C is for Performance!

E850C is a compact power-packed “sweet spot” server!

“C” makes the E850 a BIG deal!

IBM delivered a modest upgrade to the entry level POWER8 Enterprise server going from the E850 to the E850C.  The new features are seen with the processors, memory, Capacity on Demand and with bundled software.

The most exciting features available with the new E850C, which by the way comes with a new MTM of 8408-44E, are with the processors.  You might think I’d say that but here is why the E850C is the new “sweet spot” server for AIX & Linux workloads that require a mix of performance, scalability and reliability features.

A few things that are the same on the E850C as it was the E850.

  • Classified as a “small” tier server
  • Available with a 3 year 24 x 7 warranty
  • PVU for IBM software is 100 when using AIX
  • PVU for IBM software is 70 when using Linux
  • Supports IFL’s or Integrated Facility for Linux
  • Offers CuOD, Trial, Utility and Elastic CoD
  • Does NOT offer mobile cores or mobile memory (boo hiss)
  • Does NOT support Enterprise Pools (boo hiss)

The original 8408-E8E aka E850 was available with 32 cores at 3.72, 40 cores at 3.35 and 48 cores at 3.02 GHz, initially support 2 TB of DDR3 memory and eventually up to 4 TB of DDR3 of memory.  Using up to 4 x 1400W power supplies, due to its dense packaging what it did not offer was the option to exploit EnergyScale allowing users to decrease or increase the processor clock speeds.  The clock speeds were capped at their nominal speeds of 3.72, 3.35 and 3.02 GHz not allowing users to select if one of several options from do nothing to lower or increase based on utilization or lower to a set point and more importantly, increase to the higher rate.  This is free performance – rPerf in the case of AIX.

Focusing on the processor increase, because who the hell wants to run their computers slower, the E850C has a modest increase ranging from 2.5% to 4.6%.  I say modest because the other POWER8 models range from 4% up to 11% <play Tim Allen “grunt” from Home Improvement>.  This modest increase doesn’t matter because the new C model delivers 32 cores at 4.22 nominal increasing to 4.32 GHz, 40 cores at 3.95 nominal increasing to 4.12 GHz and 48 cores at 3.65 nominal increasing to 3.82 GHz.  These speeds are at the high end for every Scale-out server and consistent with on part with the E870C/E880C models.

Putting these performance increases into perspective; comparing nominal rPerf values for the E850 vs E850C show this: 32 core E850C with an increase of 59 rPerf. 40 core E850C with an increase of 88 rPerf and the 48 core E850C delivering a rPerf increase of 113.  By doing nothing but increasing the clock speed, the 48 core E850C is delivering an rPerf increase equivalent to a POWER6 570 with 16 cores.

It hasn’t been mentioned yet but the E850 & E850C uses a 4U chassis. Looking at the 48 core E850C just mentioned, it delivers an rPerf level of 859. Compare this to the 16U POWER7+ 770 (9117-MMD) with 64 cores that delivers only 729 rPerf or going back to the initial 770 model 9117-MMB with 48 cores in a 16U footprint delivering 464 rPerf. Using the MMD values, this is a 4:1 footprint reduction, an 18% increase in rPerf with a 25% reduction in cores – why does that matter? Greater core strength means fewer OS & virtualization licenses & SWMA but more importantly – less enterprise software licensing such as Oracle Enterprise DB.

IBM achieved this a couple of ways. Not being an IBMer, I do not have all of the techniques but by increasing the chip efficiency, increasing the power supplies to 2000W each and moving to DDR4 memory which uses less power.

What else?

Besides the improvement in clock speeds and bumping memory to DDR4, the E850C reduces the number of minimum active cores. Every E850C must have a minimum of 2 processor books; 2×8, 2×10 or 2×12 core  while only requiring 8, 10 or 12 cores being active depending on the model of processor book used.  The E850 required all cores in the first 2 processor books to be active. This change in the E850C is another benefit to clients to get into the “sweet spot” server with a lower entry price.  Same memory activations of 50% of the installed memory or 128 GB whichever is more.

A couple of nice upgrades from the E850 that are now standard. Active Memory Mirroring and PowerVM Enterprise Edition are now standard while still offering a 3 year 24 x 7 warranty (except Japan).

The E850C does not support IBM i, but it does support AIX 6.1, 7.1 and 7.2 (research specific versions at System Software Maps) and the usual Linux distro’s.

Software bundle enhancements over the E850 are:

  • Starter pack for SoftLayer
  • IBM Cloud HMC apps
  • IBM Power to Cloud Rewards
  • PowerVM Enterprise Edition

Even though it isn’t bundled in, consider using IBM Cloud PowerVC Manager, which is included with the AIX Enterprise Edition bundle or à la carte with AIX Standard Edition or any Linux distro.

In summary

The E850C is a power-packed compact package. With up to 48 cores and 4 TB Ram in a 4U footprint, it is denser than 2 x 2U S822’s with 20 cores / 1 TB RAM or the 1 x 4U S824 with 24 cores / 2 TB RAM.  Yes the E870C with 40 cores or the E880C with 48 cores, both with 8 TB of RAM in a single node still require 7U to start with.  If clients require the greatest scalability, performance, flexibility and reliability they should look at the E870C or E880C but for a lower entry price that delivers high performance in a compact solution the E850C delivers the complete package.


Not on the Dell/EMC Bandwagon. More of the same. OpenPOWER changes the game!

Reading articles about the two companies consummation on 9/7/16 around social media yesterday, one would think the marriage included a new product or solution which was revolutionizing the industry.  I haven’t heard of any but  I do know that both companies have continued to shed employee’s and sell off assets not core to the go-forward business to capture critical capital to fund the massive $63B deal.  They will also continue to evaluate products from both Dell & EMC’s traditional product portfolios to phase out, merge, sell or kill due to redundancies and other reasons.  It just happens. For them to say otherwise is misleading at best.  Frankly, it hurts their credibility when they deny this as there are examples already of this occurring.

Going forward I do not see how the combined products of Dell, which at its core sell commodity Intel servers that are not even best of breed, but rather the low-cost leader paired with the high-end products from EMC, which had high development cost will be any different on 9/8/16 than it was on 9/6/16.  EMC’s problem of customers moving away from the high margin high-end storage systems to the highly competitive, lower margin All Flash Array products will not be any better for the newly combined company.  This AFA space has many good competitors who offer “Good Enough” features that can offer clients 1) Lower cost 2) Comparable or better features 3) Not a tier-1 player who some customers resist due to feeling they overpay for the privilege to work with them.

About 2 years ago, EMC absorbed VCE with its Converged infrastructure called vBlock, a term I argue it is not but instead is a Integrated Infrastructure built on VMware, Cisco UCS and EMC Storage.  VMware & EMC storage offer nothing unique. UCS is unique in the Intel space but with the messy split from the VCE tri-union and now VCE who is placing a lot of emphasis on their own hyper-converged offerings as well as products from Dell due to this new found marriage.  It only makes sense to de-emphasize Cisco from a VCE solution and start promoting Dell products.  This goes from using the leader in Intel blade solutions to the “me-too” Dell products which is average in a field of “Good Enough” technology whose most notable feature is its low cost.

As I listen to the IBM announcement today that include 3 new OpenPOWER servers I can’t help but wonder how much longer Dell’s low cost advantage will remain.  Not sure what they will use for SAP HANA workloads requiring > 4 socket Intel servers since HPE just bought SGI, primarily for its 32 socket Intel server/technology.  I guess they could partner with Lenovo on their x3950 or with Cisco on their C880 which I believe they actually OEM from Hitachi. Dell servers are woefully inadequate with regard to RAS features; not just against POWER servers but even against other Intel competitors like Lenovo (thanks to their IBM purchase of xSeries), Hitachi and Fujitsu who all have stronger offerings relative to what Dell offers.   RAS features simply cost more which is why you didn’t see IBM with its xSeries, Hitachi or Fujitsu be volume leaders. This is also why you are seeing more software defined solutions built to mask hardware deficiencies. This in itself has its own problems.

Here is a quick review of today’s announcements. The first server is a 2 socket 2U server built for Big Data hosting 12 internal front facing drive slots.  The next server is a 2 socket 1U server offering almost 7K threads in a 42U rack.  It provides tremendous performance for clients looking for data-rich and dense computing.  The 3rd server is a 2 socket 2U server that is the first commercial system to offer NVIDIA‘s NVLink technology connecting 2 or 4 GPU’s directly to each other as well as to the CPU’s.  Every connection is 160 GB/s bi-directional which is roughly 5X what is available on Intel servers using GPU’s connected to PCIe3 adapter slots.


These OpenPOWER systems allow clients to build their own solution or as part of a integrated product with storage and management stack built on OpenStack.  Ideal for Big Data, Analytics, HPC, Cloud, DevOps and open source workloads like SugarCRM, NoSQL, MariaDB, PostgreSQL (I like EnterpriseDB for support) or even IBM’s vast software portfolio such as DB2 v11.1.

Pricing for the 3 new OpenPOWER models as well as the first 2 announced earlier in the year is available at Scale-out Linux on page. I recently did a pricing comparison for a customer with several 2 socket Dell servers vs a comparable 2 socket S822LC.  Both the list and web price for the Dell solution were more expensive than OpenPOWER.  The Dell list price was approximately 35% more and the web list price was 10% more and I was using the price as shown on the IBM OpenPOWER page provided in the link in this same paragraph.  Clients looking to deploy large clusters, compute farms or simply want to start lowering infrastructure cost should take a hard look at OpenPOWER.  If you can install Linux on an Intel server,  you have the skills to manage a OpenPOWER server.  Rocket Scientist need not apply!

If you have questions, encourage you to contact your local or favorite business partner.  If you do not have one, I would be happy to work with you.