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; there you go again! Part 1

Updated Sept 05, 2016: Split the blog into 2 parts (Part 2). Fixed several typo’s and sentence structure problems. Updated the description of the Superdome X blades to indicate they are 2 socket blades while using Intel E7 chips.

It must be the season as I find myself focused a bit on HPE.  Maybe it’s because they seem to be looking for their identity as they now consider selling their software business.  This time though, it is self-inflicted as there has been a series of conflicting marketing actions. From what they say in their recent HPE RAS whitepaper about the poor Intel server memory reliability stating in the introductory section that memory is far and away the highest source of component failures in a system.  Shortly after that RAS paper is released, they post a blog written by the HPE Server Memory Product Manager stating “Memory Errors aren’t the end of the World”.  Tell that to the SAP HANA and Oracle Database customers, the latter which I will be discussing in this blog.

HPE dares to step into the lion’s den on a topic with which it has little standing to imply it is an authority how Oracle Enterprise software products are licensing in IBM Power servers.  As a matter of fact, thanks to the President of VCE, Chad Sakac for acknowledging that VMware has a Oracle problem.  On August 17th, Chad penned what amounts to an open letter to Larry & Oracle begging them …. No, demanding that Larry leave his people alone.  And, by “his people”, I mean customers who run Oracle Enterprise Software Products licensed by the core on Intel servers using VMware.

Enter HPE with a recent blog by Jeff Kyle, Director of Mission Critical Solutions.  He doesn’t distinguish if he is in a product development, marketing or sales role.  I would bet he it is the latter two as I do not think a product developer would put themselves out like Jeff just did.  What he did is what all Intel marketing teams and sellers have done from the beginning of compute time when the first customer thought of running Oracle on a server that wasn’t “Big Iron”.

Jeff sets up a straw man stating “software licensing and support being one of the top cost items in any data center” followed by the obligatory claim that moving it to an “advanced” yet “industry-standard x86 servers” will deliver the ROI to achieve the goals of every customer while coming damn close to solving world hunger.

Next is where he enters the world of FUD while also stepping into the land of make-believe.  Yes, Jeff is talking about IBM Power technology as if it is treated by Oracle for licensing purposes the same as an Intel server, which it is not.  You will have to judge if he did this on purpose or simply out of ignorance.  He does throw the UNIX platforms a bone by saying they have “excellent stability and performance” but stops there as only to claim they cost more than their Industry standard x86 server counterparts.

He goes on to state UNIX servers <Hold Please> Attention: For purposes of this discussion, let’s go with the definition that future UNIX references = AIX and RISC references = IBM POWER unless otherwise stated.  As I was saying, Jeff next claims AIX & POWER are not well positioned for forward-looking Cloud deployments continuing his diminutive descriptors suggesting proper clients wouldn’t want to work with “proprietary RISC chips like IBM Power”. But, the granddaddy of all of his statements and the one that is complete disingenuous is:  <low monotone voice> “The Oracle license charge per CPU core for IBM Power is twice (2X) the amount charged for Intel x86 servers” </low monotone voice>.

In his next paragraph, he uses some sleight of hand by altering the presentation of the traditional full List Price cost for Oracle RAC that is associated with Oracle Enterprise Edition Database.  Oracle EE DB is $47,500 per license + 22% maintenance per year, starting with year 1.  Oracle RAC for Oracle EE EB is $23,000 per license + 22% maintenance per year, starting with year 1.  If you have Oracle RAC then you would by definition also have a corresponding Oracle EE DB Licenses.  The author uses a price of $11,500 per x86 CPU core and although by doing he isn’t wrong per se, I just do not like that he does not disclose the full license cost of #23,000 up front as it looks like he is trying to minimize the cost of Oracle on x86.

A quick licensing review. Oracle has an Oracle License Factor Table for different platforms to determine how to license its products that are licensed by core. Most modern Intel servers are 0.5 per License.  IBM Power is 1.0 per License.  HP Itanium 95XX chip based servers, so you know also has a license factor of 1.0.  Oracle, since they own the table and the software in question can manipulate it to favor their own platforms as they do, especially with the SPARC servers.  It ranges from 0.25 to 0.75 while Oracle’s Intel servers are consistent with the other Intel servers at 0.5.  Let’s exclude the Oracle Intel servers for purposes of what I am talking about here for reason I said, which is they manipulate the situation to favor themselves. All other Intel servers “MUST” license ALL cores in the server with very, very limited exceptions “times” the licensing factor which is 0.5.  Thus, a 2 x 18 core socket would have 36 cores. Ex: 2s x 18c = 36c x 0.5 License Factor = 18 Licenses.  That would equal 18 Oracle Licenses for whatever the product being used.

What Jeff does next was a bit surprising to me.  He suggests customers not bother with 1 & 2 socket Intel “Scale-out” servers which generally rely on Intel E5 aka EP chipsets.  By the way, Oracle with their Exadata & Oracle Database Appliances now ONLY use 2 socket servers with the E5 processors; let that sink in as to why.  The EP chips tend to have features that on paper have less performance such as less memory bandwidth & fewer cores while other features such as clock frequency are higher, a feature that is good for Oracle DB.   These chips also have lower RAS capabilities, such as missing the MCA (Machine Check Architecture) feature only found in the E7 chips.  He instead suggests clients look at “scale-up” servers which commonly classified as 4 sockets and larger systems.  This is where I need to clarify a few things.  The HP Superdome X system, although it scales to 16 sockets, does so using 2 socket blades.  Each socket uses the Intel E7 processor, which given this is a 2 socket blade is counter to what I described at the beginning of this paragraph where 1 & 2 socket servers used E5 processors.  The design of the HP SD-X is meant to scale from 1 blade to 8 blades or 2 to 16 sockets which requires the E7 processor.

With the latest Intel Broadwell EX or E7 chipsets, the number of cores available for the HD SD-X range from 4 to 24 cores per socket.  Configuring a blades with the 24 core E7_v4 (v4 indicates Broadwell) equals 48 cores or 24 Oracle Licenses.  Reference the discussion two paragraphs above.  His assertion is by moving to a larger server you get a larger memory capacity for those “in-memory compute models” and it is this combination that will dramatically improve your database performance while lowering your overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

He uses a customer success story for Pella (windows) who avoided $200,000 in Oracle licensing fees after moving off a UNIX (not AIX in this case) platform to 2 x HPE Superdome X servers running Linux.  This HPE customer case study says the UNIX platform which Pella moved off 9 years ago was actually a HP Superdome with Intel Itanium processors server running HP-UX.  Did you get this? HP migrated off their own 9-year-old server while implying it might be from a competitor – maybe even AIX on Power since it was referenced earlier in the story.  That circa 2006 era Itanium may have used a Montecito class processor. All of the early models before Tukwila were pigs, in my estimation.  A lot of bluff and hyperbole but rarely delivering on the claims.  That era of SD would have also used an Oracle license factor of 0.5 as Oracle didn’t change it until 2010 and only on the newer 95xx series chips.  Older systems were grandfathered and as I recall as long as they didn’t add new licenses they would remain under the 0.5 license model.  I would expect a 2014/2015 era Intel processor would outperform a 2006 era chip, although if it would have been against a POWER5 1.9 or 2.2 GHz chip I might call it 50-50 J .

We have to spend some time discussing HP server technology as Jeff is doing some major league sleight of hand as the Superdome X server supports a special hardware partitioning capability (more details below) that DOES allow for reduced licensing that IS NOT available on non-Superdome x86 servers or from most other Intel vendors unless they also have an 8 socket or larger system like SGI – oh wait, HP just bought them.  Huh, wonder why they did this if the HPE Superdome X is so good.

Jeff then mentions an IDC research study; big deal, here is a note from my Pastor that says the HPE Superdome is not very good; who are you going to believe?

Moving the rest of the blog to Part 2.

 

 

Intel Vendors & VMware have a Oracle Problem

Houston, we have a problem!

Intel server vendors Dell, VCE, HPE, Cisco, Lenovo, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Huawei, white box vendor Super Micro and any other server vendor using Intel chipsets have a problem if their customers use VMware to host Oracle Enterprise products (ie Database).

What’s “their” problem

In a nutshell, Oracle’s position is that customers running their Enterprise products like Oracle Enterprise Edition Database,  licensed by core (all cores in the server x 0.5) in a VMware environment must license every core on every server in which that Oracle workload could ever potentially reside managed by vCenter.  Server vendors, VMware, consultants and so on have a vested interest for Oracle to not do this because this Oracle tax is an extreme approach with their licensing terms that concern customers if they are running Oracle on Intel servers for fear Oracle will initiate a LMS audit leading to a substantial license settlement.

Quick Background

In my previous blog I wrote about “Intel; the Great Charade” where I discuss  each new generation of Intel processors having less performance per core than the previous generation.  As you read this and the ones referenced in this article (VCE & HoB) keep this ‘per core’ licensing approach in mind as this topic is central to how Oracle (typically) licenses its enterprise products.  For example, if a clients current server models are Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge era servers and plan to upgrade to the latest generation Broadwell you actually decrease the per core performance while increasing the number of cores per socket (if staying with the same SKU). Meaning 12 Ivy Bridge cores requires a little over 13 rounded up to 14 Broadwell cores to deliver equal performance. You don’t upgrade to get equal performance so you now have to move to a 16 or maybe 18 core SKU to gain additional socket performance or go with a higher frequency & lower core per socket SKU to obtain receive more performance per core….but now do you have enough overall performance?  To summarize my previous blog: It takes more cores from Haswell or Broadwell to equal the performance of the previous generation chips.  Since this increase in performance is at the socket and not with the core or thread (where most databases almost almost always prefer a stronger core vs more cores let alone weaker cores in a socket).  Since Oracle’s license calculation on Intel is to license all of cores in the server x 0.5 you may end up buying 1 or 2 extra Oracle licenses for every upgraded Intel server running VMware so be sure to factor that into your budget.

Who is complaining?

I could write the rest of this blog on this topic alone; around the right and wrong of Oracle’s licensing methods in VMware environments but I’ll defer to the thousands already available on this very topic.  This is not the reason I am writing this blog but to call out the self-serving and irresponsible Call-to-Action from House of Bricks and leader of a major CI player; VCE and to discuss why Oracle has no incentive to stop doing what they are doing.

Chad Sakac, the President of VCE which is the the Converged Infrastructure (CI) arm of EMC and soon Dell as the acquisition of EMC should be complete any day.  He is a regular blogger and in my opinion a master of marketing, technology & motivation.  On August 17, 2016 Chad wrote a blog titled “Oracle, I’m sad about you, disappointed in you, and frustrated with you.” in which he lays out how Intel server customers running Oracle Enterprise products, most often Oracle Enterprise Edition Database, are fed-up with Oracle’s abusive licensing tactics when Oracle Enterprise Edition products are installed and running in VMware.  He passionately pleads years of Oracle licensing frustration on behalf of clients while challenging clients to stand up to Oracle and not let them be bullied anymore.  He admits to selfishly partnering with House of Bricks (HoB), a VCE partner by funding their analysis on this situation.  HoB has been a leading voice in this fight in there own right so receiving compensation from VCE check was the proverbial icing on the cake IMHO as they were fighting the fight anyway.  What is VCE’s angle? They either have, or are losing  business due to clients fear of running Oracle workloads using VMware vSphere & vCenter.  There must be enough business at stake or EMC / VCE is desperate enough (not being critical here, just observing) to force them down this path to take such a in your face approach to Oracle.

House of Bricks, who is VCE’s partner and author of the whitepaper had a generally fair and moderated tone throughout the whitepaper.  That said, I do find they are irresponsible by encouraging VMware customers who are running  Oracle Enterprise Edition products licensed by core/processor (not socket or NUP) to run in configurations which are in direct conflict with Oracle’s standard licensing practices.  I’m not arguing the merits, fairness or legality of those licensing practices so save your comments.

Fight Mr Customer So We Can Sell You More!

Simply stated, Chad Sakac, the President of VCE and House of Bricks are actively encouraging system administrators, DBA’s and IT organizations to not only defend your use of Oracle Enterprise products in VMware environments, VMware clusters and VMware environments managed under vCenter but also to license Intel servers using sub-capacity licensing, using the BIOS to limit access to sockets or cores, only license the cores being used by Oracle.  Do these things and stand up to Oracle.  Do it for you….do it for us….just do it!  Of course, VCE funded the HoB paper but they won’t be funding your legal case (or bills) with Oracle.  All of this “encouragement” while at the same time promoting EMC / VMware / VCE products in lieu of traditional Oracle availability & replication products seems a little disingenuous…maybe….why not just keep your argument on the complaint of Oracle licensing with VMware?.  But instead, among many “do this instead of that” statements such as liminating Oracle RAC and use VMware HA and consider EMC RecoverPoint / SRDF in lieu of Oracle Active Data Guard (ADG).

Multiple agenda’s

Much of the HoB whitepaper feels like a marketing slick for EMC / VCE products. Then to have Chad be the front man out front crying on behalf of all customers seems a little too self-serving.

My Good Buddy Larry

Now back to Oracle….everybody knows I am NO Oracle fan.  A good day is any day I beat Oracle (anybody beats Oracle) or reduces their revenue.  But, with regard to Oracle’s practices on how they license their Enterprise products in a VMware environment, they have ZERO (0) motivation to loosen their licensing rules given Intel’s continued growth in the marketplace – Oracle is in the drivers seat!  Oracle wants customers to buy infrastructure from them running OracleVM with Oracle Linux hosting the Oracle software stack.  Oracle receives ALL of the Sales & Support dollars this way.  In addition to this, Oracle is predisposed to litigate.  Larry likes to fight!  HP and now HPE, SAP, Google (2 suits, going to a 3rd), Rimini Street, Oregon Healthcare, Mars and many more.  The Oracle v Mars case is a recent example of how Oracle goes after customers using their License Management Service (LMS) group to drive license revenue thru audits.  “Mars stated that Oracle was unwilling to “come to a mutually agreeable process” for completing an audit. Oracle then sent Mars a letter stating Mars had materially breached its license agreement”.  The greatest leverage clients have is to move off of Oracle products (hardware & software) to alternative solutions; specifically database variants such as IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server or Open Source alternative PostgreSQL from EnterpriseDB not to mention the many NoSQL alternatives that probably do a far better job.

Alternatives

If VCE really wanted to partner with an enterprise quality commercial-grade database technology to help clients run VMware with sub-capacity licensing for just the servers where the workloads are running and find an alternative to Oracle, they should look at IBM’s DB2 . DB2 is available in multiple editions from a free edition to Advanced Enterprise Server Edition.  What makes it different and better than both Oracle or SQL Server is that AESE, for example, includes many of the products & features that a client desires of Oracle Enterprise Edition products yet have to pay for À la carte.  DB2’s AESE cost $56,210 (list price for 70 PVU) per license which would match up against the Oracle Enterprise Edition portfolio which when you add up those products cost over $225K (Note: DB2 ESE is a level down from AESE, cost less and probably meets 90% of the customers requirements so the story just gets better).  DB2 always includes its first year of maintenance then 20% each year thereafter while Oracle always charges 22% for the first year then 22% each year thereafter.  Of course, DB2 runs 2X faster with Linux on POWER vs Intel. Clients can try it out for free in SoftLayer for 30 days running Linux on a OpenPOWER server.  Since LoP isn’t the topic of this blog, I’ll save that for another day but know that at least both Intel with VMware and IBM POWER servers support sub-capacity licensing with virtualization.

DB2-S822LC-vs-HPDL380

I didn’t write this blog to be a shill for IBM’s DB2 either, it just came to me as I was reading the HoB paper as it felt like they were trying to slyly present SQL Server as a more agreeable alternative to Oracle – maybe they are … either way thought I would mention DB2 for some balance.

There is ONE Platform …

At the end of the day, clients have a choice if they run Oracle products such as PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Oracle Apps, Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) or standalone Oracle Enterprise products like Database, RAC, WebLogic and many others.  Clients can run Oracle on Intel with VMware then surely deal with the risk and issues discussed by Chad and House of Bricks OR clients could run Oracle on the only platform which controls Oracle licensing without all of the consternation, debate and angst; IBM POWER servers running AIX.  For those who have read this far and were begging to say “But POWER servers have a core license factor 2X of  Intel so they cost twice as much”.  Enough please! I may hire House of Bricks to write a paper to put an end to this FUD, myth and farce. With POWER8 outperforming Intel servers generally around 2X per core it eliminates this argument right here. But, since we are talking about licensing a product at the core level it is important to remember that POWER servers support sub-capacity licensing natively, without debate from Oracle.  Last and most importantly, IBM’s Power Hypervisor suite, called PowerVM manages the compute resources more efficiently where it scales the 2X performance per core advantage typically increasing it up to 4X, 8X, 12X, even 20X (your mileage will vary).  This isn’t a performance advantage as much as it is an efficiency statement.  I call it the “Total Cost of Efficiency” as it takes into account the TCA, Performance advantage & Hypervisor efficiency and depending on the discussion, years 2-5 maintenance which is TCO.  I have personally sized, architected and delivered these solutions to customers who have in turn realized these very savings.

Now the Call-to-Action!

If you believe VMware & Intel are a critical part of your business identity that make your products better then continue using them with your Oracle products. You will pay more (compared to POWER) due to lower performance & less efficiency and pay the Oracle tax.  If you view IT as an enabler to your bottom line and use the right tool for the job then give me a call as I can help you as I have helped dozens of others save $100K’s to $M’s with IBM server technology.   Oh, and for those last few sharpshooters who want to remark that IBM servers are more expensive go ahead and save your comment.  First, I’ll shut you down by comparing a proper IBM server with the class of Intel server that you present me.  Next, we won’t go the 1 for 1 server route. As I recently showed a customer a reduction of 24 x Dell servers with 596 cores or 298 Oracle licenses to 7 x POWER8 servers with 168 cores and Oracle Licenses. My 7 servers are far less expensive than your 24 servers  not to mention the infrastructure required to support it (power cables, LAN/SAN cables, switch ports, cooling, etc). What makes me different is I show you how it’s possible to save  significant money running Oracle on IBM servers. What makes Ciber different is we have an Oracle consulting practice to help you implement, migrate or optimize your environment.

Oracle’s at it again – stuffing a card up their sleeve!

Oracle continues its record of having 0 (i.e. ZERO) credibility.  How many times has Oracle been called out for publishing & making statements about competitors solutions that were just flat out wrong leading one to wonder if it is more than the standard competitor FUD and benchmark exaggerations but purposefully meant to mislead.

Take a recent Oracle blog post by @Brian-Oracle at https://blogs.oracle.com/BestPerf/entry/20160317_sparc_t7_1_oltp.  Oracle is hell bent to produce a TPC-C benchmark on a POWER8 server since IBM has not.  I do not work for IBM and have not heard any official reason but have heard they do not see TPC-C as a good benchmark of platform performance which is why you do not see any entries since 2013 by any vendor.

There is a Oracle Marketing troll who posts as @PlinkerTind for this El Reg article http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2016/04/07/open_power_summit_power9/?post_received=2834982#c_2834982 who asks what is IBM scared of.  What he fails to disclose is that IBM would love to run a Oracle benchmark on POWER8 but the software license agreements state if the product is being used for benchmark purposes it requires the approval of the owning company.  Well, Oracle doesn’t permit it except for Oracle benchmarks such as Oracle EBS.  Why would Oracle not want to let IBM conduct a benchmark using Oracle DB? Because it would show what customers see who run it and what prospects wee who evaluate it that POWER controls software licensing; Oracle, DB2, EnterpriseDB, and every other product.  Fewer servers, fewer sockets, fewer cores, etc.
Back to the Oracle blog, author writes “On a per chip basis, the SPARC T7-1 server demonstrated nearly 5.5 times better performance compared to an IBM Power System S824 server”.  Let’s break it down using the authors “vernacular”.  A T7-1, although it is actually 8 x quad core chiplets and not a single 32 core chip as Oracle likes to claim,  yet this author along with the other Oracle marketing trolls refer to a 2 socket S824 & S822 as a 4 chip system – essentially for the Scale-Out servers, they call each socket two chips because of how IBM builds the chip using a Dual Chip Module (DCM) vs the Single Chip Module (SCM) in the Enterprise servers.  Now,  IBM who engineered the chips says it works functionally as 1 chip in 1 socket.   (Ref: IBM POWER8 S824 Redbook http://www.redbooks.ibm.com/redpapers/pdfs/redp5097.pdf).

So, the Oracle blog authors says the SPARC  32 core chip, by HIS words is 5.5X better performance than the POWER8 S824 server. Thus, 6 cores vs 32 cores or 5.33X.  6 cores because Oracle is comparing Chip to Chip.  Thus, they consider it reasonable and credible to compare their 32 core SPARC T7 chip vs a 6 core POWER8 chip.  That is so disingenuous.
Next, the author chose the 24 core S824 running at 3.52 GHz vs the 4.13 GHz T7-1. Why didn’t Oracle pick the 16 core S824 running at 4.15 GHz?  That way they could call it a 4 chip, 2 socket with 4 cores per chip system vs Oracle’s 32 core, single socket, single chip (that is really 8 x quad chiplets) system. Using the 16 core S824 would give the SPARC T7-1 server 2X more cores allowing for easier extrapolation?  Oracle did set the ASMI mode to favor performance but it is the 2nd best option to use (there is a better option but since Oracle doesn’t know the platform they either chose not to or didn’t know what to select). Even with this set, their is still a clock frequency discrepancy.  Now, I’m not hung up on the clock frequency because most Intel servers have lower clock frequency.  Unlike Intel which cannot run all of their cores at the higher clock frequency like POWER there are times when the clock frequency comparison being made is vastly different can’t be helped.  That’s not the case though with POWER.  IBM offers servers ranging from 3.0 to 4.35 Ghz making it easy for them to choose one that makes the comparisons as close as possible.

Next the author says “On a per core basis the SPARC T7-1 server demonstrated nearly 3% better performance per core compared to an IBM Power System S824 server.”. I’ll just refer to the above paragraph where the T7 clock frequency was running 17% higher.  Then he says “At the system level, the SPARC T7-1 server demonstrated nearly 1.4 times better performance compared to the IBM Power System S824 server.”. 24 cores times 1.4 = 33.6……hmmm. You tested a 1 socket vs a 2 socket server running with a 17% higher clock.  I point out the 1 vs 2 socket server because with POWER  processors I would expect a single socket to be slightly better performing than a 2 socket than a 4 socket than a > 4 socket server.  Taking into account other factors that do not require the memory & I/O provided by those extra sockets.  Again, if they want to test on a per core basis that can be done with any system. If they wanted to test on a per socket basis then do it with the T7-1 and even use the S824 but only use 12 cores.  Otherwise, compare a T7-2 vs a S824 which would be 64 vs 24 cores.

Read the comments for an article about POWER9 at AnandTech http://www.anandtech.com/show/10230/ibm-nvidia-and-wistron-develop-new-openpower-hpc-server-with-power8-cpus-nvlink.   Look for comments by @Brutalizer who is an Oracle Marketing troll.  He gets crushed by the the commenters as they rightly point out that Oracle ran the Oracle benchmark on the POWER8 server with no disclosure on the full details of how the server was configured; How many DIMMs were used?  Filling all 16 DIMM slots makes a difference than just 8 or 4 DIMMs since all 3 configuration options can achieve the configured 512 GB Ram. Although a few tunables were disclosed as if to demonstrate that Oracle made an effort to give the POWER server a fair shake, I question the ones used. I won’t disclose what I would have done differently as I like that Oracle looks like petty fools in their effort to show Oracle on POWER8 performance. If they were interested they would authorize IBM to run their own benchmark – or accept my POWER challenge where we run a customers workload on each of our servers.  Alas the cowards have yet to acknowledge it let alone accept it.

The lesson I hope readers learn from my blog is not that Oracle software and hardware products are bad, they are not at all.  However, they have this seemingly uncontrollable need to overstate and mislead customers by any effort to get customers to consider and god forbid buy their products.  Yes, in this poker game we all play there is bluffing and smart play but with most vendors it is within the rules.  With Oracle they always seem to have a card stuffed in their sleeve as they seem incapable of competing fairly making them resort to unscrupulous behavior such as the Oracle blog.

P.S.  I do not accept any of the results obtained by Oracle testing the S824.  If IBM conducted the same test running Oracle with AIX on POWER8 I am confident the results would make the S824 look far better than stated by Oracle.  One can only draw the conclusion that Oracle optimized their T7-1 to achieve the most favorable results.  IBM should have the same opportunity.  Of course, my Power challenge to Oracle is the real-world test using actual customer data.  Maybe this blog will get Oracle to man-up!

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

  • 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

IBM i

  • 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

HMC

  • 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

Management

  • 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

Security

  • 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

Linux

  • 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

Performance

  • 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)

Cloud

  • 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.

 

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?

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.

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?