Archive for the 'p6' Category

Oracle gets big on Sun

Predicting the Future, The Oracle concept watches by Designer Andy Kurovets mixes time with Chinese philosophy

Predicting the Future, The Oracle concept watches by Designer Andy Kurovets mixes time with Chinese philosophy

Fascinating news. I didn’t see a single consultant, analyst, journalist predict this. WRT to the supposed IBM/SUN on/off deal, I guess the biggest part to work out is how this will effect Oracle products on IBM Power Systems servers.

Oracle was definately the most significant software product on Power systems, I assume if Oracle decides it wants to keep the SPARC hardware architecture alive, it’s going to have to start favouring SPARC over Power. If nothing else, one assumes the fees IBM pays Oracle for Power support/currency/testing etc. will likely go up. Fascinating indeed.

I guess that also puts Oracle into competition with Dell and HP too, not just becuase of their SUN x86 hardware, but also again for platform currency. I didn’t dial-in to the investor call this morning, but I wonder how many are already wondering what the chances are of Oracle spending a year to work out how to sell-off the parts of Sun it doesn’t want, like the hardware business, but keeping the bits it does want, like Java and the other key software assets and intellectual property. Fascinating indeed.

However, if this knoxnews.com picture is anything to go by, Oracle have some work to do on their Industrial design and human factors for their hardware.

Whither IBM, Sun and Sparc?

So the twitterati and blog space is alight with discussion that IBM is to buy Sun for $6.25 billion. The only way we’ll know if there is any truth to it is if it goes ahead, these rumors are never denied.

Everyone is of course focussed on the big questions which mostly are around hardware synergies(server, chips, storage) and Java. Since I don’t work at IBM I have no idea whats going on or if there is any truth to this. There some more interesting technical discussions to be had than those generally think they have an informed opinion.

IBM bought Transitive in 2008; Transitive has some innovative emulation software, called QuickTransit. It allows binaries created and compiled on one platform, to be run on another hardware platform without change or recompilation. There were some deficiencies, and you can read more into this in my terse summary blog post at the time of the acquisition announcement. Prior to acquisition QuickTransit supported a number of platforms including SPARC and PowerMac and had been licensed by a number of companies, including IBM.

I assume IBM is in the midst of their classic “blue rinse” process and this explains the almost complete elimination of the Transitive web site(1), and it’s nothing more sinister than they are getting ready to re-launch under the IBM branding umbrella of POwerVM or some such.

Now, one could speculate that by acquiring SUN, IBM would achieve three things that would enhance their PowerVM stratgey and build on their Transitive acquisition. First, they could reduce the platforms supported by QuickTransit and over time, not renegotiate their licensing agreements with 3rd parties. This would give IBM “leverage” in offering binary emulation for the architectures previsouly supported, on say, only the Power and Mainframe processor ranges.

Also, by further enhancing QuickTransit, and driving it into the IBM microcode/firmware layer, thus making it more reliable, providing higher performance by reducing duplicate instruction handling, they could effectively eliminate future SPARC based hardware utilising the UNIX based Power hardware, PowerVM virtualization. This would also have the effect taking this level of emulation mainstream and negating much of the transient(pun intended) nature typically associated with this sort of technology.

Finally, by acquiring SUN, IBM would eliminate any IP barriers that might occur due to the nature of the implementation of the SPARC instruction set.

That’s not to say that there are not any problems to overcome. First, as it currently stands the emulation tends to map calls from one OS into another, rather than operating at a pure architecture level. Pushing some of the emulation down into the firmware/microcode layer wouldn’t help emulation of CALL SOLARIS API with X, Y, even if it would emulate the machine architecture instructions that execute to do this. So, is IBM really committed to becoming a first class SOLARIS provider? I don’t see any proof of this since the earlier announcement. Solaris on Power is pretty non-existentThe alternative is that IBM is to use Transitive technology to map these calls into AIX, which is much more likely.

In economic downturns, big, cash rich companies are kings. Looking back over the last 150 years there are plenty of examples of big buying competitors and emerging from the downturn even more powerful. Ultimately I believe that the proprietary chip business is dead, it’s just a question of how long it takes for it to die and if regulators feel that by allowing mergers and acquisitions in this space is good or bad for the economy and the economic recovery.

So, there’s a thought. As I said, I don’t work at IBM.

(1) It is mildly ammusing to see that one of the few pages left extoles the virtues of the Transitive technology by one Mendel Rosenblum, formerly Chief Scientist and co-founder of VMWare.

2008 IBM Power Systems Technical University featuring AIX and Linux

Yep, it’s a mouthful. I’ve just been booking some events and presentations for later in the year, and this one, which I had initially hoped to attend clashes with one, so now I can’t.

However, in case the snappy new title passed you buy, it is still the excellent IBM Technical conference it used to be when it was the IBM System p, AIX and Linux Technical University. It runs 4.5 days from 8 – 12 September in Chicago and offers an agenda that includes more than 150 knowledge-packed sessions and hands-on training delivered by top IBM developers and Power Systems experts.

Since the “IBM i” conference is running alongside, you can choose to attend sessions in either event. Sadly I couldn’t find a link for the conference abstracts, but there is more detail online here.

Time for dinner – The IBM Hydro-cluster

I got an email pointing out that I omitted a link to the youtube video of the IBM hydro-cluster. So, here it is.

Towards the end of the video, Jeff Gluck says “hot water can be moved off site”, “to heat your home or cook a family dinner”. In the famed Larry and Brin, “do no evil” context, I guess this is goodness. While I appreciate that there is a very serious side to the “greening” of the datacenter, I couldn’t help but laugh.

Back in the 1970’s on one of the first large scale computer servers, aka mainframes I worked on, we used to store takeaways inside the server for 4-5 hours to keep it warm on evening and night shift. The really scary thing, back in those days microwaves didn’t exist!

The IBM 370/145 was a T-shaped server, laying on its back, the whole back of the T was largely empty, ready in case you wanted to upgrade to a 370/148 or 155(I think). So it became common place to store stuff in there that you wanted to keep warm and dry. Ideal for takeaway and girlie magazines(so I’m told!).

It takes a team – April Power Systems Announcements

I’ve had a few emails asking me if I was going to write a log entry on this month announcements, and to be honest I wasn’t. They are an impressive list of products, branding and customer announcements. I wasn’t anything to do with them, given I’m no longer asked to do marketing/sales types presentations, I picked that time to go do the Machupichhu/Inca trail trip in Peru.

The April announcements though were a credit to the teamwork across the even more global IBM. Core Processor and server development teams in Austin and Rochester, worked with domain specialists in Poughkeepsie and Boeblingen. On top of this were the software development and test teams in India, China and and ever increasing number of places.

The new UNIX enterprise server, the Power™ 595 is an impressive beast if the charts are anything to go by. I’m hoping to get Nancy to take me across the building to the test bring-up to have an up close and personal look sometime this week. The new POWER6 “Hydro-Cluster” supercomputer, the Power 575, is very impessive using a new super-dense system, with a unique, in-rack, water-cooling system and with 448 processor cores per rack. Apprently it offers users nearly five times the performance and more than three times the energy efficiency of its predecessor, IBM’s POWER5+™ processor running upto a industry busting clock cycle of up to 5 GHz.

These Super-dense systems are starting to become a really interesting value prop. On Friday I got a link to the IBM.COM public website that included a video on our iDATAPLEX offering. It was there Saturday and has gone today, but it was there as this search in the current google index shows. The video doesn’t show any technical details but does give an interesting insight into this x86 based super-dense, Internet scale, behemoth of a server. I was hoping there was other public comment or blog entries I could leach off for discussion points, but the only search results return job postings 😉

Anyone go to the iDATAPLEX session at IMPACT 2008 and want to comment ??

It’s a performance double-up for Power!

That got your attention didn’t it?

We’ve announced another performance and benchmark record this week, IBM WebSphere Application Server benchmark involved more than 109,850 concurrent clients and produced 14,004.42 SPECjAppServer2004 JOPS@Standard (jAppServer Operations Per Second), which translates into more than 50 million business transactions over the course of the benchmark’s hour-long runtime. That’s a lot of clients, and a lot of transactions!

The performance run was completed on IBM POWER6 BladeCenter servers powered by two dual-core IBM® POWER6® 4.0 GHz processors and IBM DB2 Universal Database v9.5 on a System p p595 running AIX.

We ran the test over 52-processors, 2-cores per processor and with SMT on. The software config included 26 WAS instances. Now, the issue here isn’t performance, 26-instances isn’t so bad from a config and deployment perspective either. But wouldn’t it be better if you could bundle that all up into a couple of racks and use cloning, automatic deployment, recovery, scheduling etc. and on an even more consolidated, energy efficient platform.

Funnily enough, we are working on that. The IBM Press release mentions IMPACT 2008, that might be good timing, I won’t be there as I’m off to do the Machu Picchu thing at the start of April.

Prior to the new WebSphere+Power double-up, the 4Q2007 record was held by Oracle on HP-UX Integrity Server Blade Cluster, with 10,519.43 JOPS over 24 server instances on 22 2-core processors; Sun also submitted a SPARC T5120 SPECjAppServer2004 benchmark with Sun Java System Application Server 9.1 running 6-nodes, 18-server instances on 48-cores, 6-chips and only scored 8,439.36 JOPS.

You can read the full press release with links to SPEC and IMPACT 2008 here.

IBM Power p570 Datamation Enterprise Server of the Year 2008

Feb. 12th Datamation announced their product of the year awards, the IBM Power Systems p570 server won enterprise server of the year, up against the IBM System x 3950 M2 Server, the HP MediaSmart Server, and the Dell PowerEdge 2970.

Details on all the award winners are here.


About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I'm an information technology optimist.


I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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