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IBM debuts new Power7 iron this week

And a new i

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It looks like IBM is getting ready to roll out some more Power7-based systems this week, as well as an update to its proprietary midrange operating system, formerly known as OS/400 and now called i for Business, or i for short.

The details are a bit thin, but resellers downstream from master distributor Arrow Electronics' Enterprise Computing Solutions group were briefed last Thursday on the long-expected i 7.1 operating system. While a tweaked version of the current OS/400 kicker, known as i 6.1, can run on three of the four the Power7-based servers announced in early February and kicking off an aggressive server upgrade cycle for 2010, the i 7.1 version is expected to more fully exploit the underlying hardware and get even higher performance than the i 6.1.1 release that is required on the Power7 can.

The new version of the IBM midrange OS is also expected to support native XML formats within the DB2 for i relational database that has been embedded in System/38 and AS/400 minis for more than thirty years now and also allow for encryption of databases. A new feature, to be called Open Access for RPG, will allow for programmers to circumvent the proprietary 5250 green-screen protocol that is used to drive application screens and create custom ones more suitable for handheld devices like iPhones without having to emulate the 5250 screen on the device or scrape those screens and rejigger them back on the server.

This Open Access for RPG feature may also include features to allow RPG applications to kick out XML documents for SOA-style hybrid applications. The i 7.1 OS is also expected to leverage the single-level storage architecture of the AS/400 to more fully and transparently exploit solid state disks used in Power System iron, moving hot data to flash and off disks without the intervention of system administrators as workloads change.

Exactly what IBM has in store for server announcements is less clear. Last week, Big Blue previewed some enhancements to its Smart Analytic System clusters - appliances aimed at making data warehouses and analytical engines out of mainframe, Power, and x64 clusters, which we are calling Smartie clusters - as well as saying that it would deliver a database cluster appliance based on the new Power 770 servers and the PureScale clustering extensions for its DB2 V9.8 database. That appliance, which we are calling Pizzazz clusters (a play on the acronym for PureScale Application System, or PSAS), will not be ready until June, which is presumably when DB2 V9.8 is coming out.

IBM has already launched its midrange Power 750 (four socket) and Power 770 and 780 (eight socket) servers, and an entry Power 720 and a high-end Power 795 are still expected this year. It is hard to say which one might come first next. Both could come this week. And of course, IBM also needs to get two-socket and four-socket blade servers into the field using the new Power7 chips, and midrange and high-end disk arrays with lots of brains and software features based on the same iron too. As El Reg already reported, IBM is expected to launched a kicker to the high-end DS8700 this week.

Whatever IBM is up to, there's a big Smarter Systems shindig online on April 15, which will have some of the top brass from IBM's Systems and Technology Group as well as the marketeers from its Power Systems and Storage Systems divisions on hand to talk about new servers, storage, virtualization, and management tools.

The two things that are not expected this week are the System z11 mainframes and a new version of AIX, both of which are slated for later this year. ®

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