Will a Dell acquisition of EMC be another HP-Compaq disaster?

There is a feeding frenzy on the M&A speculation regarding Dell buying EMC.  How much will it cost, who is impacted and how big of an impact it will be?  Although the speculation is interesting, the 800 lb gorilla in the room is “What’s going on at EMC” to warrant this.

Working  in IT sales, I work and compete with EMC and their partner organizations; primarily VCE and VMware and their recently divorced partner, Cisco.  Following EMC and VMware at their respective vendor conferences; EMC World and VMworld they have an extremely large and dedicated following.  EMC sellers are some of the most aggressive and by extension successful compared to vendors.  I personally follow many of their technologist on social media reading their blogs and tweets – I view them as a very formidable competitor and occasional partner (even though I am not EMC’s biggest fan).

Why does a company whose products and partnerships are either #1 or leading in their respective areas desperate to find a company to acquire or possibly merge with them? It was shocking to hear HP’s name mentioned over a year ago.  They are an absolute train wreck as we now see.  If I was an EMC company officer or board member, I would not want to see my company consumed by the likes of HP.  Cisco makes sense but I don’t know how deep the recent divorce and hurt feeling goes.  Lenovo doesn’t make sense, nor Hitachi.  Fujitsu….well, they have their Oracle relationship and they seem content to with who and what they are? What about Oracle….EMC as a company has its own ego, I don’t think Larry’s ego and EMC’s ego would mesh. Although, Oracle’s storage is abysmal and this would elevate them to the leaders quadrant immediately. Maybe that would give Oracle the needed reason to finally kill off SPARC given its unending failures. How about IBM? Frankly, they have a great storage portfolio, they simply do not have comparable storage sellers to EMC. EMC’s software would fall into IBM’s vast portfolio then either rise to the top or fade into oblivion. I could see this making sense for IBM but don’t know if IBM has the stomach to ingest a company with such a different culture.  From Dell’s perspective, an EMC acquisition makes sense.  I see them having their most success in the SMB and academic markets then probably state and local governments.  At least in the US with corporate America, Dell is not a respected enterprise brand.  Buying EMC would give them immediate credibility, access to many customers data centers they are not in today.  They would have to decide what to do with their Compellent and EqualLogic products. I would probably keep the EqualLogic product family as it seems to service their low end SMB space, a space that I don’t think EMC cares much about.  Sell Compellent to get cash for the investments made as well as to strengthen the books.

From EMC’s perspective, they would be acquired by a company known for inexpensive laptops and decent desktops (How’s that market doing these days?) and reselling Lexmark printers (who makes them now?).  Only in the last couple of years do I occasionally hear Compellent’s name being mentioned and it is usually to smaller shops with lots of VMware….let’s say shops that aren’t very sophisticated. Their is still a relationship with Cisco both with EMC to Cisco but also with vBlocks.  VMware has their EVO:Rail and Dell has their partnership with Nutanix.  Lastly, their is VMware.  Here’s the irony of what is going on: Some people want EMC to spin off VMware while others want EMC to keep them to strengthen and shore up the Federation.  If the stories are right, Dell would buy EMC then sell off VMware to reclaim much of its acquisition cost.

We will  soon see if there is any truth to the rumors about Dell acquiring EMC. if they are true, will this be a repeat of what happened to HP after merging with Compaq (HPQ after all)?  They failed to integrate the many technologies and companies over two decades.  Some cost a fortune and often the cultures were vastly different.  HP is different from both Dell and EMC in that they made one bad M&A decision after another.  DEC, Tandem, Compaq, Autonomy, 3PAR, 3COM and Palm (just from memory).

Maybe a Dell acquisition of EMC makes sense but it will take a couple of years to see what products survive and what doesn’t. This of course will be disconcerting to customers who have invested in their respective technologies. IBM was often the source of FUD attacks claiming the end of every one of their businesses as well.  It is my contention that is how they have made it to 100+ years.  I hope we will hear someday what was really going on at EMC to warrant their ongoing search for a suitor.  The last mega merger of a commodity company to a enterprise company didn’t turn out so well: HPQ!

Linux put your business between a Rock & a hard place?

Just read an article on “The Register” by Simon Sharwood posted October 6, 2015. The article discusses why Sarah Sharp, a Linux community contributor & developer on USB 3.0 drivers in the Linux kernel is stepping away from the Linux community altogether.  But, she may be more famously known for encouraging Linux Torvald to tone down his own abusiveness in in July 2013 ; presumably towards her and others.

In her blog, Ms Sharp discusses in  detail her frustration with the Linux community.  Their unwillingness to recognize and acknowledge there is a problem.  An unwillingness to do little to nothing about it, let alone enforcing it.  She states she their is a general culture of hostility, vile and rude comments, cursing, yelling at and over each other along with sexist and homophobic comments.  In her words the Linux community is choosing inappropriate behavior over respect for the individual “they are privileging the emotional needs of other Linux kernel developers (to release their frustrations on others, to be blunt, rude, or curse to blow off steam) over my own emotional needs”.

It is this topic I wanted to discuss.  The business environment, particularly in the western countries who have promoted business cultures promoting tolerance and individual choice.  There are almost daily stories on Fortune 1000 businesses pushing local, state and federal (ie national) governments for equal rights whether that is for single parents, minorities, gender equality, sexual orientation as well as other groups and individuals.  Companies such as Facebook, SalesForce, IBM and Eli Lilly come to mind.

Presumably these companies have a Linux strategy.  Actually, I happen to know they all use Linux in various parts of their businesses.  In IBM’s case, they sell & support Linux (workloads) on their Mainframe and Power platforms.  How will these companies who publicly promote diversity react to a community that is not accountable to anyone which is what Ms Sharp was stating unlike a traditional vendor.  By the way, I am not advocating for open source vs traditional commercial offerings.  Just drawing a distinction.

The Linux community is consists of people whose strengths lie at their fingertips not in their polished verbal skills.  I may be stereotyping a bit but having worked in the Technology industry for 20+ years does not require a rocket scientist or a call to Mr Obvious to know that software developers and engineers lean more towards being introverts (think geeks, pocket protector).  Socially awkward except maybe when they are behind a keyboard or wearing a headset.  As I look across my own team of platform engineers there is a mix of personalities.  Each has their own strengths when it comes to collaboration, sharing ideas, presenting to an unfriendly audience.

For years I’ve said managing technical people is  about “personality management” vs performance management.  They are often not motivated by money or time-off.  They continue to work on problems until resolved as if they were saving a house from an impending flood.  A reward to them is an “Atta Boy”, “Great Job”, giving them movie passes to the next Star Wars movie or ensuring they have the latest toys to develop on.  Their strengths are often social weaknesses.  But, when there are problems they are the ones every business wants at the keyboard.  Due to this fear of the unknown, businesses often tolerate their behavior.   This highlights how the open source community which is not a singular  “business” to regulate behavior.  No HR department to ask for a sit down with someone who is escalating their tone or worse, hurling insults toward another individual because they do not suffer fools.

Maybe the problem is Ms Sharp herself.  I do not know her or her situation.  However, it does expose a weakness in the open source world where there is little accountability or enforcement….except when customers stop using a product claiming not only do we wish to operate our businesses with tolerant communities but also expect those with which we conduct business to do the same.

Power investments continue to pay off!

This article is to highlight the announcements IBM is making in their Fourth Quarter 2015 related to the Power platform.  This is one of the largest announcements in years that I can recall touching Linux, IBM i, AIX, virtualization, management, ISV’s and the platform itself.  Since I am not an IBMer with access to schedules there may be a few things that differ.

First,  you will want to register.  This is a virtual event which is convenient as you can not only register at anytime but also watch it at anytime online.  Register at https://engage.vevent.com/index.jsp?eid=556&seid=80414&code=Social_Tiles.

As a Business Partner I am glad to see that IBM is delivering on what they told us over the past several years.  They are taking their $B investment delivering useful and leading technologies  with Linux on Power as is needed but also with AIX and IBM i.  These latter two Power pillars are far more mature and do not require the technology enhancements nor the ISV adoption like Linux on Power (LoP) requires.  Stands to reason there will be more activity around the LoP space, not because that is the future and the others will diminish but  for what I mentioned, it is less mature relative to the enterprise AIX & IBM i markets.

This is the extensive list of features being announced this quarter.  I will add a reference section after the announcement(s) to allow you to get more information on each of the features.


  • AIX 7.2 – some really good features!
    • “Live Update” or apply AIX updates concurrently without requiring a reboot
    • RDSv3 over RoCE optimizes Oracle RAC performance using Oracle RDSv3 protocol with Mellanox Connect RoCE adapters (up to 40 Gb)
    • Workload optimization with Flash
    • Dynamic System Optimizer
    • BigFix Lifecycle for automated and simplified patching
  • New AIX Enterprise Edition packaging
  • AIX 6.1 Withdrawal from Marketing April 2016


  • New IBM i v7.1 TR11
  • New IBM i v7.2 TR3
  • S822 expanded capabilities – supports IBM i
    • Requires VIOS for I/O

Virtualization – PowerVM

  • New VIOS release – v2.2.4 based on AIX 7
  • NovaLink architecture provides scalability features for OpenStack deployments
  • New SRIOV capabilities
  • Introducing vNIC Adapter – increases performance with SRIOV
  • Shared Storage Pool enhancements


  • New HMC model – CR9
  • New HMC version – 8.8.4
  • New virtual HMC offering – Run 8.8.4 in a VMware or RHEV VM (x86)

Power platform

  • New Power8 firmware release – 840 or 8.4 level
  • New PCIe adapters
  • PurePower enhancements
    •  IBM i support
    • vHMC support
    • PurePower Integrated Manager improvements
    • Order  both S822 & S822L with initial order


  • New PowerVC 1.3 version – more management & OpenStack integration features
    • Advanced policy-based management
    • Supports MSPP
    • Expanded vSCSI & NPIV support for certain storage models
  • Manage Power servers using PowerVC with OpenStack with VMware’s vRealize


  • PowerSC NERC Profile compliments existing PCI, DOD STIG, HIPPA, SOX-COBIT

High Availability

  • New PowerHA 7.2 version
    • Integrates Power Enterprise Pools as part of a PowerHA failover operation
    • Improved integration with LPM
  • Non-disruptive upgrade
  • Integrates with new AIX Live Update feature
  • New wizard to use GLVM for low cost mirroring option
  • Enhanced EMC SRDF support
  • Supported on AIX 6.1 TL9 and later
  • Supports Power6 and new servers


  • New Power Linux server models  – true price parity with Intel servers. Built on OpenPOWER
    • S822LC – up to 20 cores, 1 TB, 2 SFF HDD & 5 PCIe slot 2U server
    • S812LC – up to 10 cores, 1 TB, 14 LFF HDD & 4 PCIe slot 2U server
  • PowerKVM features
    • Dynamically add/remove cpu & memory resources from VM’s
    • Live Migration
  • IFL enhancements – IFL’s run IBM software in a Linux VM on 4 socket & larger Power servers with a 70 PVU vs 100 or 120


  • New CAPI offerings
  • New SSD offerings – Gen 4 drives, higher performance & capacities
  • 36 port EDR 100 Gb/s Infiniband Switch delivering latency as low as 130 ns

ISV & Software

  • New Linux ISV partnerships – More & more ISV’s are coming to IBM asking to be a part of the Power market revolution taking place
  • SAP HANA announcements
  • New BigInsights 4.1 features with Hadoop & Spark
  • PureApp now available with Power8 servers (announced July 2015)


  • SoftLayer announcements – Linux on Power bare metal offerings
  • Power Enterprise Pool enhancements

The above list is fairly complete although lacking a lot of detail which is available online in the announcement letters or better yet contact your IBM Power Sales Specialist or Business Partner.  If your Business Partner is not proactively offering to keep you updated on these types of announcements you may want to reevaluate what value your Value Added Re-seller is providing and look for another.  Don’t settle for an order taker but a technology enabler.

IBM continues to deliver innovation, value, solutions and options to the “Good Enough” alternative with Intel where it has become obvious over their last 2 chip releases they are taking  customers for granted.  Hear how the performance of the Power8 processor gives  the equivalent of a 35 PVU vs Intel’s 70 PVU (this is a PowerMan example and not IBM itself). With IBM Software this is an immediate 50% reduction in licensing and maintenance costs.  Factor in the hypervisor efficiency and that should increase significantly.

Who doesn’t want more performance, more reliability for the same price as the competition? You can have it  your way with IBM Power8 & OpenPOWER.


Will there be a Cloud Bubble?

“The Network is the Computer” was the tagline used by Sun Microsystems for years. It captures the essence of what we take for granted today using our smart phones, wireless laptops and general World Wide Web usage.

Today, many customers are actively looking at hosted computing that has become ubiquitous with the word “cloud”. This “cloud” is a virtual pool of computing resources; servers, storage, network and applications. Many of these services have been around for 15 years such as Googles Gmail, Hotmail owned by Microsoft now moved to Outlook.com. Consumers would open a browser, login to send, receive and store emails. This was followed by retailers such as Amazon and ebay then social media such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Corporate customers cut their teeth with SalesForce.com as one of the early innovators of cloud services.

Now we have not just a plethora of web services from Dropbox, YouTube, Twitter to every major retailer having a web presence and countless more. Corporations though are looking at cloud providers: both major players, custom players and boutique players. The major players consist of offerings like Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, Oracle Cloud, IBM’s SoftLayer and VMware’s vCloud Air. Some of the custom cloud providers may have a mix of “CoLo” or Co-Location where customers place their own compute resources into someone else’s datacenter. They may retain their own administrative resources or use a managed service offering from that CoLo facility. Examples that come to mind are ATT, OVH, SuperNap, ScaleMatrix and TeraGo. Boutique clouds tend to be high touch, white glove and often specialize in specific services. Examples of Boutique cloud providers are SIS (www.thinksis.com) who I currently work for, Black Mesh and Global IT.

Regardless of what online services you use as a consumer or which corporate cloud provider they use, what are the threats to using these services? Clearly, one of the most insidious and ever increasing threats has been cyber terrorism. These threats, attacks, damage and thefts are ongoing. Some of the cyber terrorists are individuals and criminal syndicates; often from the former USSR countries and the Eastern Bloc countries. Other cyber terrorism is state sponsored meaning it is backed by the government of a country such as China, North Korea, Russia, Iran and others. Lastly, there are corporate terrorists. These are sometimes linked with state sponsored terrorists where the corporation is used as a front for their malicious activity.

Other threats to cloud users is the provider itself. They suffer outages due to infrastructure failures, failures outside of their control such as a construction crew putting in a new water line accidentally digs up a data line carrying network traffic out of the cloud providers. Most of the issues described by the latter issue are addressed as the better providers have redundant everything from Power, networking, cooling, facilities, etc.

The general concept for a cloud provider to make money is to deploy as inexpensive of infrastructure as they can, deploy as many customer workloads onto as few servers as possible driving up the system utilization just to the point of pain then dial it back 1 notch. This businesses model is at risk if they are not diversified or have other revenue streams as they only make money between the cost of goods provided and cost of goods sold. They are constantly trying to identify ways to reduce the cost of servers, disk drives, storage, adapters, network components as well as using lower cost resources to manage the operations desk or provide administration. Depending on the business, employee cost is at the top of expense cost. Finding resources with most of the needed skills for 25% less cost is probably good enough. The sum of these cost saving efforts can lead to a weakened environment due to increased operator error. Compatibility with software due to the use of white-box servers is less predictable leading to problems often not seen until specific features are needed. Reliability may be lessened with white box servers because they build the servers themselves such as Google does or obtain from a no-name provider who delivers a basic server consisting of cpu, memory and I/O with no bells and whistles that translates into lacking reliability & serviceability features. This may all be managed by resources that are junior, lacking professional certifications, experience and skills handling not just the day to day processes but also when there is a critical event. Do they do the proper triage, problem analysis and determination implementing a logical plan to resolution?

Of course, every provider is different and cloud providers are not the only ones at risk as many customers have computing operations far worse than most clouds. This may be why they are looking to cloud providers to improve their situation. In many, if not most cases, placing workloads often described as “Systems of Engagement” into the cloud makes sense while retaining “Systems of Record” at the customers premise. Cloud providers are especially vulnerable to cyber attacks because of the many holes coming into their facilities to support the customer diversity. Once inside the network an attacker will wait patiently to learn information about the environment to plan their next attack. With regard to the infrastructure, some shops invest in both architects and engineers to build, deploy and maintain their infrastructure. With discipline and skill they overcome the challenges that lesser providers struggle with; maintaining cash flow while keeping the lights on and payroll met.

We just have to look at the recent outages at AWS http://fortune.com/2015/09/20/amazon-cloud-snafu/ over the past week (Sept 26, 2015) to see how it can impact a business. we all have probably felt the impact of this whether it is our bank using internet banking, logging into a school computer down for maintenance or using a major internet service like NetFlix. How many customers like this will endure frequent outages before they decide to move back to an on-premise solution or at least a hybrid solution? With regard to cyber attacks, the list of companies attacked in 2015 would double the size of this blog to write them all out. How many of those will occur before businesses decide they cannot afford to not be in control of their network backbone, interview and hire their own people so they know the capabilities of the resources responsible for solution remaining safe and available.

I am not predicting a bubble but have to wonder why we wouldn’t expect one due to the security and availability threats.

Tell me what you think in the comments section.

Thank you

Shiny objects & Distractions

Yet another blog on the non-stop marketing tactics by Oracle where they attempt to deflect attention on their many product weaknesses and try to create differentiation where there is none.

This latest attempt by Oracle has them promoting the performance of Oracle 12c over SAP HANA for the SAP Business Warehouse Enhanced Mixed Workload benchmark also known as BW-EML.  Oracle promotes this claim at https://www.oracle.com/corporate/features/oracle-powers-sap.html with a whitepaper posted at http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/database/in-memory/overview/benefits-of-dbim-for-sap-apps-2672504.html available for download as a pdf.

Oracle is known for making wild claims only supported by marketing claims and “Oracle internal tests”.  This is important to understand as these claims may entice customers to consider products that have not undergone any critical analysis.  One example is Oracle’s Exadata product. The Exadata name has become synonymous with Oracle’s family of integrated appliances that include discrete solutions: database, application  and data warehouse. The Exadata database solution  has zero published benchmarks yet the web is riddled with claims by Oracle on its superior performance over competitive offerings. Oracle is now claiming they have submitted their Oracle 12c in-memory database results to SAP for review and publishing for the BW-EML benchmark which SAP has yet to do.

It appears since SAP has chosen to not publish Oracle’s 12c result that Oracle is taking matters into its own hand to publish their BM-EML result since SAP is not. I have no knowledge if SAP is choosing to sit on the results but I do know this; the reason you see very few industry benchmarks on non-Oracle systems using Oracle database (enterprise edition) is for the same reason Oracle is accusing SAP of doing.  As part of Oracle’s end user license agreement they require any user who publishes performance results to submit the results to Oracle for review and approval.  If Oracle does not approve the result that user / vendor cannot publish it.  A good example where Oracle has limited their competition from publishing benchmark results using Oracle database is with the SAP Tier-2 Sales & Distribution benchmark.  Benchmark results are available at http://global.sap.com/solutions/benchmark/sd2tier.epx.  I checked yesterday (Sept 19th) and could not find any current results using Oracle Enterprise Edition database on any non-Oracle or non-SPARC servers (ie Fujitsu has results on their SPARC servers) since a HP result from around 2008.

Oracle is trying to convince SAP customers their 12c database product is relevant for in-memory Business Warehouse workloads. They further tout superior performance with a 2 socket X5-2 server using Intel’s Haswell E5_v3 chipset totaling 36 cores.  Oracle typically achieves higher results by throwing significantly more cores and memory than required by competitors and definitely not by innovation; whether that competition is IBM POWER or Intel.  One of Oracle’s “Go to” tactics is to mask and manipulate the details  stating things like “Our (Oracle) 8 processor beats IBM’s 8 processor by 2X”.  We saw that when they compared their SPARC T5-8 to a Power7+ 780 server. Of course, the devil is in the details and those details are this.  Oracle historically refers to their chips as sockets and  processors (ie the full chip that plugs into the motherboard socket) and this is whats used in published results.  They use these names interchangeably.  IBM tends to use socket when referring to a model of server such as “The S824 is a 2 socket server” or “The E850 is a 4 socket server”.   In almost all cases they refer to performance results using cores or processors which are used interchangeably. IBM tends to use chip or socket synonymously and cores or processors as the component that makes up that socket/chip.  Using Oracle terminology, the T5-8 system is configured with 8 processors of 16 cores each totaling totaling 128 cores.   This specific  IBM Power7+ 780 server only has 32 cores though yet Oracle chose to compare their 128 core server to it.  Why are you asking? This model of Power7+ server uses a 4 core per socket configuration.  Each server chassis of which it can scale from 1 to 4 chassis scales from 4 to 16 sockets or 16 to 64 cores.  This is how Oracle marketing claims 8 socket vs 8 socket which they publish their results.  As you can see though, they do not divulge to the reader that it is really 128 SPARC cores vs 32 Power7+ cores.  They leave it to the reader and consumer to figure this out taking no responsibility that they are intentionally trying to deceive and distort the facts.

With this Oracle 12c result for the SAP BW-EML benchmark you will note several areas of omission and possible deception. They do not publish any pricing data for using the in-memory feature. Using list price will easily run close to $200K per core and of course depends on whether a few features are chosen or not.  Oracle claims their 1 server with 36 cores beats all others by 2X.  They state in the whitepaper this one server is actually one of 8 database servers in the Exadata X5-2 appliance and not a single 2 socket 36 core standalone server. This is very important to understand as it drives up the software by a factor of 8.  There are a few ways to reduce their Oracle licensing but this is not disclosed and I would argue not likely used.  Since the server used is part of a 8 node Exadata, it would require software be licensed for 8 servers times 36 cores times the Intel licensing factor of 0.5.  This equals 144 Oracle licenses which is multiplied by the licensing cost (let’s just use $200K list price for easy math – it is what it is and is not entirely fixed) $200K which comes to a grand total of $28,800,000. Yes, that is $28.8M USD. Of course, Oracle charges an annual maintenance fee that is 22% times the license price. For this example the customer would pay $6,336,000 per year and every year.

Next, Oracle claims to have used just 1 x 36 core X5-2 server for this workload yet it also has the storage that comes with the 8 server solution. They could have just as easily used their standalone X5-2 server in their attempt to achieve these results. Furthermore, why did they not use the 2 node Oracle Database Appliance (ODA)?  It seems obvious they need the full Exadata infrastructure which heavily relies on SSD based PCIe adapters to achieve the desired performance.  The SSD heavy architecture has become the default configuration on Exadata from previous solutions which relied on high capacity but slower 10K rpm HDD as it delivers higher performance and higher margins.  Don’t forget Oracle shifts some of the database processing and subsequent cost from the DB servers to the storage servers then charge $20k per disk…yes, I said per “disk”.  Suckers line up to the left and those who have done their homework are already running Oracle workloads on IBM’s Power servers.

SAP has been clear in their roadmap.  They are moving toward an architecture developed around HANA.  I can’t blame Oracle entirely for touting their product as a viable database alternative.  IBM’s DB2 with BLU technology is a superior product to Oracle Database Enterprise Edition that runs even faster on Power8 (over SPARC & Intel) and is even less expensive.  Yet, IBM has posted an SAP HANA result running Linux on POWER8 servers for the BW-EML benchmark.  If customers wants to see how DB2 on Power8 performs, they are welcome to view the SAP Tier-2 S&D Benchmark mentioned above for results that are 2X+ greater than Intel and anywhere from 3-4X greater than SPARC per core. Customers are absolutely free to choose Oracle or DB2 for their BW workloads but if they plan to stay with SAP for the long term they are probably investigating, evaluating if not implementing HANA technologies already.

The way Oracle could impress SAP shops would be to publish a HANA result on their infrastructure solutions.  They could always use that opportunity to co-sell the benefits of their own software solutions as better alternatives but as usual, they bust-out on stage holding up their shiny object making  wild claims in their non-stop attempt to distract customers.

I’ll close with this. As part of their performance claims they state they achieve 2X more navigation steps using a single 36 core Oracle X5-2 servers (remember it is really 1 of 8 DB servers + all the storage servers). Glad to see Oracle trying to compare per core performance.  I’ll be on the look out for other examples of their newly found realization that performance and cost is largely dependent on per core performance and not just the sum of excessive cores like the T5-8 or M6-32.  Expect the SPARC M7  with 32 sockets of 32 cores per chip to be released in 2016.  It’s really 8 clusters of 4 core chiplets or essentially two of the old Sun ROCK chips IMO.  The latency due to traffic across the interconnects for coherency and data will be unbelievable (horrible). Would not be surprised that for the few benchmarks they do publish that they M7 models with fewer chip to minimize the cross chip penalty.  Then again, they may go with the 1024 core model hoping it can best a 192 core Power8 E880 servers.  I’m guessing it will be close.

Are you keeping score?

Are you keeping up with all of the changes taking place with IBM’s Power portfolio over the last 2 years?  How could you as there have been so many changes to just about every area on the platform.  Just in case, let’s review some of the features and changes.  Now, since I don’t work at IBM, don’t have a magic 8 ball or a direct line to Doug Balog, IBM’s Power General Manager there is a chance I will get something wrong and I’m sure I’ll leave a few things out.  What I will do though, is not talk about any upcoming products – which between you and me – They will be freakin awesome!

  • Power8 processors support both Big Endian and Little Endian
  • Little Endian offerings are with Linux: RedHat 7.1, SUSE 12 & Ubuntu 14 & 15
  • Big Endian offerings are AIX, IBM i as well as Linux (SUSE 11 & RedHat 6.5 & 7.1)
  • PowerVM supports both BE and LE Operating Systems (concurrently)
  • IBM introduced an alternative hypervisor to PowerVM; an open source alternative based on KVM
  • PowerKVM on Scale-Out models support both BE and LE Linux
  • Still supports the use of VIOS for PowerVM environments with HMC enhancements
  • Uses Kimchi to manage PowerKVM environments
  • SR-IOV adapters (finally) available
  • Nice set of quad port Ethernet (2×10+2x1Gb) adapters available for AIX & Linux workloads
  • 40 Gb RoCE adapters
  • PowerVC based on OpenStack replaces Systems Director (portions of it)
  • PowerVC integrates with VMware’s vRealize allowing it to manage & provision Power Systems
  • Gen 2 of a Converged solution called PurePower using S822(L) servers + V7000 + Mellanox switches
  • 2X performance increase over Power7. Greatest increase that I recall from 1 gen to the next
  • 3X greater memory bandwidth for Scale-Out over Power7/7+ Entry servers
  • Just under 2X greater memory bandwidth for Power8 Enterprise vs Power7/7+ Enterprise servers
  • 3X greater I/O bandwidth for all Power8 servers over all Power7/7+ servers
  • 2X more L2 cache
  • Addition of L4 cache
  • SMT8 that is dynamic per VM unlike Intel with their static 2 way Hyperthreading
  • Up to 1 TB Ram per socket
  • Centaur buffer supports DDR3 & DDR4 memory
  • Scale-Out servers (S & L models) use Enterprise Memory just like the Enterprise servers
  • Significantly more Fault Isolation Registers & Checkers
  • Significant reliability enhancements to processor, cache, memory & I/O subsystems
  • Gen3 I/O Drawers with more PCIe slots per drawer
  • Gen3 PCIe slots (x8 & x16) in all servers
  • Available split backplane in ALL Scale-out servers – YEAH!
  • Significant increase in the number of internal Scale-Out server disk slots: 8 – 18 slots
  • 6 or 8 x 1.8″ disk slots (model dependent) using IBM’s Award Winning (Is it?) Easy Tier
  • Hot swap PCIe slots in ALL models
  • Scale-Out internal disk RAID cache increased from 175 MB in Power7 to 7 GB
  • PowerVM, PowerKVM and RHEV hypervisor options
  • Bare-Metal server option (certain models)
  • Enhanced Voltage Regulator Modules (VRM)
  • Enhanced EnergyScale
  • Some models lowered their software tier from Large to Medium and Medium to Small
  • Some servers received improved warranties
  • Power Enterprise Pools with Mobile Cores & Mobile Memory
  • Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL’s) on E850, E870 & E880
  • L model servers that use PowerVM is called PowerVM Linux Edition equivalent to Enterprise Edition
  • Supported with SAP HANA
  • All non-L models supported with EPIC
  • All Enterprise servers supported with EPIC
  • Delivering roughly 2X performance increase over Intel Haswell EP/EX processors
  • Power8 has 3X greater memory bandwidth than Intel Haswell EP memory in Lock-Step mode
  • Power8 has 2.5(ish) greater memory bandwidth than Intel Haswell EX memory in Lock-Step mode
  • Power8 has 2X greater L1 cache
  • Power8 has 2X greater L2 cache
  • Power8 has 2.5X greater L3 cache
  • Intel has no L4 cache
  • Intel has significantly fewer Checkers
  • Intel does not use anything similar to Fault Isolation Registers
  • Intel 1 & 2 socket servers do not support Machine Check Architecture (MCA)
  • Only Intel 4 socket & greater servers support Machine Check Architecture (MCA)
  • Intel rates their memory capabilities in performance mode which has limited RAS capability
  • For Intel to increase memory resiliency, must use lock-step mode which decreases performance
  • For Intel to increase memory resiliency, can use memory mirroring reducing memory capacity by 1/2
  • All Power8 servers have at least 1 Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface (CAPI)
  • Several CAPI solutions are available today with more coming (very soon – that’s the only hint)
  • Using IBM’s Advanced ToolChain delivers an enhanced SDK & GCC delivering increased results
  • IBM optimized software stack for Power8 delivering greater results per core
  • Optimized ISV stack for Power8 delivering greater results per core
  • ISV’s like MariaDB, WebFocus Express, Redis Labs, ColdFusion, EnterpriseDB, Magento
  • ISV’s like McObject, Veristorm, HelpSystems, SugarCRM, Zato, OpenPro and many more
  • Guaranteed utilization levels from 65 – 80% depending on the model
  • Backbone of Watson
  • Supports Apache Hadoop & Apache Spark
  • Supports BigInsights
  • Supports internal disks for Big Data
  • Supports superior BD storage option using Elastic Storage Server: S822L & GPFS Native Raid
  • Run DB2 10.5 with BLU Acceleration 2X faster than Intel
  • WebSphere & Cognos faster
  • SPSS faster and many more
  • 150+ members in OpenPower Foundation
  • Blue badged Power based solutions
  • Non-blue-badged Power based solutions available
  • PowerVP is awesome
  • Virtual HMC is coming (was a IBM SOD)

I tried to create an exhaustive list to make the point that IBM is investing, engineering and building game changing technology to help customers solve real solutions. However, unlike Oracle and Intel, who in their own ways  are both becoming very rigid and proprietary.  IBM is going in the opposite direction by actually opening up their own technology as well as embracing the open source community.  The list of ISV’s, the use of OpenStack, the use of a open source hypervisor and the most recent announcement whereby VMware’s vRealize will be able to provision & manage Power Systems is a testimony to the change taking place within IBM and with customers.  Expect more of the above and more beyond this. Expect it to blow your mind.

I may come back over time and enhance this list if I get froggy.  Of course, if you are a customer you could always invite me to speak with you and I would be happy to discuss any and all of this.

What would you like to see in addition to the extensive list above?

IBM Power Systems & VMware; Why Not!

On August 31, 2015 at VMware’s VMworld conference in San Francisco both IBM and VMware made an announcement that many would never have anticipated.  In support of private and hybrid clouds, VMware’s vRealize Automation is now able to provision and manage virtual machines (LPAR’s in traditional parlance) on IBM’s Power Systems.

Details are sparse as I write this, as well as what I have found from IBM and other online sources.  Here is a IBM blog with most of the details.  I won’t repeat what it says as it is not the focus of this article.

The focus of this blog is on why wouldn’t VMware want to do this and why shouldn’t the traditional VMware shop embrace this first step?  First, it is further evidence by both companies as they weave their unique products with open source OpenStack to deliver greater features with expanded capabilities to customers.  I am not very versed in vRealize so I’ll take the position of speaking about it in generalities. However, I am very well versed in IBM’s PowerVC which is based on the OpenStack framework.  This site management tool for Power Systems provides for image management (fancy talk for OS backup & provisioning), placement policies (aka affinity), full stack configuration of VM’s (ability to configure networking & storage), VM replication, Remote Restart (excellent VM recovery feature) and much, much more.

Because it is based on OpenStack, not only can it be enhanced to suit a customers environment via industry standard API, it can also be integrated into a customers management solution.  Enter VMware’s vRealize Automation product.  This is where the vRealize people say “yep, I know how that works” and where the people unfamiliar with vRealize “google it”.

This creates an expanded market for VMware for platform management.  We can speculate if this is all that IBM & VMware have up their sleeves OR if this is just the first of many future announcements – I don’t know but I’m erring on the side of this being the first of many future announcements.  It also gives them a bump in terms of promoting their cloud solution to customers by claiming it can support not just x86 technology but also  Big Iron like Power and System Z (yes, they announced support for it today as well but you will have to read a Z blog for more details on that).

For customers, this delivers a significant endorsement on the viability of IBM Power Systems. The x86 vendors have for years labeled RISC systems as legacy and dying. Although true for HP and SPARC Unix platforms (If I used RISC because of HP’s Itanium I would surely get criticized so I jumped to UNIX to avoid it) it has not been true for IBM.  That change happened during the Power6 to Power7 model change.  Power6 was the last of the Big Iron systems with the Big Iron mentality.  Power7 began to shift towards the new battlefront consisting of x86 based technologies.  With Power8 the shift by IBM to not only be competitive but a leader in many categories was firmly in place. Platform openness with hypervisor choice (PowerVM, PowerKVM, RHEV & Bare Metal) and OS flexibility using traditional Big Endian AIX, IBM i and Linux (RedHat v6.5 & v7.1 and SUSE 11) as well as Little Endian Linux (RedHat v7.1, SUSE 12 and Ubuntu 14). Systems management using PowerVC based on OpenStack abandoning its own and long in tooth Systems Director product.  Even using Nagio’s in IBM’s newest secure, converged and integrated PurePower ready to deploy cloud solution.  Additional features such as reliability, security, virtualization efficiency, serviceability, significant performance increases and cost competitiveness.  Add in their technology sharing with the 150+ member strong OpenPower Foundation delivering a open platform for the community to develop on and develop to solutions that Intel specifically has continued to close out.

Now with POWER8 delivering roughly 2X the performance per core running the same Linux byte ordering as what is available on x86 systems customers have a choice. Is ‘Good Enough’ good enough when I can get better for the same price with all of the features mentioned above with greater performance that can now be managed by my preferred management platform from VMware.  This doesn’t mean to imply that x86 is going away anytime soon or that Power will overtake the data center overnight.  It does mean to imply though that customers now have choices and it doesn’t have to be just one x86 vendor against another but also with a superior architecture.

Yes, this was very smart by VMware as they win no matter what the customer decides to do.  It was also very smart for IBM as it should mean increased adoption of their Power platform into shops that would otherwise avoid it for lack of integration into the VMware stack.  Both companies will then get the chance to introduce customers to other products in their portfolio which means they are already in the door….that is half the battle!