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IBM upgrades DS series by the numbers

Hardware refresh for IBM's flagship storage product

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References to a mysterious IBM storage array are popping up across the web. Is this the hardware refresh of IBM's flagship DS8000 storage array line?

The first reference we spotted was from Freddie Sanchez, a firmware engineering guy at IBM in Arizona. His LinkedIn entry reads: "I develop and maintain embedded software for the enterprise high-performance IBM System Storage DS8700, DS8000 and DS6000 products. This includes system wide level debugging, architectural planning, iterative design, following established documentation procedures, implementation, unit test, and executing successful hardware integration."

Then there was a Bell Micro web page note about an IBM Business Partners' Enablement workshop - "DS8000 Technical update: Last announcements (R4.2) and Roadmap (DS8700)" - held yesterday at IBM Warwick, and given by Dominique Salomon from IBM's Product Solutions and Support Center in Montpellier.

Lastly we found an internal IBM bug report: "DS8700 systems with more than 170 GB memory may experience missing or corrupted memory."

We know IBM has DS8100 and 8300 systems in its flagship DS8000 enterprise storage array product line, but there is no DS8700. We think the DS8700 is a new high-end DS8000, a hardware refresh, and we reckon it will use POWER6 processors.

The 8100 and 8300 both use POWER5+ processors with the 8100 using dual 2-way processors and the 8300 using dual 4-way ones. POWER5+ is old hat in processing engine terms, having been succeeded by POWER6 and POWER 6+. POWER6 added decimal math and vectors and better threads to the microprocessor and POWER6+ added a few more tweaks and higher clock speeds.

Our information is that the p550 with four Power5+ cores running at 2.1 Ghz had a relative performance rating of 24.86. A p550 with four POWER6+ cores running at 4.2 Ghz is rated at 36.28 relative performance, and 52.24 with six cores, 46 per cent more oomph, core for core.

IBM has already starting phasing out the first generation POWER6 processors and is shipping POWER6+ systems. We can be fairly certain that a DS8700 will use at least POWER6 CPUs and possibly POWER6+. It may also increase the core count to get a greater boost in CPU horsepower for the new array and whatever software functions it's going to have. We don't know anything about them or any speeds and feeds data for the new box.

If the channel (Bell Micro) is being briefed now then we can expect a public announcement in the next few weeks. Following on from the introduction of thin provisioning for the DS8000 this should knock any ideas that the DS8000 is a dead array line on the head. Big Blue is most definitely still in the high-end enterprise array line. ®

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