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The eServer i5, i5/OS V5R3 Continue AS/400 Transformation.

By Timothy Prickett Morgan

IBM Corp will today announce what we have been reporting for quite some time: that OS/400 will be the first of IBM's four platforms to make use of the Power5 processors and the related "Squadron" server platforms. The new Squadrons, which will be sold as the eServer i5 servers, and their related OS/400 operating system, which has the new i5/OS V5R3 moniker, continue the transformation of the AS/400 system, from 1988, to a more modern and flexible server.

While much will be made of the re-rebranding of the AS/400 platform, this name change has less to do with existing AS/400 and iSeries customers and more to do with the marketing message that IBM will try to take to new customers. Let's talk about these brand name changes, get it out of the way, and then dive into the new hardware, which is the interesting stuff that actually affects the day-to-day operations in OS/400 shops.

In October 2000, IBM ditched the AS/400 name and moved to the "eServer iSeries 400," which everyone shortened to "iSeries," to try to indicate that the Power4-based AS/400s were really a different kind of animal from the AS/400 and AS/400e (the "e" is for e-business) systems and servers they replaced. IBM is taking one more step away from the AS/400 brand by emphasizing "eServer" and replacing "iSeries" with "i5," which sounds more like a model number than a name. This is the exact intent, which many of us have been expecting for quite some time. And the renaming of OS/400 V5R3 to i5/OS V5R3 does a few things. It puts the "5" part of the Power5 in the operating system name (as opposed to just in the release name). It gives the name "OS/400" the same form as the "z/OS" operating system (which used to be MVS and then OS/390). And, according to the people at IBM who are behind it, both Big Blue and its OS/400 independent software vendors will now have a name that does not have the green-screen stigma that our beloved OS/400 has. We've been forewarned that with the Power6 generation the servers will probably be called eServer i6 and the related operating system will be called i6/OS, and this process could carry through to the Power7 and Power8 generations. IBM only kept the V5R3 extension to the i5/OS name (rather than call it release 1.0) because it didn't want it to be considered "new" software (in the uncooked sense), and it wanted to keep the familiar V5R3 version-release structure that it has used since 1988. That could change at any time.

No matter what you call these boxes and their operating system, they are essentially AS/400s running OS/400 (and other stuff), and they support RPG and COBOL applications and the DB2/400 database. This is what matters to customers who are already in the AS/400 and iSeries fold.

For quite some time we have heard of the Model 520 and Model 570 servers, and that is what the new eServer i5 models are called. If these names have a familiar ring to them, it's because they are names that IBM was reportedly thinking about using for the Power4-based iSeries line, which used the Model 825, 870, and 890 names instead. The Model 520 can have one or two Power5 processor cores activated, while the Model 570 can have from one to four cores activated. The future 64-way Squadron box, presumably to be called the eServer i5 Model 590, is not expected until late 2004 or early 2005. While the iSeries line is getting the Squadron platform and its Power5 servers first (mainly because OS/400 already had a machine-independent hardware abstraction layer and support for logical partitions that made snapping in the new "Virtualization Engine" hypervisor a relative snap), it could turn out that the pSeries line gets the big Squadron boxes first when AIX 5L 5.3 is ready, in late September or early October.

In general, IBM says, the eServer i5 announcements provide about a 40% improvement in price/performance for configured systems, compared with the iSeries 8XX machines at their pricing levels before April 20. Two weeks ago, IBM dramatically cut processor prices on Model 810, Model 870, and Model 890 servers, and it chopped disk prices and slashed memory prices as well, to put iSeries prices more or less in line with the eServer i5 machines. In the coming weeks, I will do a thorough analysis of pricing and create an upgrade guide to give you a better sense of this as you plan. None of the eServer i5 hardware starts shipping until June 11, so we have a little time to plan.

The important thing with the Squadron machines, aside from new hardware and new packaging, is that IBM has made a commitment to keep iSeries and pSeries hardware prices in parity wherever features--processors, memory sticks, disk drives, adapters, chassis enclosures, and such--are used in both lines. Since 1997, when IBM launched the "Apache" generation of AS/400e and RS/6000 servers that used the same processor complexes, the AS/400 customer has been gouged at list price. Now IBM has promised to bring them into parity: same feature, same list price. This is significant progress, and it is something I have been growling about for a long time. But the battle is not yet over. What I know about the Unix server business is that the discount level is pretty steep, compared with the discounts seen in the AS/400 and iSeries market. To keep a gray market from appearing, IBM is going to have to discount similarly in the eServer i5 line once the pSeries versions of the Squadron boxes are out, or stop discounting so heavily on the Unix kit.

Another interesting aside that will come out in the announcements, about which I will go into in further detail, is that IBM has finally decided to let Linux run on the Integrated xSeries Server (IxS) and on external xSeries servers that attach to the iSeries (and now eServer i5) through Integrated xSeries Adapter (IxA) cards. By supporting Linux both on iSeries and i5 logical partitions, as well as on IxS and IxA-attached xSeries servers, IBM is finally letting customers make their own choices about where to deploy Linux. This is a good thing.

Just in case you haven't checked in for the past year and a half, and have missed all of our coverage of the Power5 chip and the future Squadron servers (which used to be known by the code-name "Armada"), here's a recap of the basic feeds and speeds of the Power5 processor. Like the Power4 and Power4+, the Power5 chips have two processor cores. These cores are modified Power4 cores, in that they have had simultaneous hyperthreading support added to them. Hyperthreading is a way of boosting the performance of a processor by making it look like two virtual processors to an operating system. (The S-Star PowerPC processors had hyperthreading, but the Power4s did not.) IBM is offering the Power5 processors in two forms, a single-chip module (SCM) and a multichip module (MCM), just as it did in the Power4 generation. The SCM has a single Power5 chip, which includes 64KB of L1 cache per core and a shared 1.9MB L2 cache in between the two cores; the Power5 chip also includes the L3 cache controller. The SCM has a separate set of chips to provide 36MB of L3 cache for the two Power5 cores to play with, as well as the interconnection electronics that allow many of these chips to be ganged up into MCMs.

IBM is debuting the Power5 chips running at 1.5GHz and 1.65GHz, and is tweaking the performance of the box in the i5 line using the traditional green-screen governors, as well as turning the L3 cache on and off. The eServer i5 machines come with familiar OS/400 editions--Value Edition, Standard Edition, and Enterprise Edition--that IBM debuted in January 2003 with the revamping of the iSeries line. The base eServer i5 machines do not include the minimum memory, disk drives, and other features needed to make them working machines in their prices. The prices in the table (which were all that was available at press time) only include the cost of the base server chassis, its processors, and the OS/400 license activation for the base processors in the box. In addition to the OS/400 Value, Standard, and Enterprise Editions, IBM is offering a new hardware-software bundle, called the Express Edition, which takes a bare-bones Value Edition, adds an appropriate amount of memory and disk capacity, and then cuts the price a bit off all of the components. IBM clearly is positioning the Express Edition configurations as the no-brainer sell for partners as they go into new accounts and into old accounts to dislodge old AS/400 gear.

The entry Squadron box is called the eServer i5 Model 520. It is available in a 4U rack-mounted chassis or in a tower configuration. As the table shows, there are 13 different Model 520 configurations, taking into account variations in processor performance, OS/400 edition, and other packaging options. The basic Model 520 box is a 4U chassis with a single 1.5GHz Power5 core activated; the 1.9MB, L2 cache activated; and no L3 cache. This server has up to eight hot-plug disk slots (only the first four are activated in base machines), six PCI-X slots, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and two HSL-2 ports (running 2 GB/sec, twice the bandwidth of the HSL-1 ports used in the prior iSeries machines). The machine also has two Hypervisor Management Console (HMC) ports.

The HMC is the outboard, Linux-based machine that I have been telling you about that is necessary to manage the OS/400, Linux, and AIX partitions (once the latter becomes available, in the third quarter of this year) on the eServer i5 machines. As we have been telling you, IBM will be supporting up to 10 logical partitions per processor with the Squadrons, but it is crimping the partition count on the low end because it reckons customers should have at least 240 to 250 CPWs of computing power per partition, and the governors are gearing down the entry Model 520 to only 500 CPWs. (CPW is short for Commercial Processing Workload, and it is a variant of the TPC-C benchmark that IBM uses to gauge the relative performance of its AS/400, iSeries, and i5 servers.) This HMC will come in a rack-mounted version that costs around $4,000 and a desktop version that will cost around $3,000. It is essentially a baby Linux server that only runs the partitioning manager. The HMC will be able to control the partitions for hundreds of servers, not just one machine. Of course, if you have just one iSeries machine and you want to use logical partitions, you will have to buy one. Incidentally, the magic number on partitions is a maximum of 254 per machine, and that is only on the biggest boxes that are not yet available.

The Model 520s running i5/OS Value Edition come in two flavors. One runs at 30 CPWs on green-screen workloads, with 500 CPWs available for other types of applications, while the other has twice the performance. Both have the exact same single 1.5GHz Power5 core activated with the 1.9MB, L2 cache. The machine supports up to 32GB of main memory (512MB base is required but is not included in the CEC-only base price), which is a lot for a uniprocessor, up to 18 IxS cards, up to eight IxA cards, and up to 278 disk drives, for a total of 19 TB of capacity. The base disk drive in the machine is a 10K RPM, 35GB disk drive. The machine includes a non-RAID disk controller on the motherboard, which can be upgraded to a RAID controller the addition of a special daughter card that includes 16 MB of write cache and which will not eat a PCI-X slot.

The 500/30 CPW variant of the Model 520 Value Edition configuration supports two partitions, with one of them being i5/OS. (Technically, i5/OS is not required as a partition manager as OS/400 was in past iSeries boxes, thanks to the new hypervisor, but IBM does not sell an eServer i5 machine without an i5/OS license.) The larger Model 520 Value Edition (1000/60 CPWs) can support four logical partitions and requires that customers install at least 1 GB of main memory and one 35 GB disk drive.

There are three Model 520 Express Editions that are based on the two Model 520 Value Editions. The first is a 500/30 CPW box with 1GB of main memory, two 35GB disks, a 30 GB quarter-inch tape drive, a DVD ROM drive, a twinax controller, i5/OS (including WebSphere Express and DB2/400), and a year's prepaid Software Maintenance for $11,500. IBM says that this is a $5,500 saving (about 32%) off the cost of the box at list price. A pricier Model 520 Express Edition throws in DB2 Query Manager, Query/400, WebSphere Developers Studio, and iSeries Access, which would normally cost $23,700, but will cost $14,500 including software maintenance. The largest Model 520 Express Edition box boosts the performance from 500/30 CPWs to 1000/60 CPWs, with a street price of $29,900, down 36% off the price of the components if you create the same box yourself. The Model 520 Value Edition and Express Edition boxes effectively replace the Model 800 and smallest Model 810 machines in the current line.

Further up the new eServer i5 line are the Model 520 Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition boxes, which come in four power points. These machines use both the 1.5GHz and 1.65GHz Power5 processors, which can have zero interactive processing activated (Standard Edition) or fully interactive processing (Enterprise Edition). These four machines come with 1000, 2400, 3300, or 6000 CPWs of performance activated and span from $12,000 to $104,000 with i5/OS Standard Edition and from $48,000 to $270,000 with i5/OS Enterprise Edition. The 3300 and 6000 CPW machines have the 36MB of L3 cache turned on. On the smallest Model 520 in this class, with only 1000 CPWs, IBM is only supporting four logical partitions. But the remaining machines have enough oomph to support ten partitions per activated processor core. These eight Model 520 machines span the biggest Model 810 and all Model 825 machines in the iSeries line. Prices for these machines range from $12,000 to $270,000 for the base central processing complex and i5/OS license.

The eServer i5 Model 570 is the basic building block of a range of machines that will eventually replace the iSeries 16-way Model 870 and the 32-way Model 890 "Regatta-H" servers. But IBM is not quite ready yet, and can only for the moment get a four-way Model 570 out the door. This machine is very similar to the Model 520, except two disk slots are sacrificed so an extra Power5 processor card can slip into the box. It's the same 4U chassis with a different cover. IBM says that later this year it will debut a kicker to the current four-way Model 570 that will allow two, three, or four of these machines to be lashed together into a big SMP server spanning from 1 to 16 processors. As I have suspected, the Model 570 has a similar feel to the "Summit" xSeries servers, which use four-way cell boards and sophisticated interconnection technology adapted from the former Sequent unit to create bigger SMP servers.

My back-of-the-envelope calculations show that a 16-way machine using 1.65GHz Power5 cores should have about the same performance (and maybe 5% to 10% more) as a current top-end 32-way Model 890 using 1.3GHz Power4 processors. Only IBM's largest OS/400 customers will need more power than this, and if they do need it prior to when the full 64-way Squadron (presumably using more complex and expensive Power5 MCMs) become available, IBM is right now shipping a 1.9GHz Power4+ processor that should be able to deliver around 54,650 CPWs of power in a 32-way configuration.

The Model 570 comes in two configurations and can run i5/OS Standard Edition or Enterprise Edition. Both configurations use the 1.65GHz Power5 cores and both machines have the 1.9MB L2 cache and 36MB of L3 cache activated per processor card. The Model 570 with a single processor card can run at 3300 or 6000 CPWs, depending on if one or two cores are activated. The more scalable Model 570 comes with two processor cards, each with a single core activated and with its own L3 cache, which is why thus two-way machine is rated at 6350 CPW instead of 6000 CPW like the other Model 520s and 570s in the i5 line. Customers can activate two more cores to boost the performance to 11,700 CPWs in this model. Apparently activating only three cores is not an option on the Model 570, but jumping from two to four cores can be done on the fly with the capacity on demand features IBM has been offering for years.

The Model 570 has to be configured with at least 2GB of main memory per CPU card. The models with a single CPU card spans up to 32GB of main memory and up to 278 disk drives (19TB), just like the Model 520. it has a single HSL-2 loop and can support 18 IxS cards, 8 IxA cards, and six disk drives inside the 4U chassis. The dual CPU card models can support up to 64GB of main memory, up to 39TB of disk, up to 36 IxS cards, and up to 16 IxA cards. All of these Model 570 variations can support up to 10 logical partitions per activated processor core. Prices for the Model 570 range from $74,000 to $498,000.
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Publication:Computergram International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 4, 2004
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