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The Power7 ponies

The Power 720 is the workhorse of IBM's Power Systems lineup now, as the Power 520 was ahead of it. And in fact, this is the box that IBM is allowing customers to upgrade to from Power 520 machines using Power6 or Power6+ processors. Customers with earlier Power-based entry servers cannot upgrade to the Power 710, 730, or 740, and it is not clear that IBM is offering upgrades across the new Power7-based entry machines, either.

The Power 720 comes in the 4U chassis used by the Power 750, 770, and 780 machines as well as in the new Power 740. Like the BladeCenter PS700, PS701, and PS702, the Power 720 only supports a single Power7 clock speed: 3 GHz. Customers can get a single processor card with a Power7 chip with four, six, or eight cores on it. Main memory on that single processor card can expand from 8 GB to 128 GB (only to 64 GB on the four-core card, though), which is the full memory complement that the Power7 processor cards allow using 1 GHz DDR3 main memory.

The Power 720 chassis has room for eight 2.5-inch SAS disk or SATA flash drives. The Power 720 chassis comes with four PCI-Express 2.0 full height slots (x8) as well as an optional feature to add four low-profile PCI-Express 2.0 slots. The Power 720 has one GX++ slot for attaching remote I/O and the same Ethernet options as the Power 710 and 730. (The four-core version does not have a GX++ slot.)

In a bare-bones Express configuration, the Power 720 comes with a four-core Power7 chip running at 3 GHz, 8 GB of memory, and two of those 73.4 GB SAS disks for $6,835, not including the operating system. Moving up to the six-core Power7 chip and adding another 8 GB of memory raises the price to $9,995. With the eight-core Power7 chip, 16 GB of memory, and two disks, the price of the Power 720 Express costs $16,995. Those extra two cores are pretty pricey, as you can see.

IBM Power 720 and 740 servers

IBM's Power 720 and 740 rack and tower servers.

The final new entry Power7 machine is the Power 740, and it is essentially half of a Power 750 or two Power 720s in the same 4U rack or tower chassis, depending on how you want to think of it. The difference between the Power 740 and the Power 750 is that the latter machine was launched in February when Power7 clock speeds and yields were lower. So, ironically, the Power 740 has slightly faster chips than the Power 750. (IBM will probably fix this at some point and add 3.7 GHz processor options to the Power 750.)

The Power 740 has four processor options: a four-core Power7 chips running at either 3.3 GHz or 3.7 GHz, a six-core chip running at 3.7 GHz, and an eight-core running at 3.55 GHz. On the Power 740, customers can install one or two processor cards, and memory scales from 8 GB to 256 GB. The box has the same 4x4 PCI-Express peripheral options, storage, and networking options as the Power 720. The machine has room for eight disks or flash drives.

In a base Express configuration, the Power 740 with a single four-core Power7 chip running at 3.3 GHz with 16 GB of memory and two disks costs $15,767. Bump up the clock speed on the four-core processor to 3.7 GHz, you're talking $17,217. Moving up to the six-core 3.7 GHz chips, 32 GB, and two disks, you raise the price to $22,502. The heavy configuration of the Power 740, with the full sixteen Power7 cores running at 3.55 GHz, 64 GB of memory, and two disks runs to $43,375.

The Power 710, 720, 730, and 740 machines will all be available starting September 17, and they come with three-year warranties like x64 servers do these days. (The Power6 and Power6+ entry servers had only a one-year warranty). These four machines support IBM's own AIX 5.3, 6.1, and 7.1, the latter being in beta testing now and shipping on September 17, about a month earlier than planned. IBM's own i 6.1.1 and i 7.1 operating systems can also be run on the boxes, as can Red Hat's Enterprise Linux 5.5 and Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP3 and 11 SP1. RHEL 6, which should be shipping any week now, will also be enabled on the entire Power7 server line.

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