Big Blue's big iron: The Biggening. Screening 2010

'This enormous mainframe will devour us all'


IBM, like other server makers, has rolled out a bunch of new iron this spring, but still has a ways to go to completely revamp its product lineup in 2010, as it plans to do.

The company rolled out its first machines to make use of the eight-core Power7 processors in February, the midrange Power 750 (with up to four processor sockets) and the bigger midrange Power 770/780, which is essentially a version of the Power 750 that adds in NUMA clustering to scale up to four chassis and 64 cores. In April, IBM put out a single-socket, eight-core blade server called the Power Systems 701. The company also added a double-wide unit that uses the same NUMA-oid SMP clustering to create a two-socket blade, called the Power Systems 702 with double the oomph. The PS700 blade is a single-socket blade with a half-dud Power7 chip (only four cores) and half as many memory slots.

IBM has said that the next high-end machine, due in the second half of this year, would support 256 cores (that means 1,024 threads) in the same thermal envelope as the current 64-core, 128-thread Power 595 server that has been the top of the line for several years in the IBM AIX/i lineup. It looks like IBM is using a similar 32-socket architecture to make this future big bad box, presumably to be called the Power Systems 795, and it will probably sport as much as 8 TB of main memory. The important thing is that it will have four times the cores in the same thermal envelope, and right now, each Power7 core is delivering more grunt (on online transaction processing work, at least) than the Power6 and Power6+ cores.

IBM has been pretty vague about what to expect at the low-end, but then company has said that it will offer a kicker to the entry Power 520 server, which comes in rack and tower flavors, that offers an upgrade path into a Power7-based machine - presumably to be called the Power 720. There were hints that IBM was working on two entry Power machines from calls for techies to help work on the documentation; it is reasonable to guess these machines were to be called the Power 710 and Power 720, and it is also reasonable to guess that the Power 720 should be about half of a Power 750 - meaning two sockets - and that the Power 710 should be a single-socket box. This would be roughly analogous to the PS701 and PS702 blades.

That also suggests that there will be a Power 700, a single-socket machine with only four-cores activated and crimped memory capacity. But Ross Mauri, who is general manager of IBM's Power Systems division, told attendees of the COMMON midrange systems user conference two weeks ago that Big Blue was working on four entry Power Systems machines. One might assume one of them is a kicker to the Smart Cube appliances that IBM has been selling in India and the US. Mauri did not provide specifics on these entry Power machines.

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