The close links between industry standard silicon and system vendors are clear every time new or next gen microprocessors hit the market. Intel or AMD issues a press release highlighting their latest achievements, along with a list of server vendors supporting those products. Those vendors highlight how they will utilize the chips’ features and advancements and then, over time, roll out new solutions.
A couple of decades ago, system vendors that developed their own processors, including IBM, HP and Sun followed similar paths with a couple of wrinkles. They certainly spotlighted new features, but they also focused attention on proprietary technologies developed for their customers’ specific business needs and requirements. Today, IBM is the only commercial system vendor that still develops its own microprocessors, so it is worth discussing how the company’s newest Power servers featuring its latest Power10 chips measure up to the competition.
IBM Power – The proposition for enterprises and midrange companies
First, let’s consider the new additions to IBM’s Power portfolio. In general, all profit from the enhancements enabled by the Power10 chips introduced last September, including twice as many cores and over 2X memory bandwidth than Power9. The new servers offer more performance per core and better total capacity at the socket and system level than prior generation products.
IBM offers security control solutions at every level of the Power system stack with the goal of enhancing customers’ vital data and workloads. Power10 processors also support new enterprise AI capabilities where the data resides, on the server, opening the potential for customers to better protect, manage and leverage their IT investments. Like other Power10-based solutions, these new offerings support operating environments, including IBM AIX, IBM i, Linux and Red Hat OpenShift, as well as dynamic capacity options to improve customers’ ROI.
The new IBM solutions include:
- Power S1014 – An entry-level offering aimed at SMBs and small facilities, the S1014 offers up to 8 cores and 1TB memory. The solution’s lower technical requirements enable customers without sizable IT staff to still enjoy the robust benefits of fully active enterprise servers.
- Power S1022andPower S1024 – Are value-driven solutions with higher technical standards, and are aimed at small/midrange organizations, and enterprise remote office/branch office (ROBO) environments. The Power S1022 supports up to 40 cores and 4TB of memory and is designed for scale-out clusters, development processes and business applications and workloads, especially those that are containerized or OpenShift-based. The Power S1024 supports up to 48 cores and 8TB of memory and is ideal for SAP HANA environments from 2TB to 8TB (the 8TB option is scheduled to be available in Q4). Both offer Dynamic Capacity consumption with Capacity on Demand and Power Enterprise Pools 2.0.
- Power E1050 – A 4-socket solution that supports up to 96 cores and 16TB of memory along with Dynamic Capacity consumption with Capacity on Demand and Power Enterprise Pools 2.0. This system is aimed at clients who run large (> 6TB) SAP HANA environments.
- Cloud on premises and flexible consumption: IBM also announced new flexible consumption offerings with pay-as-you-go options and by-the-minute metering for Power Private Cloud. These are designed to lower the cost of running RedHat OpenShift solutions on Power (compared to alternative platforms) and build on IBM Power Virtual Server capabilities. Additionally, a new IBM i subscription offering delivers a complete platform solution with the hardware, software and support/services included in the service.
What can we conclude about these new Power10 and Power solutions? First it is important to note that, like every other IT vendor, IBM largely aims its development efforts and strategies at existing customers. From that viewpoint, the new systems deliver significant boosts in performance and TCO that should be attractive to Power system owners, especially those with servers running Power8 or earlier silicon. Also interesting is the new IBM i subscription solution which should help support that venerable business platform.
At the same time, IBM is not simply living in the past. In particular, the new Power E1050 is designed to support increasingly popular RISE with SAP HANA workloads but also broadens customers’ deployment choices through the premium supplier option. Much the same can be said for IBM’s Power Private Cloud and its flexible consumption/pay-as-you-go/by-the-minute metering.
Whether or how well the new solutions might entice competitors’ customers to jump ship to IBM is harder to say. Power systems have long delivered better overall performance, greater memory capacity and higher bandwidth than comparable x86-based servers. However, their relative higher price, as well as the costs and complexities of shifting to a new platform provided an excuse to stick with “good enough” servers instead of embracing systems that deliver demonstrably higher value.
Those superior technologies and value propositions remain in full view in IBM’s latest Power Systems servers. These new solutions, including the S1014, S1022 and S1024 deliver the substantial compute benefits of Power10 downstream to small and midrange companies, and should help them improve the way they do business. The E1050 is a testament to both IBM’s technological innovations and its longstanding strategic partnership with SAP.
Overall, there is much in IBM’s new Power10-based Power Systems offerings to inspire and appeal to its current clientele. Just as importantly, the new solutions should also intrigue customers of other server vendors.