IBM Aims New Power7 Systems at the Smarter Planet

IBM launches a set of Power7 systems that it says deliver up to four times the energy efficiency and twice the performance of the previous generation of Power systems and some of the current crop of competing systems.

NEW YORK-IBM launched a set of new Power7 systems that it says deliver up to four times the energy efficiency and twice the performance of the previous generation of Power systems and some of the current crop of competing systems.

At an old fashioned reach-out-and-touch launch at the swanky Mandarin Oriental Hotel here, Rod Adkins, senior vice president of IBM's Systems and Technology Group, laid out IBM's strategy for its new ecofriendly systems.

Indeed, Adkins laid the foundation for the launch event at the outset.

"This is not a chip announcement; this is a systems announcement," he said. "This is not a reaction or adjustment, or a new strategy based on a new acquisition. This is not a bag-of-parts announcement. This announcement is grounded in R&D developments."

Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT who witnessed the IBM Power7 systems launch, told eWEEK: "Power7 really qualifies as a highly innovative next-generation architecture. As the market moves more and more to x86-type systems, it's important for companies that have their own processors to demonstrate how much headroom their microprocessor infrastructure has. Power7 demonstrates that in spades. It delivers more performance and a high degree of system flexibility for the same price as the previous generation. And IBM is delivering all that without asking the customer to pay for it. In this economy that is all to the good."

The Power7 systems also fit well with IBM's Smarter Planet strategy, in which more smart systems must be managed and integrated into traditional IT environments.

Adkins said the growth in computing has been relatively steady up to now. However, as we enter the "decade of smart," the need for more systems with "intelligent performance" will increase. The Power7 systems will fill that role, he said.

"The important subtext is the new systems can provide a significant increase in performance that is germane to current computing workloads, but are also designed with next-generation workloads in mind," King said. "I'm talking about the instrumented world where businesses are informed and improved by gaining information from millions of sensors and sources. And IT vendors must step up and develop systems that can take in and make sense of that information. The sheer leap in performance of the Power7 should enable businesses to take advantage of 'Smarter Planet' apps. And this bodes well for the future of the Power systems road map-if we can see this much improvement between Power6 and Power7, what can we expect for Power8?"

As an example of the kinds of workloads to be expected, Adkins noted that there are now 1.3 billion RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags generating information, there are more than a trillion connected objects and computers have branched beyond the data center. And systems are becoming much more integrated and smarter, he said.

These changes and future workloads such as smart grids will only add to the current infrastructure that's already under stress, Adkins said.

To help handle these issues, "there's a new type of performance needed here: intelligent performance where you look at patterns of data and start to predict outcomes. Intelligent performance is the ability to deal with real time data and analytics," he said.

The Power7 represents a move from raw performance to intelligent performance, Adkins added. "This is a systems approach, to focus on integration and deep optimization [of IBM core technology] to drive innovation into every layer of the stack," he said.

Ross Mauri, general manager of IBM Power Systems, said the Power7 systems are designed to manage millions of transactions in real time. "The systems are designed for a Smarter Planet," he said, noting that the new systems are designed to scale quickly and efficiently, enable a flexible flow of resources, avoid downtime, save energy and automate management tasks.

"With a Power7 you can analyze data from billions of Smarter Planet devices," Mauri said.

The new Power7 systems include:

""??Ç IBM Power 780, a new category of scalable, high-end servers, featuring an advanced modular design with up to 64 POWER7 "cores," or CPUs, and the new TurboCore workload optimizing mode. TurboCore can deliver up to two-times the performance per core of POWER6 processor-based systems providing excellent ROI for applications with high per-core performance requirements, such as managing and analyzing transactions from a smart electrical grid.??Ç IBM Power 770, a midrange system with up to 64 POWER7 cores, featuring higher performance per core than POWER6 processors and using up to 70 percent less energy for the same number of cores as the IBM Power 570.??Ç IBM Power 755, a high-performance computing cluster node with 32 POWER7 cores, Energy Star qualified for exceptional energy efficiency, and optimized for the most challenging analytic workloads.??Ç IBM Power 750 Express, an Energy Star qualified business server for mid-market clients offering 4 times the processing capacity of its predecessor, the IBM Power 550 Express in the same energy envelope and up to five-times the performance and seven-times the performance per watt of comparable Sun and HP UNIX servers.""

Mauri said IBM actually released several Power7 systems into the wild as early as August 2009 to let a few key customers use them.

One such customer was Kamran Khan, vice provost of IT at Rice University. Rice University is using the systems in conjunction with the Texas Medical Center to look for better ways to treat and possibly cure cancer.

"Cancer is going to take over as the No. 1 killer of people-right now it's heart disease-but cancer is going to overtake that," Khan said. "So we look at how to use computational power to be able to do things. We're looking at computational quantum chemistry, so it's not business data, but we do a lot of data analysis. Quick computational research is very much needed" for purposes such as visualizations, simulation, DNA analysis and algorithms. "We're on the systems now and we're seeing lots of benefits," said Khan, whose organization uses the Power7 systems in a cluster.

"Scalability is very critical to us, but so is having high availability," Khan said. He said Rice practices a condo-computing model in which researchers are allotted research time. "We are able to insert these 'condos' and build a system as well as have a lot of common areas."

Another user, Terry Keene, president and CEO of iSys (Integration Systems), said he has been selling IBM systems to Wall Street for years and just three years ago only one-third of all broker deals were done by computers, but today more than two-thirds are done electronically, with one-third or fewer conducted by voice. "They need trading to happen in under 100 microseconds," Keene said. The Power7 systems can deliver this, he said. "We need to scale things with a much smaller footprint. Power7 is going to change that whole scale framework."

eMeter, a leading maker of software that runs e-grids, uses IBM Power Systems to process the extreme amount of data that comes in from millions of smart meters while analyzing that information on the fly. In Canada, operators of Ontario's grid, the IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator)-which provides centralized metering services for more than 90 utility companies within Ontario Province-use eMeter software on IBM Power Systems to process hourly power consumption data from all residential customers.

At the Power7 systems launch, Scott Smith, client business manager for eMeter, said, "There are hundreds of millions of meters all talking back to us over the 'net, and our goal is to take all that data and roll it back into business processes ... Utilities are now at a crossroads. They have to be efficient, green and now a service industry for the first time. They have to focus on customer service."

Moreover, "eMeter ran a successful benchmark on IBM Power6 systems for more than 20 million smart meters-more than four times [the] scale of any other utilities industry benchmark," Smith said in a statement. "We know that there are already markets in the world that are scaling significantly. Combining eMeter and IBM's Power7 we are confident we can hit much higher numbers to meet their needs."

At the Power7 systems launch, Smith said eMeter has aspirations to support 50 million smart meters with the Power7 systems. "Data is the element of this equation," Smith said. "We need systems to manage that data. We're going to have 1,000 times more data. So I need systems that integrate with business processes" to handle that data.

Meanwhile, Mauri said all of the IBM Software Group brands have developed optimized solutions for the Power7 systems. In addition, Adkins said IBM will be working more closely with ISV partners to deliver Power7-optimized versions of their products.