Published in PC Hardware

Getting the Power back

by on12 May 2015

IBM takes on Xeon

Biggish blue is upgrading its Power chips so that they can better compete with Intels Haswell-EX Xeon E7 v3 processors.

For those who came in late Chipzilla jacked up its Xeons by scaling them scaling up to eight sockets using Intel's on-chip NUMA links. Biggish Blue has replied by expanding its high-end Power E880 machines, which scale out to a maximum of 16 sockets and 16 TB of main memory.

In an interesting article in the Platform , IBM accidently leaked details of these high-end boxes at its Edge2015. It was supposed to save them until its Las Vegas this week.

The final machine to be added to the Power8-based Power Systems lineup from Big Blue is the Power E850, and it is a four-socket machine that is aimed at HP, Dell, Oracle, Fujitsu, NEC, and others that employ Intel's Xeon E7-4800 v3 CPUs, which similarly support four-way NUMA clustering in their hardware.

The Power E850 includes some capacity-on-demand features that up until now have only been available on larger Power Systems machines. With capacity on demand, IBM ships a box loaded with processors and main memory and allows customers to activate it as needed either permanently or temporarily on a daily or monthly basis with utility pricing.

The base Power E850 system ships with two processors and a full memory complement (based on 16 GB, 32 GB, or 64 GB memory sticks) as a base, and customers active Power8 cores and memory in 1 GB increments.

The chips are based on IBM's "Murano" dual-chip module, which puts two linked half-cored Power8 chips into a single Power8 socket. The smaller chip has a high yield than a larger chip and IBM's 22 nanometer copper/SOI process does not have the volume advantages of Intel's 22 nanometer Tri-Gate process, which is used to make the Haswell-EX Xeon E7 v3 processors.

DCM variants of the Power8 chips have more I/O capacity on their PCI-Express controllers, at 48 lanes per second instead of the 32 lanes per socket that are used in the single-chip variants of the Power8 chips used in the high-end Power E870 and Power E880 systems, which respectively scale to eight and sixteen sockets in a single image.

We expect to hear more about Biggish Blue's plans later this week.

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