IBM Expands Power 7 Line to Entry-Level and Mid-Range Blade Servers

by Andy Patrizio

New processors allow for expandability and improved power efficiency compared to the previous generation.

IBM has added three new blade systems based on its new Power 7 processor and targeted at a wide range of applications, since they're capable of starting as single-socket entry-level blade systems and scaling up to a multi-socket, many-core system.

In tandem with the new blades, Big Blue also took the wraps off of new operating systems designed to better utilize the processors.

IBM (NYSE: IBM) first introduced the Power 7 processor in February as the successor to its Power 6 line, which has been competitive against Intel's Itanium and Sun's Sparc processors. In fact, IBM has been extremely aggressive in pursuing Sun customers, especially during the protracted merger with Oracle.

In the last three years, IBM through its Migration Factory services unit have scored more than 2,100 customer wins from Sparc, Itanium and other platforms, according to Steve Sibley, director of strategic marketing for Power systems at IBM.

IBM is continuing to push hard with the Power platform with its three new blades. The PS700 is an entry-level server, one blade with a four-core Power 7 processor. The PS701 is also a single-socket solution but uses an eight-core Power 7, and the PS702 has two eight-core processors. The new Power 7 blades can run alongside Power6 and IBM x86 blades in the same blade chassis.

The 702 is a double-wide blade, so when you snap on the second processor, you also attach more memory and hard disk space, effectively doubling everything. "These are the most scalable blades we've had," Sibley told InternetNews. "It takes three minutes to plug in a new blade. You can start with a one-socket processor and as your business grows or you drive more consolidation in your environment, you simply add a new card and add new scalability to your systems."

IBM claims that the Power 7 delivers twice the performance and four times the virtualization capabilities for the same price as its Power 6 family while consuming half the energy. Power 6 was a dual-core, single-threaded chip while Power 7 scales from two to eight cores, with each core running up to four threads at a time.

Software updates

In addition to the servers, IBM also released some new software, starting with a new version of AIX 6, its Unix OS written for the Power architecture. This version of AIX is called AIX 6 Express Edition and is aimed at smaller environments or workloads, with a maximum of four cores per image and 8GB per core. Not only can it be used by small businesses, it can also run in a partition on a larger server or in a blade chassis, so smaller workloads won't require the expense of a full AIX partition.

IBM also debuted its i software 7.1 -- the former i5/OS used in AS/400 systems -- which will automatically recognize and configure itself for solid state drives. The new OS will also support the workload optimization features in Power 7 and comes with new PowerVM virtualization features for simpler testing of new releases before a software upgrade.

IBM Systems Director 6.2 is an update to its workload balancing and management software that helps distribute and manage new workloads in minutes, cutting server administration costs by up to 21 percent. A new version of IBM Systems Director VM Control, which manages multiple virtualized and physical systems from a single interface, can improve staff productivity by up to 40 percent and IBM Active Energy Manager 4.3 monitors and manages energy use and can reduce energy costs by nearly 30 percent.

Finally, IBM announced Rational Developer for Power V7.6, which gives developers an Eclipse-based environment for building C/C++ and COBOL applications. IBM also is unveiling Rational Team Concert for Power Systems Software V2 and Rational compilers for C/C++ and Fortran.

IBM is also offering a preview of AIX 7, the next major update to its Unix operating system, due ater this year. The key features of AIX 7 are full support for the Power 7 architecture, with support for up to 1,000 concurrent threads. A preview is expected this summer.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

This article was originally published on Wednesday Apr 14th 2010
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