz [and] on the z10 BC, 2.5x the frequency," said Karl Freund, vice president of System z strategy and marketing, IBM.

The z10 BC, however, is actually an entry-level version of an IBM z10 EC (Enterprise Class) mainframe. Freund said the z10 BC compares well to x86-based architectures. It delivers the same capacity as 232 x86 servers in an 83 percent smaller footprint and up to 93 percent lower energy costs. Further, it has a much higher level of control and automation.

Customers, said Freund, tend to want to keep energy costs low, have a IT staff and consume as little space as possible. He said he believes the z10 meets those needs.

IBM has been working to make the mainframe platform more attractive to a younger audience. There have been more than 1,000 new or updated applications introduced to the IBM mainframe in 2008, bringing the total number of applications to more than 5,000 on System z. This is having the desired effect.

"In the last year alone, IBM migrated more than 150 customers across a variety of industries worldwide from competitive systems to IBM mainframes," said Freund.

IBM's Server Offerings, at a Glance

 
Power Systems (System I and System p)
System z Mainframe
Target Deployment Data centers of all sizes from SMBs to large enterprises Large and midsize enterprises running mission-critical applications
Processor Type Power 6 z10 BC has up to 10 configurable cores and 2 System Assist Processors (SAP) installed in four Single Chip Modules (SCM)
Chips: 4 PU SCMs per System with total of 12 cores (each core with its own Hardware Decimal Floating Point Unit)
2 System Controller SCMs per System
2 oscillator/ETRs standard 1 I/O Bus Controller (GX) per SCM, 2 Co-processors (COP) per SCM (Data compression and Cryptographic functions)
1 Memory controller per PU SCM
Processor Range Power Blades: 2- to 8-way
Power 520: 1- to 4-way
Power 550: 2- to 8-way
Power 560: 4- to 16-way
Power 570: 2- to 8-way
Power 595: 8- to 64-way
z10BC: 1-10 way
z10EC scales from 1-64-way
z9BC: 1-7 processors
z9EC: 1-54-way
Operating Systems IBM i (i5/OS), AIX, Linux z/OS, z/OS.e, Linux on IBM System z, z/VM, z/VSE, z/TPF, TFP
Servers Power:
i Edition Express for BladeCenter S
Power 520 Express
Power 550 Express
Power 560 Express
Power 570
Power 575 supercomputing node
Power 595
System P: System p5 510 Express
System p5 510Q Express
System z: z10 Business Class (z10BC)
z10 Enterprise Class (z10EC)
z9 Business Class (z9BC)
z9 Enterprise Class (z9EC)
Price Range Power 520 Express - Starts at $5,576
Power 550 Express - Starts at $19,176
Power 560 Express - Starts at $47,216
Power 570/575/595 - Contact IBM
IBM System i models - Contact IBM
p5 510 Express - Starts at $5,150
p5 510Q Express - Starts at $6,702
z10BC: starts at around $100,000
Other: contact a sales representative at www.ibm.com/mainframe

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he was originally from Scotland where he received a degree in Geology/Geography from the University of Strathcyle. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).

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Tags: IBM, Unix, mainframe

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