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IBM widens data analytics fleet

Smartie boxes multiply

Extended PureScale

On the OLTP front, the PureScale cluster extensions for its DB2 database that IBM that debuted last fall, also based on the Power 550 midrange Power6 servers (up to 16 cores) as well as on the big Power 595 boxes (up to 64 cores). The PureScale extensions to DB2 were put into the field to rain on the Oracle and Sun Exadata V2 parade, and it is a fair guess that IBM did not intend to launch this feature until Power7 systems were out the door this year along with DB2 V9.8.

But Oracle forced IBM's hand, and complaints about the scalability of Oracle's Real Application Clustering for its 11g database on OLTP workloads is giving IBM an opportunity to fight back. Customers also complain that using Oracle RAC requires a lot of tuning. But IBM says PureScale is the holy grail of sorts for OLTP databases in that it can make a database spread across multiple server nodes look and act like it is on one giant SMP server with a shared, single memory space. As El Reg explained last fall, the secret sauce in the PureScale setup is the head node in the cluster that acts like a master database record lock as it locks and unlocks memory and storage on the distributed database.

IBM is exploiting the Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) features of InfiniBand to tightly link the main memories of the servers in the PureScale clusters. IBM is linking the Power System servers through their 12X remote I/O buses, 12X being a variant of double-data rate InfiniBand that Big Blue has used for years to link remote I/O drawers holding disks and controllers back to servers.

Spang says that in benchmark tests using real workloads, DB2 plus PureScale has been able to attain 95 per cent efficiency in 64 node configurations and 85 per cent efficiency in 128 node setups. Meaning, on a 64 node machine, you get about 61 times the performance of a single node. That's pretty good linear scalability.

The DB2 PureScale feature was available in December, and IBM has come to the conclusion (after some complaining from customers and partners) that what it needed to do was put together a complete system exploiting PureScale, not just preview a database feature and hope that is enough to counter the Oracle Exadata V2 marketing onslaught.

And so, IBM has whipped up a little something called the PureScale Application System, an homage, no doubt, to the king of the application servers, the AS/400 minicomputer. The PureScale Application System, which needs a shorter name, is being previewed now for shipments in June. This preconfigured setup will consist of two of the Power 770 machines, which come with sixteen Power7 cores each and have four of them activated in each server. The machines run AIX 6.1 and DB2 V9.8, since PureScale is basically what turns the current DB2 V9.7 into DB2 V9.8.

IBM went with the Power 770 box rather than the Power 750 because it allows customers to scale database nodes horizontally through SMP nodes in a single system if large memory helps with their particular database workloads. The Power 770, as El Reg previously explained, has two processors per system card, with two system cards per chassis; up to four chassis can be lashed together in a system that has up to 64 Power7 cores and up to 2 TB of main memory when fat memory cards are available this fall for the system; the machine tops out at 512 GB of main memory now.

The PureScale Application System also includes IBM's WebSphere Application Server, and it's ready to go to support Java applications and their transaction workloads. Once again, IBM did not announce formal pricing for these boxes, but Spang said the intent was to have the entry configuration cost "a few hundred thousands of dollars," not millions. IBM has also tweaked its Optim Performance Manager Extended Edition tool to optimize the performance of DB2 plus WebSphere or DB2 plus SAP middleware and applications running in conjunction with PureScale database clusters.

The uptake on the Smartie boxes and PureScale DB2 cluster extensions has been slow, but you expect it to be with a new way of bringing systems to market. Spang said that IBM has sold dozens of Smartie analytic machines and has a number of PureScale deployments in production. In both cases, Spang said interest is running very high. ®

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