Standing up to the competition: IBM Power 9

18. May 2018

Over the years, the IBM Power Infrastructure has proven itself to be a highly reliable yet affordable operating platform for business-critical applications. Now, the new generation IBM Power 9 devices also support the high-performance operation of private or hybrid clouds and are optimized for Linux environments and open source software.

Long dismissed by some as dinosaurs, the IBM Power Family (formerly IBM i / AS400) simply refuses to go extinct. Even today, it remains a staple in the IT world. And for good reason: every IBM Power System is secure, highly available and can be quickly adapted to evolving business needs. What’s more, IBM Power devices are made for today's demanding, data-intensive applications. In the age of big data, cognitive computing and artificial intelligence, the IBM Power 9 servers stand up next to other IT platforms.

Can we on the ITpoint power team judge this objectively?
Yes. We can base our assessment on our own analysis and the experience of the entire ITpoint technical and support teams, be it in local customer installations or our own data centers (shared and hybrid clouds). Every day, we look after very different operating platforms and manage their individual sensitivities and requirements. One thing is certain: compared to all the other IT infrastructures we have used, the IBM Power System demands significantly less intervention and costs. Once the IBM Power System is set into operation, it is virtually indestructible. This is a good feeling for anyone who has to guarantee highly available, secure IT operations that are also economically operated.

Trend: IBM Power Operation as a Managed Service
The question remains, how do we maintain the necessary know-how to care for the «dinosaurs» (keeping with the analogy): Are they going extinct? No, not at all. IBM is apparently still offering competitive business applications on its i/AIX platforms. So far, we haven’t encountered any strong desire among Swiss companies to get rid of it. On the other hand, the trend nowadays is to outsource operations to specialized managed service providers – this includes support for IBM Power Systems. The most recent example in the ITpoint data center is the international RONAL Group.

On a side note: For professional interaction between Swiss power supervisors, PiRT (Power i Round Table) is another option - check it out!

In concrete terms, here are the most important innovations in IBM Power 9

  • Approximately 1.5 x faster than Power 8
  • Better thread performance with higher efficiency thanks to selectable core placement, based on the application’s focus: 24 small, “slow” 4-thread cores for pure Linux operation or (as before) 12 large, fast 8-thread cores for IBMi, AIX, Linux and PowerVM.
  • New feature with direct attached memory (scale-out systems, optimized for two sockets). The multi-socket optimized scale-up systems with buffered memory (from approx. Q418) are still available.
  • Shorter latency thanks to the new external interrupt virtualization engine (XIVE): interrupts are now properly managed directly in the hardware. This reduces significant software overhead and allows user-level interrupts.
  • Optimized for open source and IBM software data-intensive workloads.
  • First server on the market with PCIe Gen4 interface. Appropriate adapters that support PCIe Gen4 will be released in 2018.
  • Power management mode allows you to choose between power and noise reduced dynamic operation or maximum performance.
  • The single chip modules (SCM) eliminate the licensing problem of multiple chips, which has been an issue with software vendors in the past.

Note: IBM Power 9 is only supported with HMC version 9, which only provides the new GUI. Administrators who want to “ease” their way into the transition should change their existing HMC to V8R8.6.0.x. This is the latest version that supports both the classic and new GUI.

The IBM Power 9 model series at a glance:

  • The L servers are optimized for Linux.
  • The S914 Power Server is inexpensive but limited. Still it is sufficient for standard use.
  • The S922 is similar to its big brother S924, with some limitations in the IO and licensing of IBMi.
  • The S924 is the “Ferrari” scale-out model, available with either one or two processors.
  • The H models of the Power 9 servers are intended for SAP HANA max 25% AIX, IBMi workload supported.

Are you looking for more in-depth information about IBM Power 9 and/or infrastructure operation with prime managed services? Please feel free to contact our Power Team. They will be happy to provide you with further information: power@itpoint.ch

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