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Power7+ chips debut in fat IBM midrange systems

Near the top at first, trickling down to smaller boxes next year

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Memory boost for the Power 795

IBM is moving to higher density memory cards based on 4 gigabit DDR3 chips for its high-end Power Systems memory cards, and it is these cards that are used with the new Power 770+ and Power 780+ machines when they are fully loaded with their 4TB of memory.

IBM is also kicking out a new 256GB memory card based on the same 4 gigabit DDR3 chips that allows it to double up the main memory capacity on the top-end Power 795, which sports four-core Power7 chips running at 4.25GHz or eight-core Power7 chips running at 4GHz. That's 16TB of physical memory, and with the Power7+ on-chip memory compression algorithm, that 16TB of physical memory can be made to look like 36TB to the AIX operating system. (There's no technical reason why this memory compression can't be made available on IBM i or Linux, and it should be.)

The PowerVM hypervisor can now do 20 LPARs per core on the Power 795, double what was previously available, but the machine can only handle a maximum of 1,000 LPARs per physical machine – even though you could, at 20 LPARs per core, push an aggregate of 5,120 partitions across 256 cores.

All three machines also now have what IBM calls elastic capacity on demand, which is 15 processor-days of free capacity that come as part of the base price of the system, giving customers a little extra head room for a utility-style price. At $16 per day per core with 8GB of main memory allocated to it, this is a reasonable price.

"It's pretty attractively priced," says Sibley, "offering the flexibility and price of a public cloud with the convenience of being in your own data center."

Clearly, IBM is betting that 15 processor-days of capacity will get customers hooked on using capacity on demand for end-of-week, end-of- month, and end-of-year runs, as well as whenever they have a spike in demand.

IBM is also tossing in a PowerCare consulting gig, worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000, which consists of a two-week engagement with Global Services, for each Power 780+ and Power 795 deal.

One last thing: the new Power 770+ and Power 780+ servers do not have PCI-Express 3.0 peripheral slots, and Sibley says that PCI-Express 3.0 slots will not be available until the next generation of Power processors comes to market.

Assuming the rollout of Power7+ takes at least until next summer or so, that could mean mid-to-late 2014 before Power Systems get PCI-Express 3.0 peripherals. That is a long time to give Intel a lead, but IBM has lagged behind x86 servers when it comes to PCI slots for a long, long time. This isn't new – even if it is not as aggressive as IBM should be. ®

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