IBM is rolling out the first of its Power7 systems as it looks to grab more market share in the $14 billion Unix server space from HP and Sun. The move comes as HP and Intel prepare to release the next-generation Itanium processor and Oracle looks to bring Sun into the fold.
IBM is rolling out the first systems
based on its new Power7 processors, setting the stage for a new round of
competition in the rapidly changing high-end server space.
IBM will officially unveil
the four new Power7 systems at an event Feb. 8 in New York.
At about the same time, at a press conference in San
Francisco that also will be Webcast, officials with
Intel and Hewlett-Packard are expected to officially release
the much-delayed next-generation version of the Itanium
All that comes as Oracle works to incorporate
SPARC/Solaris hardware line into its business, and Intel
and Advanced Micro Devices look to grab more high-end workloads with their x86
"We're seeing three very big vendors ... sharpening their elbows
a bit," Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, said in an interview.
IBM officials are looking to
, having gained 12 points of market share in the $14 billion
Unix space since 2005 and more than 2,200 HP and Sun server and storage
customers over the same time span.
"We view the Unix market as very, very robust and
mission-critical, and with [the Power7] platform, we have a perfect spot in the
market," Scott Handy, vice president of worldwide marketing and strategy for IBM's
Power systems platform, said in an interview.
With the new Power7
systems, IBM is offering greater
performance while consuming less energy than their predecessors, according to
Handy. The servers also dovetail with IBM's
Smarter Planet initiative, with capabilities to not only process large amounts
of data, but also to analyze that data at the same time.
According to IBM, the Power7
servers deliver twice the performance and four times the virtualization
capabilities for the same price as the Power6 servers, all the while consuming
half the energy.
They also offer better price for performance than comparable
systems from Sun and HP.
The new Power7
bring greater performance than the Power6 processors. Power7 offers
up to eight cores, with each core able to run up to four instruction threads,
enabling each chip to run 32 simultaneous tasks. That includes four times the
number of cores and eight times the number of threads per chip than in Power6.
However, the new servers come with more than just new chips,
Handy said. There are a host of new integrated hardware and software features
designed to increase performance and energy efficiency, Handy said.
TurboCore mode is a workload optimization feature that can have
four cores running, and putting the resources-include cache memory and memory
bandwidth-of the other four dormant cores before those active ones. It also can
increase the clock speed of those four active cores.
Not all systems will support TurboCore mode. Among the four new
servers, only the Power 780, designed for such high-end transaction workloads as
databases, will support TurboCore.
When not in TurboCore, all the Power7 systems are in MaxCore
mode, which takes advantage of its increase in thread count.
The chips also feature Intelligent Threads, a technology that
can dynamically change the number of threads being run depending on the type of
Another Power7 feature, dubbed Active Memory Expansion, uses
memory compression technology to make the physical memory appear to be twice as
large as it actually is, and can dynamically change the amount of compressed
memory based on workload demands.
In addition, IBM engineers
have optimized the company's middleware-including WebSphere, DB2 pureScale,
Lotus Domino and Rational-to take advantage of the new capabilities in the
Regarding virtualization, Power7 systems can support 1,000
virtual machines on a single physical server, four times as many as Power6
servers can support.
"They can put lots of virtual images on these machines and
really consolidate the number of servers," Handy said.
In addition, IBM's
Intelligent Energy technology lets customers power on and off parts of the
system, or ramp up or down processor speed based on thermal conditions and
system utilization, he said. Intelligent Energy can be run on a single server
or across multiple systems. The goal is to help users balance the competing
needs of energy consumption, performance and utilization.
The gains in performance and energy efficiency enable IT
administrators to do the same amount of work on fewer systems, or to do much
more work on the same number of servers, Handy said.
Along with the Power 780, IBM
is rolling out the Power 770, a midrange server with up to 64 cores; the Power
755, a high-performance cluster with 32 cores; and the Power 750 Express, a
IBM also is enhancing its
Systems Director Express, Standard and Enterprise
editions to make management easier and to bolster virtualization capabilities
through enhancements to VMControl.