AIX > Trends > IBM Announcements

A Deeper Dive into Enterprise POWER8

Operating Systems and Maintenance

The E870 and E880 come with one year of 7-24 hardware maintenance. As with the earlier POWER8 scale-out servers IBM is now using “machine code update entitlement at activation.” This means that firmware can’t be installed unless you have a current hardware maintenance agreement for that server. The E870 or E880 server should arrive with an update access key (UAK) installed that covers the first year or whatever maintenance period was purchased with the box.

Additionally, there are some minimum operating system requirements, depending on whether you want to take advantage of all of the POWER8 features, such as SMT8, or whether you just want to migrate across as is. The technical overview Redbooks publication provides the details on those releases. It also provides details of the minimum levels for Java and compilers. The E870 and E880 are classified as the AIX medium software tier and require 120 PVUs per core. The E870 and E880 are not supported by IVM but PowerVM Enterprise comes standard with the new servers. Both servers require HMC v8.20 as a minimum HMC level.

Getting There

If upgrading, a couple of options provide for same serial number upgrade. A 770 D model can be upgraded to an E870 and a 780 D model can be upgraded to an E880, and the serial number can be retained. When upgrading, it’s important to ensure the POWER7 is on maintenance and that the upgrade is installed promptly—the upgrades ship with a 60-day temporary key and should be installed before that key expires.

Let’s Go Swimming!

Power Enterprise Pools enable you to move processor and memory activations within a defined pool of systems at convenient times for you without having to contact IBM. Activations are used within their specific pool type and there are two pool types—one for the E880, 780 and 795 and the other for the E870 and 770. Each server type has a minimum required amount for static activations for memory and CPU. After that, mobile activations can be done as single cores or in 100GB increments for memory. The number of each is designated at purchase time although static activations can be converted to mobile activations. This provides for a very flexible environment that allows for the rapid movement of workloads as necessary.


The I/O and memory bandwidth on the two new servers is phenomenal. A fully populated 2-node E870 or E880 can peak at 922 GB/s per node for memory and 256 GB/s per node for I/O. Contrast this with the 770D or 780D at 272 GB/s per node for memory and 80 GB/s per node for I/O, or the 795 at 576 GB/s per node for memory and 80 GB/s per node for I/O. When these are combined with new functions such as SMT8, it’s clear the new enterprise servers are designed for performance. As a point of comparison, a 32-core 4ghz 795 is rated at 372.27 rPerf whereas the 4.02ghz 32-core E870 (1 node) is rated at 674.5 rPerf. The 795 requires a special 24" rack whereas the E870 would require 7U in a 19" rack. A 2-node E870 with 80 x 4.19ghz cores is rated at 1711.9 rPerf, the 2-node E880 with 64 x 4.35ghz cores is rated at 1432.5 rPerf. The 780 requires 128 x 3.7ghz cores to get to 1380.19 rPerf and the 795 needs around 128 cores to equal the rPerf of a 2-node E870. This is an incredible jump in performance, especially when you add in the improved memory and I/O bandwidth.

Best Features

IBM has taken the best features of the POWER 795, 770 and 780 and combined those attributes with the POWER8 technology to create an incredibly robust and high-performing pair of servers, the E870 and the E880. Isolating the redundant resources (clocks, etc.) and moving to a single rack footprint makes it far simpler to integrate these servers into the data center. The use of enterprise pools makes the migration from the POWER7+ servers much simpler and ensures a smoother transition. But the real story is in the scalability and capacity provided while still ensuring the RAS (reliability availability and serviceability) that we’ve all come to expect from the 795.

Jaqui Lynch is an independent consultant, focusing on enterprise architecture, performance and delivery on Power Systems with AIX and Linux.

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