I have been patiently waiting for this day, as I can now talk publicly about the servers built around the pound for pound champion of the processor world. We have heard a lot about the POWER9 Chip for high end AI and machine learning workloads, the massive scale of the Summit and Sierra supercomputers, the built in plumbing for GPU’s and other accelerators, and the door IBM opens with PCIe4.
You see, everyone loves to see and hear about the new top of the line TESLA Model S P100D and its ludicrous mode. At the end of the day most of us buy vehicles that are reliable, efficient, and safe for getting us to work and our kids to soccer practice. Most midsized businesses purchase their IT infrastructure with a very similar mindset.
So, what does POWER9 deliver to its bread and butter IBM i and AIX clients in the midmarket?
Well IBM continues to refer the entry level and mid-size servers as “Scale Out” models. You can see the models that make up the scale-out family in the table below.
You will see that IBM stuck with a similar naming convention for POWER9 as they did with POWER8. If you haven’t been introduced to that naming convention, it goes like this..
[S=Scale Out] + [9=POWER9] + [Number of Sockets] + [Height in U’s]
You can see the correlation between the current POWER8 offering and the POWER9 Scale out offering in the below image. The only server we are not getting a direct replacement for is the S812 which was sometimes referred to as the IBM i mini.
While the POWER9 servers naming convention shares similarities with the POWER8 servers, make no mistakes IBM is packing a big punch with P9 performance. Rumor has it that POWER9 servers will get a 1.5x performance boost over their POWER8 counterparts. As we move towards more modern workloads on IBM i, we can do so with confidence that our servers will support it.
The following is a list of Operating System and firmware levels supported on Power9.
- Firmware level FW910
- HMC code level V9R1.910
- VIOS 2.2.4, 2.2.5, 2.2.6
- AIX 7.2 TL2
- AIX 7.2 TL0, TL1 (P8 Compatibility Mode)
- AIX 7.1 TL4, TL5 (P8 Compatibility Mode)
- AIX 6.1 TL9 (P7 Compatibility Mode)
- IBM i 7.3 TR4
- IBM i 7.2 TR8
Another key difference between POWER8 and our new POWER9 machines is the depth at which IBM has integrated POWERVM into the platform. Every POWER9 server comes with POWERVM Enterprise Edition. This is another representation of IBM’s competitive advantage as the only major server vendor who owns the whole solutions stack.
The integration of POWERVM enterprise also opens up some great migration paths for clients moving from POWER8 to POWER9. IBM i clients who are running on 7.3 TR4 or 7.2 TR8 can take advantage of live partition mobility to migrate without an outage to users.
One of the optional backplane configurations includes an internal RDX drive. RDX technology has emerged in recent years to challenge Tape’s advantage in this area; a ruggedized Disk based backup System that operates in much the same way as tape. I have come across RDX backup solutions in the AIX space but haven’t see a major adoption for IBM i shops. This could very well change that as I see many clients who fit into the 2TB or less frame.
I will go into more detail in future posts about the enhancements made to each one of these POWER9 scale out servers and will communicate the performance information for CPW and rperf as it becomes available. In the meantime please let me know if you have any questions about POWER9 or if you would like to start looking at config options for your upgrade.