Get more for less with POWER9

Who doesn’t expect more from a new product, let alone if it is the next generation of that product. Whether it is the “All New 2019 Brand Model” Car/Truck/SUV or, being a Macbook fan, the latest Macbook Pro and IOS (just keep the magnetic power cord)?

We want and expect more.  IBM POWER8 delivered more.  More performance, built-in virtualization on the Enterprise systems, mobile capacity on Enterprise systems to share capacity between like servers, a more robust reliability and availability subsystem as well as improved serviceability features from the low-end to high-end.  Yes, all while dramatically improving performance over previous generations.

How do you improve upon something that is already really good – I’m purposefully avoiding using the word “great” as it’ll make me sound like a sycophant who would accept a rock with a Power badge and call it “great”.  No, I am talking about actual, verifiable features and capabilities delivering real value to businesses.

Since the POWER9 Enterprise systems have yet to be announced and I only know what I know through my secret sources, I’ll limit my statements to just the currently available POWER9 Scale-out systems.

  • POWER8 Scale-out now include PowerVM Enterprise Edition licenses
  • Workload Optimized Frequency now delivers frequencies up to 20% higher over the nominal or marketed clock frequency
  • PCIe4 slots to support higher speed and bandwidth adapters
  • From 2 to 4X greater memory capacity on most systems
  • New “bootable” internal NVMe support
  • Enhanced vTPM for improved Secure Boot & Trusted Remote Attestation
  • SR-IOV improvements
  • CAPI 2.0 and OpenCAPI capability – the latter, though I’m unaware of any supported features is exciting in what it is designed and capable of doing.
  • Improved price points using IS memory

The servers also shed some legacy features that were getting long in the tooth.

  • Internal DVD players – in lieu of USB drive support
  • S924 with 18 drive backplane no longer includes add-on 8 x 1.8″ SSD slots

As consumers, we expect more from our next generation purchases, the same holds true with POWER9.  Get more capability, features and performance for less money.

Contact me if you would like a quote to upgrade to POWER9, running x86 workloads and would like to hear how you may be able to do far more with less as well as learn how my services team will ease any concerns or burdens you may have to remain on your aging and likely, higher cost servers by upgrading to POWER9.



Upgrade to POWER9 – Never been easier!

Delivering more features & performance at a lower cost, the ease and options available to upgrade have never been more compelling.

With an outstanding family of products in IBM’s POWER8 portfolio, it seemed impossible for IBM to deliver a successor with more features, increased performance, greater value, while at a lower price point.  On February 13th, IBM announced the POWER9 Scale-out products supporting AIX, IBM i and Linux while 1st POWER9 announcement occurred December 5, 2017 with the AC922, a HPC & AI beast.

These newly announced PowerVM-based systems consist of 1 & 2 sockets systems supporting up to 4 TB of DDR4 memory.  Starting with the robust 1-socket S914 then accelerating to the 2RU 2-socket S922 and the 4RU 2-socket S924 system. IBM announced sister systems to the S-models purpose-built for SAP HANA.  These systems are the H822 & H824 systems, identical to the S822 & S824. The H-models might also be considered hybrid systems as they come bundled with key software used with HANA while allowing a smaller AIX and IBM i footprint – sort of a hybrid between a S & L model system.  There is also a Linux only model, just as there was with POWER8.  Called the L922, it is a 2-socket though available in a 1-socket configuration.  Each of these systems support up to 4 TB of memory except the S914 which supports up to 1 TB.

Why should businesses consider upgrading to POWER9? If they are running on POWER7 and older systems, Clients will save significant cost by lowering hardware and software maintenance cost.  Moreover, with the increased performance, clients will be able to consolidate more VM’s than ever and reduce enterprise software product licensing as well as its exorbinant maintenance cost.

While Intel cancels Knights Landing and struggles to deliver innovation and performance on their 10nm and 7nm platforms, remaining in a perpetual state of treading water at 14nm, what they are delivering seems to most benefit ISV’s and not businesses.

The traditional workloads such as Oracle, DB2, Websphere, SAP (ECC & HANA), Oracle EBS, Peoplesoft, JD Edwards, Infor, EPIC and more all benefit.  For businesses looking to develop and deploy technologies developed in the 21st Century, these purpose built products deliver new innovations ideally suited for workloads geared toward Cognitive (analytics) and the web. NoSQL products, such as Redis Labs, Cassandra, neo4j or Scylla to open source relational databases products like PostgreSQL or MariaDB.

With the increased performance and higher efficiencies, all software boats will rise running on POWER9.

My team of Architects and Engineers at Ciber Global are prepared to help migrate workloads from your POWER5, POWER6, POWER7 and even POWER8 systems running AIX 5.3, 6.1, 7.1 and 7.1 as well as IBM i v6.1, 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3 to POWER9.

POWER9 supports AIX 6.1, 7.1 and 7.2.  For IBM i, it supports 7.2 & 7.3.  Client systems not at these levels will have our consultants available to guide them on the requirements and their upgrade options.  Whether using Live Partition Mobility, aka the Easy Button to move workloads from POWER6, POWER7 or POWER8 systems to POWER9 or using more traditional methods such as AIX NIM or IBM i Full System Save/Restore, there is likely an approach meeting the businesses needs.

Rest assured, if you have doubts or concerns reach out to my team at Ciber to discuss. And if you don’t already have the Easy Button, IBM is offering a 60-day trial key for clients to upgrade the PowerVM Standard Edition licenses to Enterprise Edition on their P6, P7 or P8 systems making the upgrade to POWER9 not only financially easy but also technically easy.


HPE Memory RAS; Excels at being Average

A recent HPE blog stating memory errors are not the end of the world was meant to reassure clients to accept regular & unplanned platform disruptions. In reality what HPE ends up saying is there is little difference with the other commercial Intel server vendors and their own as they all range from below average to average at best.  Just so happens, this specific blog was written by the HPE Server Memory Product Manager who might be forgiven for painting this dire picture only to then present the best alternative; Yes, HPE SmartMemory. *shock*

To HPE’s credit, they have quite a bit of documentation discussing server Reliability, Availability & Serviceability (RAS) features, specifically about their memory subsystem. They are fairly forthright about their strengths and weaknesses of the entry, mid-range and high-end servers. Sadly though, at every level there message is full of qualifiers, limitations and restrictions which require the consumer to wade through and understand all of the requirements.

An HPE whitepaper from February 2016 titled “How memory RAS technologies can enhance the uptime of HPE ProLiant servers” paints a starkly different picture than the blog. The whitepaper states on page 2 in the 2nd paragraph of the introductory summary section “It might surprise you to know that memory device failures are far and away the most frequent type of failure for scale-up servers.“, up to 2X the rate of the next closest part when the memory is configured with a memory protection configuration not better than SDDC+1.  There is another graph that immediately follows this one showing when memory is configured using a protection scheme of DDDC+1 it decreases memory failures by 85%. That is pretty good, yet the value of 85% used in the whitepaper does not jive with the blog which states when using HPE SmartMemory, memory errors are reduced 99.9998% (yes, that is 5 x 9’s).  I call out this discrepancy because right after claiming 5×9’s they point the reader to the very whitepaper I am citing here.

This blog is not meant to define all of the different terms used, you will have to do some of that work. However, it is worth noting that all of the wonderful features touted in the HPE blog, in the HPE whitepaper and may other sources, the consumer will find there are many qualifiers, limitations and restrictions.  Such as.

  1. E5 chips do not support DDDC or DDDC+1
  2. E5 chips only support SDDC or SDDC + rank sparing
  3. Memory sparing consumes (wastes) either 25% or 12.5% of installed capacity
  4. EX chips support SDDC, SDDC + rank sparing, SDDC+1 and DDDC+1
  5. But, DDDC+1 is ONLY using x4 DIMMs and not x8 DIMMs
  6. DDDC+1 requires x4 DIMMs
  7. Advanced ECC is an option used across 2 DIMMs but can only fill 2 of 3 DIMM slots per channel
  8. Memory Mirroring is the most expensive in terms of cost & performance
  9. Memory Mirroring wastes 1/2 of the DIMM slots for the mirror – not usable
  10. Memory Mirroring only allows you to fill 2 of 3 DIMM slots per channel
  11. Memory Mirroring has a potential performance impact for WRITES

Let’s be clear, consumers have 3 primary options to configure memory on any of the Intel servers.

  1. Performance mode which delivers the highest bandwidth with the lowest reliability features. Not an ideal option for in-memory workloads despite the appeal to maximize the bandwidth.
  2. Lockstep Mode meant to strike a balance of slightly decreased bandwidth (can be up to 50%¹) while increasing reliability over performance mode.  Probably the most common option selected.
  3. Memory Mirroring Mode delivers the highest reliability at the expense of wasting 1/2 the memory capacity as well has a slight performance decrease (remember, this mode can only use 2 of the 3 DIMM slots per channel so you already lose 1/3 of the memory capacity).

What is HPE’s response to clients who want increased memory RAS; especially for those in-memory workloads such as SAP HANA?  Buy more expensive E7 based servers to receive slightly higher memory RAS capability OR install more memory on the already RAS-deficient E5 based servers to increase its capacity to utilize memory spare ranks.

Net-net is that HPE is pushing proprietary memory that is far more expensive than the industry standard memory traditionally used with Intel servers that has earned it the reputation as a low-cost leader relative to traditional Enterprise-class systems like IBM POWER or SPARC. That is evident in the SAP HANA space as the systems required to support these in-memory workloads tend to require more capacity; more cores to achieve the core to memory ratio’s and more sockets to achieve more memory capacity with its associated bandwidth.  Yet, HPE remains true to form as regardless of the path taken, it comes with increased cost, limitations, restrictions and qualifications.

Contrast the never-ending “Compromise” Intel options, IBM’s POWER8 servers use Enterprise memory that is “No Compromise”.  This buffered memory offers spare  capacity, spare lanes, memory instruction replay, chipkill and an incredible DDDC +1+1 allowing for multiple DRAM failures before experiencing a system event.  The design point for POWER8 memory is simple: Not to fail!

AS you consider platforms to host in-memory workloads such as SAP HANA, DB2 BLU, consider which basket you want to place all of your eggs into.  A platform with a memory subsystem designed not to fail or a platform with unending limitations as listed above. The choice should be easy – Choose POWER!