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IBM Unveils Six POWER9 Servers

February 13, 2018

IBM is announcing six new POWER9 scale-out servers today, with general availability set for March 20. IBM is touting these systems as future forward, cloud-ready infrastructure for mission critical workloads. The systems will max out with 4 TB of memory and will have PCIe Gen4 adapters, which doubles the bandwidth of Gen3 cards.

Each system will have PowerVM Enterprise Edition built in, and IBM is helping customers migrate by providing 60-day temporary licenses for existing machines that don't already have PowerVM Enterprise Edition. This will allow you to use live partition mobility to migrate running workloads from existing POWER7 or POWER8 machines to your new POWER9 machine.

The new scale-out systems will use direct-attached industry standard DDR4 DIMMs in place of the custom buffered memory DIMMs that we saw on POWER8, making memory subsystem pricing more competitive with non-IBM servers. The memory subsystems will provide up to 170 GB/s of bandwidth.

The POWER9 processors will run up to eight threads, which should in particular provide a performance boost to applications that are written to exploit these additional threads. These systems are configured to have dynamic, adjustable processor frequencies. For example, a maximum performance mode setting will have different thermal and energy characteristics compared to other settings like static power save, dynamic performance, etc.

These six new systems consist of a Linux-only variant, three AIX and IBM i "traditional" servers, and two SAP HANA edition machines that will be capable of running limited AIX and IBM i workloads (up to 25 percent core activations total). Five of the systems will max out at 4 TB of memory; the S914 will max out at 1 TB.

The L922 Model

The L922 (model 9008-22L) is a 2U 1- or 2-socket system with 8, 10 or 12 cores per socket. This system is Linux-only. It has nine PCIe slots; five are Gen4 (4 CAPI 2.0), and four are Gen3. It can have up to eight small form factor drives.

The S922 Model

The S922 (model 9009-22A) is a 2U 1- or 2-socket system with 4, 8 or 10 cores per socket. This system will run AIX, IBM i or Linux. It has nine PCIe slots; five are Gen4 (4 CAPI 2.0), and four are Gen3. It can have up to eight small form factor drives.

The S914 Model

The S914 (model 9009-41A) is a 4U 1-socket system that will run AIX, IBM i or Linux. This is the only system that comes with a tower variant. It will have 4, 6, or 8 cores per socket, though keep in mind you still have the option to factory deconfigure cores on your systems if you find that one or two cores are sufficient for your smaller workloads. If you choose to go with four cores, you won't be able to attach I/O drawers to the machine. It will have eight PCIe slots; two are Gen4 (and CAPI 2.0 capable) and six are Gen3. There are options for 12 or 18 small form factor internal disks, and it will have an option to run on 110 VAC power. Reminder: This system will max out at 1 TB of memory.

The S924 Model

The S924 (model 9009-42A) is a 4U 2-socket system with 8, 10, or 12 cores per socket. It will run AIX, IBM i or Linux. It has a total of 11 PCIe slots; five are PCIe Gen4 (4 CAPI 2.0), and six are PCIe Gen3. There are options for 12 or 18 small form factor internal disks.

The S914, S924, and H924 are all capable of including internal RDX media. The selection of RDX will affect how many internal disks the machines can hold, but note that none of the six systems will have internal DVDs or tape drives. Plan on doing more with USB flash media, external USB connected DVDs and network based operating system installations going forward.

The H922 Model

The H922 (model 9223-22H) is a 2U 1- or 2-socket system with 4, 8 or 10 cores per socket. It will primarily run SAP HANA, but can run up to 25 percent AIX and IBM i core activations. It has nine PCIe slots; five are Gen4 (4 CAPI 2.0) and four are Gen3. It can have up to eight small form factor drives.

The H924 Model

The H924 (model 9223-42H) is a 4U 2-socket system with 8, 10, or 12 cores per socket. It will run SAP HANA with up to 25 percent AIX and IBM i core activations. It has a total of 11 PCIe slots; five are PCIe Gen4 (4 CAPI 2.0), and six are PCIe Gen3.

An interesting feature with all these machines (except for the L922) is the capability to run NVMe devices. The POWER9 scale-out systems will support up to 4 x 400 GB M.2 form factor NVMe devices on the S914, S922, S924, H922 and H924. This should be particularly beneficial for environments that include VIO servers, since the NVMe devices can be used as your internal boot media. This is certainly more convenient and cost effective compared with ordering a split backplane and hard drives.

The POWER9 Software Stack

Here's the software stack you'll need to run on these machines:

Firmware level FW910

HMC code level V9R1.910

VIOS 2.2.4, 2.2.5, 2.2.6

AIX 7.2 TL2

AIX 7.2 TL0, TL1 (P8 Compatibility Mode)

AIX 7.1 TL4, TL5 (P8 Compatibility Mode)

AIX 6.1 TL9 (P7 Compatibility Mode)

IBM i 7.3 TR4

IBM i 7.2 TR8

Ubuntu 16.04.4 LTS (P8 Compatibility Mode)

RedHat RHEL 7.4 LE (P8 Compatibility Mode)

SuSE SLES 11 SP4 (P8 Compatibility Mode)

SuSE SLES 12 SP3

For an overview of AIX 7.2, read this. Incidentally, I've seen roadmaps for AIX 7.1 and 7.2 that extend to 2027. Our future's so bright, AIX pros should don protective eyewear.

To round things out, there's a new 19-inch rack option, the 7965-S42.

Statement of Direction: AIX VM on Hyperconverged Systems

One other tidbit I caught in today's news: In a statement of direction, IBM said it "intends to enable selected AIX VM guests on IBM Hyperconverged Systems powered by Nutanix (CS series)." I wrote a previous AIXchange post about Nutanix running on POWER nodes, and I'll revisit this topic in the near future.

We've been talking about POWER9 for awhile now, but soon it will actually be in our computer rooms. I can't wait.

Posted February 13, 2018 | Permalink