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IBM: Last chance to load up on Power 6+

Getting ready to lead the old girl out back with gun and spade

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With the Power7+ processors and their related Power Systems machinery looming on the horizon sometime before the end of the year – and sooner rather than later if the murmuring on the street is any indication – it is no surprise that Big Blue is beginning the process of winding down sales of new Power6+ system boards and related peripherals.

These machines are two generations back, and no vendor likes to sell more than one generation back even it does support (as in break-fix replacement and software patches) iron of this vintage and older for many, many years in terms of running software and providing tech support.

Ahead of the Power7+ launch, IBM is telling customers to get out their checkbooks and buy up the old stuff it has sitting around in the barn if they want to add more capacity to their existing machines. IBM is also making some minor changes on some new gear.

The Power6+ processors were launched secretly in certain machines in October 2008, labeled as Power6 chips when they were not, and then pushed across the rest of the product line in April 2009.

On January 4, 2013, processor cards in the Power 520, 550, and 570 machines that are based on the dual-core Power6+ chips, which come in 3.2GHz, 4.2GHz, 4.4GHz, 4.7GHz, and 5GHz clock speeds depending on the machine, will be only available as stocked in the business partner channel - or second-hand from used equipment dealers and no longer new from Big Blue.

A bunch of older disk drives, memory features, GX port adapters, and other peripherals of the same vintage are being ripped out of the catalog. IBM stopped selling brand new Power6 and Power6+ systems (as opposed to processor cards and features for installed systems) back in the summer of 2011, a year after the Power7 machines came out.

Remember: If you have latent Power6+ processing capacity or memory in your system that you have not activated, IBM will always let you turn it on. This withdrawal from marketing is only for new feature sales and does not restrict the activation of installed features.

Processor feature conversions within these Power 520, 550, and 570 machines using Power6+ processors are also being put out to pasture on January 4, 2013.

If you have a Power 595 machine based on Power6+ processors, you are getting a bit more time to upgrade processor and memory features. The Power6+ processor books for these big bad boxes will be removed from the product catalog on July 5 next year, and so will related memory features, which span from 4GB to 64GB in size in the Power 595. Processor conversions within the Power 595 machine using the Power6+ chips, which run at 4.2GHz or 5GHz, will also be unavailable new from IBM after July 5.

With this announcement of Power6+ feature withdrawals, I am pretty convinced that IBM will announce the new Power7+ machines soon. If IBM did it on September 25, that would be a week ahead of Oracle's OpenWorld customer and partner event, and the old IBM might have done it then to get a week to ramp up for fourth quarter sales.

But an IBM that wants to give no oxygen to Oracle in the Unix server racket would probably want to time the Power7+ launch on whatever day Oracle plans to debut its new Sparc T5 processors and systems. That could be anywhere between September 30 and October 4. IBM doesn't do announcements on Sunday, so September 30 is out.

It won't be long. And Power6+ shops have plenty of time to add capacity if they don't foresee a move to Power7 or Power7+ iron.

In the same announcement, IBM also said that as of September 28 it is killing off the business partner installation of Linux on the PowerLinux 7R2 rack server, the Linux-only machine that debuted back in April. IBM is also putting out to pasture selected 16GB and 32GB DDR3 memory modules running at 1.07GHz and 4GB memory modules running at 1.33GHz for the Flex System p260 and p460 Power7-based nodes.

IBM did not give any explanation of why these memory modules were being pulled out of the product catalog. ®

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