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IBM Hardware Linux

IBM Gearing Up Mega Power 8 Servers For October Launch 113

darthcamaro (735685) writes "Now that IBM has sold off its x86 server business to Lenovo, it's full steam ahead for IBM's Power business. While Intel is ramping up its next generation of server silicon for a September launch, IBM has its next lineup of Power 8 servers set to be announced in October. "There is a larger than 4U, 2 socket system coming out," Doug Balog, General Manager of Power Systems within IBM's System and Technology Group said. Can IBM Power 8 actually take on x86? Or has that ship already sailed?" At last weekend's Linux Con in Chicago, IBM talked up the availability of the Power systems, and that they are working with several Linux vendors, including recently-added Ubuntu; watch for a video interview with Balog on how he's helping spend the billion dollars that IBM pledged last year on open source development.
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IBM Gearing Up Mega Power 8 Servers For October Launch

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  • IBM touts the virtualization capabilities of Power, but I can't find any IaaS providers where I can rent a slice of one. I looked at the Softlayer site, they're and IBM company, and I couldn't find it there either. So, it leaves me to wonder...

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hairyfeet ( 841228 )
      The fact that IBM tried to give away their fab to GloFlo should say all that needs saying, as IBM obviously doesn't have enough confidence in POWER to modernize the fab. I have a feeling all IBM has left when it comes to PPC is legacy customers and they are probably already looking at exit strategies.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Their semiconductor manufacturing business is not the same as their POWER business.

        They make a profit on their POWER business, and they also have the profitable mainframe line which needs to be fabricated. If they did not make their own, they would contract foundries to manufacture their profitable chips.

        • by bored ( 40072 )

          The problem is that trying to fab a processor without a foundry seems to be a big disadvantage. For IBMs mainframe business its probably not a critical problem as they aren't as performance intensive.

          But for something like POWER which directly competes with x86 I suspect that they will have an even harder time selling their processors if they follow the AMD (or sparc, mips, etc) route. The ARM vendors seem to do fine without foundries, but the best performing ones seem to regularly come from companies that

    • by jbolden ( 176878 )

      The only company I know of who has announced they would be offering it as cloud is Ubuntu cloud. IBM's hosting solution has it but so far nothing in the cloud space.

    • has Power8 systems []

      It's likely only a matter of time before SoftLayer does.

    • by bored ( 40072 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @05:21PM (#47760487)

      If you go to IBM conferences you will find a fair amount of talk on this very topic by 3rd party vendors. There are probably a dozen vendors that want to provide AS400/iSeries cloud instances, but IBM won't let them because it violates the terms of the IBM i license which is tied to a hardware instance.

      Plus, the whole software ecosystem piggybacks on the same idea, (often based on machine capabilities). This means that even if you can rent an iSeries for an hour its likely your software vendor won't license you their application.

      So, while it is entirely possible, IBM seems to be dragging their feet on the license issues, and the vendors seems to be in a chicken/egg situation.

      • I can vouch for this one - the whole LPAR/IVM set is licensed in such a way that makes it effing impossible to be a 3rd-party VAR for the things.

        Then again, I'd hate to be the sorry mofo that either a) had to manage the things, or b) had to write a web-based wrapper to track and tie together individual iSeries/i5/AS400-based IVM interfaces (*shudder*).

        (no, seriously, I'd much prefer to do that with Solaris/Sparc Logical Domains, if only because LDOMS can be way more easily handled from the command prompt, a

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Good luck taking on x86 dirt-cheap, "good enough" servers with exorbitantly costly, closed POWER systems which people cannot buy cheaply enough to play at home with and learn on. Where is the system administration and development user base going to come from? All such attempts by other companies have failed in the past.

    Also, good luck getting POWER re-adopted by the system administration cand development community, when AIX and the compilers remain closed and the barrier to entry is really high (they are no

    • by jerpyro ( 926071 )

      Why wouldn't they just support Linux on the new hardware? It makes no sense to try to keep AIX alive outside of a VM for some legacy apps (unless they're going to do a native AIX/DB2 optimized solution similar to Oracle's Linux/DB optimized hardware).

      My bet is that they market it as a Linux box with more cores and a better storage subsystem than you can get out of commodity hardware -- there are a fair number of places that would pay for that assuming that they didn't have a predatory licensing model (like

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        non-predatory licensing model?! hahahaha! you don't work with IBM much do you?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Why would one buy exorbitantly priced POWER servers to run GNU/Linux on, when one can easily do that on any x86 "good enough", dirt-cheap server?

        For example:
        for $1,800, I configured a 32GB, intel E3 octocore system with 4TB of storage to run SmartOS on. It is more than adequate to run fully virtualized Solaris 10 instances (which it does), and SmartOS zones. Why would I spend anywhere from 3x to 5x the amount of money to buy Snoracle server?

        Before you make the argument that the enterprise needs, wants, bla

        • by jerpyro ( 926071 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @12:43PM (#47757769)

          I think you're either a) mistaking me for someone who is invested in seeing these companies succeed, or b) trying to pick a fight. So I will answer this without addressing the manner in which you made your comments and just cut right to your message.

          One cannot compete in the market charging exorbitant prices "because it's Snoracle" or "nobody ever got fired for selectin IBM" or "this HP Itanic server has top-of-the-line clock crystal, pay up!" - that does not fly any more.

          Unfortunately it does in a lot of places, and here's why:

          When your $1800 box goes down, and you've long left the company, where do I go to get enterprise support for it? How do I google for "How to fix Jeff's SmartOS whitebox"? When the CEO is coming at me like a steam roller because our online order entry system is down, where do I point the finger? THAT'S what your $1800 box doesn't provide.

          The other scenario is what happens when I want something that has a supported (as in see paragraph above) set of hardware that needs to push tens of millions of iops over infiniband to a dedicated storage array for that box? If I'm spending 50k for a storage array and 20k for switching hardware, you'd better believe I'm going to throw an extra 2k at a server that Oracle or IBM says is certified to work with that equipment and they release-test the drivers. Not everyone is cool with a few commodity hard drives in a RAID 6 because it won't keep up with the database volumes. Yes, for 90% of the worlds buzzfeeds out there serving up dumb top10 lists or sites that survive on crosslinking other things that's fine, but there will always be specialty needs and high volume customers, and that's where these places will find their niche.

          I'm not saying that dirt cheap intel boxes aren't the way to go for most cases [and that's exactly why IBM and Oracle struggle to stay competitive], but CEOs think their business is the most important thing in the world. Jeff in IT isn't nearly as good at convincing them that he's got their back as the smooth talking guy with the Oracle polo that rolls up in the Mercedes to golf with him.

          • Unfortunately, while it's true that CEOs may think that they're getting something special from IBM, those days are long gone.

            I worked at a Fortune company in the 1990s with 2 IBM mainframes, but getting OS/2 support was a lost cause. Even when IBM managed to dig up someone competent, they'd leave IBM within months.

            I've been working on a project for 2 years that's supposed to work on an iSeries machine, but for some reason the database is really crawling for network clients. IBM finally put someone on the ca

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by armanox ( 826486 )

        They probably will, much to my (any many others) dismay. The supported Linux options will not go over well with a lot of people I'm willing to bet. I'm seeing enterprises shying away from the abomination that is RHEL 7 because of systemd.

        • Abomination is right. All the new kids and their systemd, reinventing that which was not broken (and was still portable!)

          Try doing an non-kickstart installation to see the abomination in all of its glory. Whoever does the UI at redhat should be shot out of a cannon, sufficiently that they land somewhere around the Canonical offices. I've never seen a more disjointed, confusing clusterfuck in my life, and I've used Solaris 7, Windows 8, and Suse 9

      • You've been able to run Linux on Power/ppc64 for over 10 years now.
        Even Ubuntu runs on Power now. []

      • IBM sells Power servers that are only licensed to run Linux for cheaper than the same basic hardware with AIX licenses. I currently administer Power6 and 7 servers, I've got a terabyte of physical RAM in each of the Power7 770's, although not all of it is turned on right now, with over forty logical partitions on each server, primarily running Oracle databases. The biggest barrier against more Linux on Power for my main client is that Oracle won't support Oracle on Linux on Power, otherwise this client wo
      • Why wouldn't they just support Linux on the new hardware?

        They do - well, if you put it in an LPAR ;)

    • by TellarHK ( 159748 ) <> on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @12:27PM (#47757619) Homepage Journal

      As of last night, I actually have a license from IBM to run V5R2 on an older AS/400 system I purchased through Craigslist. I prodded the giant, it woke up just a little tiny bit and managed to decide that giving a hobbyist a license for an obsolete version of the OS/400 platform wasn't going to kill anyone.

      It's my hope that I'll be able to help prove that there are more people like me, and indeed, far more talented and curious than me, to show IBM that there's some value to be had for them in opening up access to at least older platforms to enthusiastic hobbyists. The AS/400 platform is an incredibly neat system, and it shows that IBM really does have a niche that nobody else can touch. I've never used AIX, but would love to check that out as well. I hope that some time in the future, I'm not a one-off case when it comes to hobbyists getting an actual license.

      But your comment was well timed for me, because I wonder if IBM might be coming around as an institution and realizing that the mindshare gap they have is a problem that it's worth investing a little bit of time and effort in fixing.

      Gah, I really wish this article had come up after I had been awake for a while at least. Time for coffee and letting the page refresh in case I can organize my thoughts just a little tiny bit more coherently.

      • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

        Neat! I wish there were more second-hand AS400 boxes in Oz. It's a small market with limited vendors, so prices are out of my reach. Would you mind sharing the cost of the hardware and the licence? Ballpark figures are fine.

        I'd buy an entry-level machine just for the chance to play with OS400 again.

    • by armanox ( 826486 )

      Actually, GCC runs just fine on these systems.

    • by jbolden ( 176878 )

      I've seen pricing on Power8 systems they are in line with someone like Dell for rack mounted servers. No they aren't priced out of the market. And BTW the Linux on Power is where they are mentioning the advantages of their virtualization.

      • by bored ( 40072 )

        The pricing I saw a couple months ago didn't even approach what we are paying for our machines. Sure the machines in question _may_ have been ~30% faster but they cost literally 4x as much.

        For customers buying larger Intel platform machines (4 sockets or more) the power8's are possibly competitive, but compared with the mid-range dual socket machines its wasn't even close.

        Maybe IBM has adjusted the pricing since then, they keep telling me its going to be better than x86, but I have yet to see that for our u

        • by jbolden ( 176878 )

          Obviously if Intel were to substantial cut prices that changes things. But at least the Power8 prices I saw were competitive. Their entire pitch is that Power8 is moderately better especially for virtualization. They have to know that moderately better doesn't cut it if they are way out of range on price.

  • Workstations ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by psergiu ( 67614 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @12:03PM (#47757391)

    Latest Power workstation had Power 5 CPUs. The should make a new workstation.

    No workstations => No small computer labs => Weak interest for the OS/Hardware from sudents & hobyists => Future decline of sales in servers.

    Look at HP & all the other commercial Unix vendors - decline in server sales is almost directly related with workstation unavailability in the past ~5 years.

    • Re:Workstations ? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ModernGeek ( 601932 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @12:27PM (#47757617)

      Yeah, while the demand may be high right now because of large, existing customers, the ones working out of their homes, working out of small labs, and running small businesses (think of apple's roots) will eventually be the ones moving on to the larger challenges, and start working with medium-sized and then fortune-500 businesses.

      Unless IBM thinks that people that come from big money, big data, and big education (think of uber) will be the ones to contend in this area.

      This is classic IBM, and it will probably never go anywhere. If it does, it will be replaced by someone with the same vision as them, a tall wall between small and enterprise-grade businesses, people, education, and money. Who can blame them? It's very profitable.

    • by armanox ( 826486 )

      Sun's certainly on that list too! I wish there was a current SPARC workstation.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        While some might bash that last pick, the more platforms you have to work on, the more assumptions you can help expel from your code, in case future development goes in a direction you weren't expecting.

        Just like all the 16/32 bit assumptions that broke during the migration to 32/64 bit systems, having mixed-architecture current generation hardware has innumerable benefits for ensuring cross platform compatibility and minimizing faulty assumptions or bad coding practices during development.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      IBM has licensed the POWER 8 CPU under a program called OpenPOWER. It being touted as being similar to ARM licensing. The last I saw, Tyan was planning to release an single socket POWER 8 ATX motherboard.

      • by psergiu ( 67614 )

        Yes, almost surely IBM won't alow AIX to run on those boards.
        Linux can run on any old x86 cheapie - there's nothing useful to do with a Power 8 CPU running Linux:

        - Are you able to learn something that can be applied to big-iron Enterprise IBM hardare ? No.
        - Are you able to run any 3rd party commercial software on that Power8 Linux box ? No - most 3rd party Linux commercial software only provides x86 binaries. Sometimes ARM.
        - Are you able to do the exactly same Linuxy things with a cheaper x86 machine ? Yes.

    • I would love to see a Power 8 workstation. If I could afford it I would definitely be doing my development on one, but alas this is where it gets crazy. They are afraid of cannibalizing the high end server sales with affordable desktop machines. This is probably not a good plan because exposing more people to the platform will pay dividends in the future, but in the short term and due to volume concerns it makes sense.

  • Why go non-X86?

    Well, gee, let's see what kind of viruses there are for PowerPC architecture now that Mac has gone Intel.

    Uh... None?

    If you're building a server farm, who cares about the architecture?

    Now, having said that, I do agree with the comment that says there ought to be high-horsepower workstations available. Not all of us are Windoze Gamers. I work at a University and do a lot of SCF chemical simulations. That, my friends, takes guts. If I can't cram in additional CPU/GPU, it kind of leaves me ou

    • by wiggles ( 30088 )

      You're an oddball if you're doing that kind of work.

      In most modern IT departments, nobody does custom programming anymore. Solutions are purchased from software vendors, and 90% of those vendors write software for Intel platforms. The long tail uses Sun, IBM, or HP platforms, but those are getting more and more rare as the cost advantages commodity hardware outweigh the performance advantage of proprietary hardware. HP is exiting the business, Sun crashed and burned into an Oracle only platform. The onl

      • I think you underestimate just how much of your world still runs on PowerPC.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      In 2014 people still say "Windoze" unironically?

      I guess it's expected for academics to be behind the times.

  • Seeing the headline I almost skipped this one since IBM has such a tendency to build expectation and then under-deliver.

    But since x86 is gone to Lenovo, I figured this one might be interesting. They might finally put out something I might need to know about - they might leverage their non-IBM-PC-encumbered mainboard designs to make something really compelling for disposable cloud computing and hire a few guys to make sure, say CentOS 7, is easy to deploy on it. I was reminded of the talk c. 1999 when IBM

    • by trampel ( 464001 )

      I'm not sure about what they mean by "socket", but I think the smallest Power-8 system has 8 cores, going up to 24.

    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      a 4-U box with sixteen processors in it that a cloud provider could cost-justify

      As virtualization became 'cool', people said 'look how many instances you can cram on these gigantic boxes'. This quickly became 'how many instances am I going to lose if this goes down' or 'how many do I have to live migrate to service this thing?'. The cost advantages of scale with a larger box are quickly offset by practical issues. As such, if you need that much memory in a single system, those sort of boxes are still very valued (in-memory databases and some particular sorts of modeling for example)

      • by bored ( 40072 )

        If the workload naturally fits into more nodes of smaller size, it frequently makes sense to opt for the higher node count. There is of course different break points depending on judgement calls, but most places seem to think of two sockets as about the sweet spot.

        That describes the problem I work on, the throughput scales pretty nice as the machine size grows, but the costs of the larger machines grow much faster than their performance. So, it is far more cost effective to ship a few 2 socket machine wit

  • "We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose."

    This is more universally true than a lot of people are willing to let on.

    Can IBM Power 8 actually take on x86? Or has that ship already sailed?

    They don't need to take on Intel and x86. They just need to make a profit on each system sold.

    I seriously don't understand why the tech common wisdom doesn't understand this very basic concept of business logic.

    • They don't need to take on Intel and x86. They just need to make a profit on each system sold.

      You do realize that these things are not like a boutique where each unit is independent, right? They have to sell x million to break even and more millions to make decent profits out of that.

      And, even then they still have to compete with Intel & x86, to keep those sales from drying up, so they can keep the business alive for the next year and the year after...

  • Roll out a machine with 128 of these and tell prospective customers they can implement 20,000 virtual instances IN THE CLOUD.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    because the SPARC M7 looks great. It has lots of acceleration in silicon to speed up database queries and encryption.
    Oracle are claiming that companies are switched back from Intel boxes to large engineered SPARC systems.

  • Bounty hunt for IBM: try to find the word 'Linux' on the Ubuntu web pages.

  • This has huge legs if enterprise level software vendors complie everything for PPC (ahh like Oracle!?!?!). The hardware is great in that its monitored to the deepest levels. Low level checks confirm that the platform is stable for the OS.. Who has had to try to debug a low level Whitebox issue with a memory error, or even main-stream box with a spurious power supply issue? The Benefit of the SMT 2-4-8 will be interesting to head of when coupled with a low latency storage like SSD or flash arrays. Anyway
  • Now that IBM's let Lenovo bastardize their x86 platforms, that only leaves the stuff that no normal person could hope to afford - POWER.

    Perhaps they could come up with some entry point that doesn't have EOL written all over it.

  • The power systems are very impressive. I think the last time I used them was around the Power5. Still, very good hardware, excellent performance characteristics, ran Linux like a beast.

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. -- Thomas Jefferson