IBM POWER7 Event at Ontario Science Center- Summary

Under the auspices of the cryptic name “Perspectives on the Future of IT”,  IBM invited customer and partners around the GTA to the major POWER 7 announcement Tuesday Feb 9th at the Ontario Science Center. It was certainly good to see such a large crowd and packed house, well over 250 were in attendance. They must have all been able to decipher the code and know this was a big deal!!

A sure sign of recessionary times could easily have been that every presenter wore a dark suit, as did the majority of the audience.  Everyone was hoping and expecting IBM to show leadership by helping to drive technology and innovation into the dull market and create value for customers and partners alike. The session did not disappoint.

IBM’s continued, sustained investment in POWER technology architecture has put POWER7 about 2 full cycles ahead of Sun Microsystems and HP (translation: its 4-8 times better performance than their best). Customers and partners alike, wondering what to do with the colossal amount of processing power available need to think about the “Smarter Planet” theme. The “green” continent amongst us can be reassured that enormous energy saving that do the same work with 70% less energy.

Host of the event was Bruce Ross, GM of IBM Canada. Thanks Bruce! Bruce summarized the announcements and whet attendees appetite for more information.

Steve Sibley, VP STG IBM Canada walked through Smarter Planet thematic. Smarter Planet pushes us corporate citizens and earth inhabitants to think hard about how we can deploy new technology to make the world a better place. Three things have brought this about:

The world is becoming instrumented. By 2010, there will be a billion transistors per human, each one costing one ten-millionth of a cent. The world is becoming interconnected. With a trillion networked things—cars, roadways, pipelines, appliances, pharmaceuticals and even livestock—the amount of information created by those interactions grows exponentially. All things are becoming intelligent. Algorithms and powerful systems can analyze and turn those mountains of data into actual decisions and actions that make the world work better.

The applicability of this is global and local and cross industry. Canadian Government, traffic management, healthcare and transportation problems and potential solutions were illustrated and discussed.

Ray Williams, IBM Systems Advocate switched on the technology talk. He touted key technological features of the IBM platform including: Workload optimizing systems, virtualization without limits, management with automation and energy optimization.

It made me think that with POWER 7, you could finally operate AIX as if it were a mainframe. Yep, I mean you can now run all sorts of heterogeneous workloads at the same time in single AIX instance(WPARS), or dynamically across heterogeneous systems as (DLPARS), move apps from system to system while active (Live Partition Mobility) and basically do anything you wish to it (add, cede, share, pool) all with full workload isolation, workload management. To top it off, IBM brings Mainframe class clustering from Parallel Sysplex and build it into Clustered DB technology as in DB2PureScale. The net result: ability to optimize your systems resources, scale up or out as you need and maintain highest levels of service with lowest energy use.

The systems themselves are impressive. Blades and Enterprise systems were not announced, but what was includes:

  • IBM Power® 780, a new category of scalable, high-end servers, based on a unique IBM 19” rack with a an advanced modular design with up to 64 POWER7 cores and the new TurboCore™ workload optimizing mode. Think if it as a dressed up 770.
  • IBM Power 770 is  a midrange system with up to 64 POWER7 cores, featuring higher performance per core and using up to 70 percent less energy for the same number of cores as the IBM Power 570.
  • IBM Power 755 is  a high-performance computing cluster node with 32 POWER7 cores, Energy Star qualified for energy efficiency, and optimized for challenging analytic workloads: the type of stuff associated with Smarter Planet Intelligence!
  • IBM Power 750 Express is an Energy Star qualified business server for mid-market clients. The Power 750 Express is a 1- to 4-socket server using POWER7 6-core and 8-core processor options running at 3.0 GHz, 3.3 GHz or 3.55 GHz.

Those wanting to know more about Application Development were left with the thought that IBM has finally introduced consistent development environment and optimized compilers for i, AIX and Linux through Rational. But those who want details will definitely have to come to the TUG/IBM session at the Lab on Feb 17th

Bob Blainey, Director from IBM SWG SW talked about IBN SWG exploitation of IBM POWER7. To me, this was very interesting. Bob discussed how IBM software has always been system agnostic… so it shouldn’t matter if you run it on Intel, Sun, POWER (in theory). But with the advent of POWER7 a radical change happened, most notably at WebSphere, DB2 and Lotus. What you need to consider is the dramatic increase in the number of threads supported by he new architecture (4 way SMT per core, 32 threads per chip) so you need middleware that will automatically spawns threads to take advantage of the SMP architecture available if you really want to scale. The work to go to 32 threads and beyond shows up in the form of linear scalability in performance benchmarks… and something that is unmatched on other systems!  

Andreas Hofer, SAP Inc commented on the advantages of using DB2 for SAP installs. Many of those benefits stemming from close cooperation between IBM and SAP (including SAP employees working at IBM Canada Lab) as well as exploitation of POWER7 features!

Nigel Fortledge, VP IT Gat HY International, took a customer perspective and discussed how Power systems helps GHY tackle their challenges and problems every day. Notable to me was when Nigel mentioned that to him, HA means dual redundant systems with HA/DR software whereas to his management it meant having the system you got stay up 24X7! Pressure… Nigel’s company pioneered with consolidation, virtualization and  utilization with their POWER systems and hve been leaders in exploiting Open Source for commercial environments. Now he is keen on social networking and marketing enabled with Web2.0. Yep, that’ll help make a smarter planet and eat up that processing capability on those 8-core sockets!

IBM users love to hear from their peers so Nigel has a personal invitation from the TUG to come to TEC 2010 to share GHY experiences with our group.

In summary, the most valuable part of the session was IBM’s effort in bringing our community together… in person!! It was much appreciated. In our climate of non-stop webinars, teleconferences, wikis, you tube videos, it’s refreshing to be with your peers and be able to absorb new ideas and announcement in the flesh. How great to see so many of your peers with common interests in the same place. Readers would keep that in mind the next time a “real” event comes to town, such as our IBM-TUG MoM on Feb 17th. Technical vitality, networking and ability to absorb important new news is much better done in person. And so, the “elegant wine reception” as IBM advertised it, was one of the most valuable features.

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