Flexing an x86 node
As best I can figure, IBM was hoping to launch the Flex System chassis along with Intel's "Sandy Bridge-EP" Xeon E5-2600 processors last fall, in the wake of an expected announcement by Intel – perhaps in September. But Intel pushed out the launch (due to an issue with the on-chipset SAS controller that was supposed to run at 6GB/sec but which was geared down to 3GB/sec before its launch) and that left IBM either leading with Power7 nodes and talking about Xeon nodes, quickly slapping together an Opteron 4200 or 6200 node based on the chips from Advanced Micro Devices, or waiting. IBM chose to wait.
It is not clear if IBM will ever do an Opteron based node, AMD's advantage with the 4200 and 6200 processors over the Xeon E5-2600s (and the forthcoming Xeon-2400 for cheaper and less expandable two-socket machines) is nil when it comes to number crunching and not huge when it comes to supporting large numbers of virtual machines. AMD may have a price advantage, but there may not be enough pull in the market for IBM to invest the engineering effort.
I think there is no question that Big Blue will offer multiple Xeon-based nodes for the Flex System chassis, including a two-bay machine delivering four sockets based on Intel's upcoming Xeon E5-4600 processor, and maybe even a four-bay machine based on a future Xeon E7 processor with four or eight sockets and offering much larger main memory and expansion for the node. I think it is a no-brainer that the Flex System will very soon support Nvidia Tesla GPU co-processors for supercomputer customers, too. A four-bay, eight-socket Power7 node is also a possibility, and with such a configuration, IBM could cover the bulk of its Power Systems customers in either AIX or IBM i customer bases.
In the meantime, the only x86-based server node for the Flex System chassis is the x240, a two socket node based on Intel's Xeon E5-2600 chip. Here's what it looks like from above with the cover off:
The Flex System x240 node is a two-socket box, with is really the only option with the Xeon E5-2600 chips. IBM is offering the full slate of Xeon E5-2600 processors (which I wrote about in detail here) for the machine, ranging from parts with low core counts and low prices to ones with low core counts and higher clock speeds and relatively high thermals to chips with six or eight cores with standard thermals and burning 95, 115, or 130 watts to the top-bin E5-2690 which has eight cores, 16 threads, runs at 2.9GHz, and burns 135 watts. This is probably the thermal zone that the eight-core, 3.55GHz Power7 processor is in, by the way. Which is why they can be crammed into the same space in a Flex System rack with generally the same system features.
The x240 node has 24 memory slots instead of the 16 slots in the companion p260 Power7 node, and thus it can support more memory by default. The fact that Intel is supporting load-reduced (or LR-DIMM) main memory, which allows for memory sticks with up to 32GB of capacity per memory slot, means that this two-socket x240 node can support up to 768GB of main memory. That's three times the main memory of the p260 node. I think that 16GB and 32GB memory sticks are too expensive for most shops at this point, unless they are running heavily virtualized workloads and they want to cram as many VMs or LPARs on a machine as they possibly can. So the memory advantage on the x240 is really only a factor of 50 per cent on machines in the Flex System using 8GB DDR3 sticks. (192GB on the x240 versus 128GB on the p260.)
I also believe that IBM needs to get Power7+ processors into the field soon sporting LR-DIMM memory support and if not on-chip PCI-Express 3.0 support, then at least some way to hang PCI-Express 3.0 slots off the GX++ bus on the Power chips. IBM needs to draw even with Intel on the feeds and speeds and slots and watts.
IBM has two 10 GE ports welded onto the motherboards, which means they don't eat a mezzanine card slot. Rather than putting the 2.5-inch disks under the server node lid, the x240 has two hot-swap disk bays in the front of the bay. IBM is supporting either SAS or SATA disk drives or SSD flash drives in a 2.5-inch form factor for this server node for local storage. SAS drives come in 146GB, 300GB, 500GB, 600GB, 900GB, and 1TB capacities at various rotational speeds; SATA disks come in 250GB, 500GB, 1TB capacities; and SATA SSDs come in 50GB, 128GB, 200GB, and 256GB capacities. There's also a redundant pair of internal USB ports for storing VMware's ESXi hypervisor on baby flash units. The x240 node has the same two mezzanine cards and options as the p260 node. ®
Re: New IBM Blade enclosure or not?
Actually I think there is kind of an underlying movement in the market. A consolidation and movement towards that suppliers can do an (almost) vertical solution stack. This is kind of like back to the future, to a time where you got your whole IT from a single vendor. This is IMHO much more a trend rather than partnerships between different vendors in the solution stack.
I don't think this is a good thing for us that have to procure the whole software and hardware stacks. I think we are going to see less open standards, less portability and more vendor lock-in.
If this movement continues, and it is a big IF, there are going to be further consolidations, and to be quite frank then HP wouldn't be one of the companies that would be able to buy up other big companies quickly right now. I mean HP's long term debt is more than 50% of the current marked cap of the company. I know that the debt is in practice deducted from the maket cap, but it's still a huge chunk of depth. For comparison IBM (although having more long term debt than HP) it's still less than 15% of the total company cap, around the same % as Cisco and Oracle has.
So again if, and there is a lot of if's here, this vertical trend continues, then personally I think HP needs to merge with someone.
Re: New IBM Blade enclosure or not?
"I think you need to go tell SAP that, they have plans for a little something called Sybase. Non-SAP, there are other hp-ux options like PostgreSQL, which is a lot better and cheaper than DB2 even in the full-fat EnterpriseDB form. But I wouldn't expect an IBM troll to know that."
You are really getting desperate. As you probably know, Sybase begged SAP to certify them for SAP applications for 15 years. SAP refused. Now that SAP bought ASE, incidentally as they were acquiring mobile from Sybase, they will certify it, but Sybase has about 1.5% of the DB market. ASE was thoroughly beaten by Oracle decades ago. EnterpriseDB was never interested in Itanium until Oracle left them without a DB partner. Now, after the Oracle situation, EnterpriseDB is supposed working on an Itanium port. As PostgreSQL is not supported by SAP, Oracle ERP, or any other major application players, it isn't going to be a major deal.
"Well, seeing as IBM Software sell more software licences on hp kit than IBM's own, I'd say IBM Software was the one more dependent on hp."
I am not sure if that is true. If it is, that is like saying that Microsoft is dependent on HP because a bunch of their Server and Windows PC licenses run on HP hardware. HP x86 is commodity. If they were to go away, people would just put the software on some other x86 gear. I don't think HP ProLiant is going to put the screws to WebSphere or Windows Server.
Re: New IBM Blade enclosure or not?
>> Well, as Odyssey is still in the planning stages, it is difficult to determine what it is going to look in a few years. Nevertheless, the high point of Odyssey are that they are going to unify the Unix and x86 architectures in the same enclosure around a common chassis called HydraLynx.
It might just be in the planning stages, but there's enough publicly available material at their website to correct some of your errors...
HP already offer Unix and x86 in a common enclosure- it's called BladeSystem c7000, and you can put blades in it running Windows/Linux on x86 and HP-UX/OpenVMS on IA64. That's been in the marketplace as an offering for a good 5 years, just as IBM have offered Power and x86 in their BladeCenter H enclosure. If you think that is what Odyssey is, you are wrong.
The hardware side of Odyssey (ignoring the software/services and other components) is about:
i) Producing a "scalebale x86 blade" similar to the BL860/BL870/BL890 IA64 blades where you can grow an existing blade from a 2-socket to a 4-socket to an 8-socket blade by adding additional blade modules and then combining them together using a blade link. This is similar to what IBM do with their p5x0 components, except in a blade enclosure and without all those nasty/messy interconnect cables. This is HyrdaLynx.
ii) Producing a "x86 Superdome" - that isn't in the same BladeSystem c7000 chassis, but in a Superdome 2 blade enclosure which shares many components with the c7000, but is different in that it has a resilent compute fabric for interconnecting the blades and IO enclosures to create electrically isolated partitions, and deliver enhanced failure detection/correction on a level you see in Integrity and Power systems, but don't see in the x86 world right now (not in a Flex Chassis either). This is known as "DragonHawk" - if IBM were to do something similar, it would be more akin to a x86 version of the p795, not this Flex chassis.
>> Flex Manager combines a bunch of HP's software features in Superdome as well as bunch of other features that are currently additional licenses from HP, such as automated provisioning and build software and management through the VM layer.
A closer comparison is of course would be with BladeSystem/VirtualSystem/AppSystem/CloudSystem, which as I said previously have offered these sorts of capabilities for both Unix and x86 acrhitectures for a few years now. Any conversation about licenses is irrelevant without doing a full TCO compare, which I hope you will agree is outside the scope of a friendly discussion on a forum.
>> Flex Manager has HP Insight Manager and HP's x86 Analysis Engine functionality built in which is going to be part of these Odyssey systems.
I'd love to hear where you read that - if you talk to HP in any detail, they will tell you that the reason there isn't currently a x86 Analysis Engine similar to the one in the current Superdome 2 IA64 system, is because the x86 processors won't have the required features until the next iteration of the Xeon processor - so unless IBM have done a ton of firmware work here that they won't need in the next rev of their Xeon processors, I find that highly unlikely.