IBM Preps for Power7 Processor Release

IBM is offering what it is calling an easy upgrade path for Power6-based server users who will want to move to Power7 when it is available in the first half of 2010. Power7 will offer greater virtualization capabilities, as well as two to three times the performance within the same power envelope, IBM says. In addition, IBM announced System Director VMControl, which offers businesses an easier way to manage their virtualized environments.

IBM is readying servers that will ship with the upcoming Power7 processor, which officials say will offer two to three times the performance of the current Power6 systems while using the same amount of energy.

IBM officials made the announcement July 21. In addition, the company announced new system management software designed to make it easier for users to manage their virtual environments, and unveiled a new center that aims to help businesses better manage the servers in their data centers.

The introduction of the Power7 systems, which reportedly will start shipping in the first half of 2010, comes at an interesting time for the Unix community. Oracle is about to buy Sun Microsystems for $7.4 billion, and there are questions about the future of Sun's hardware portfolio, including the UltraSPARC-based Unix servers. Sun officials have been expanding the reach of Solaris, Sun's Unix variant, into the x86 server realm through deals with Dell, IBM and Hewlett-Packard, but the UltraSPARC-based servers constitute a huge Solaris installed base.

In addition, Intel in May announced it was again delaying the release of "Tukwila," the next-generation Itanium processor. HP has standardized its high-end Integrity systems on Itanium, and it's on those systems that the vendor runs its HP-UX operating system.

In the announcement July 21, IBM officials said the company had created an upgrade path to the Power7-based servers. Businesses can buy a Power6-based Power 595 and Power 570 server now, and then easily upgrade by replacing the processor books and system controllers with those from Power7, all while staying within the same system. Applications can then easily be imported to the Power7 systems by using IBM's PowerVM Live Partition Mobility or AIX Live Application Mobility offerings.

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IBM officials say Power7 will offer enhanced virtualization and management capabilities. The chips, which will come with four, six and eight processing cores, will include PowerVM improvements that will enable businesses to consolidate up to 1,000 virtual machines onto a single physical server.

IBM also is enhancing the virtualization capabilities in its System Director management software through the introduction of Systems Director VMControl.

With the new software, enterprises can discover, monitor and locate virtual resources, create and manage VMs and run workloads through an interface common to IBM's System z mainframes, System x x86 servers, BladeCenter blade systems and Power servers running AIX, Linux and i platforms.

The Director VMControl Express Edition enables businesses to create, change and delete VMs and move them to other locations. With the Standard Edition, enterprises will be able to import, create, delete and deploy virtual images and keep those images in a virtual library.

An Enterprise Edition, due for release later in 2009, will enable businesses to also manage pools of virtual systems.

The Express and Standard editions will be available for download July 24.

"IBM is serious about addressing clients' needs for heterogeneous virtualization management with consumable, simplified and integrated packaged offerings," Scott Handy, vice president of IBM Power Systems, said in a statement.

IBM's TCO Center of Excellence is aimed at helping businesses get a handle on server sprawl in their data centers. IBM officials said Power systems and PowerVM virtualization software are designed to help businesses consolidate by eliminating under-used Unix and x86 servers and putting those workloads onto fewer Power systems.