back to article Power7+ chips debut in fat IBM midrange systems

IBM has taken the wraps off the first of its Power Systems machinery to make use of its cache-heavy Power7+ processors, and as El Reg anticipated from the hints in the announcement invitation put out two weeks ago, Big Blue is starting near the top of the line as it upgrades systems that run AIX, IBM i (formerly known as OS/400 …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah another TPM/IBM Love-in...

    >> If enough customers ask for such a thing, you can bet IBM will sell 'em. Just because Big Blue didn't do it before doesn't mean it can't do it now.

    I've had the impression that IBM has sold a very small number of p795s - the price being so high vs the competition that they usually have to move down to the p7[78]0. Of course their sales teams do the usual IBM bait and switch routine - sell customers on the enterprise features of the p795 before moving them to the smaller/less feature rich systems,

    >> A chip that ships on time is the exception, not the rule.

    Unless it's Itanium eh? And then of course shpping late is some kind of huige catastrophe which shows the world why they shouldn't use it and should stick with IBM?

    >> The proper response there would be to charge half as much for AIX and DB2, but what do I know about marketing against Larry Ellison?

    This has been the odd argument that IBM have been using to indemnify themselves against what happened between HP and Oracle - they say "Oracle could never do that to us - we have DB2, and we'll just swap out Oracle for that!" The reality of course is that this isn't so easy for a lot of customers even if it is an option (most databases are fronted up by applications - how many have DB2 on their supported list?) - the cost of the tin and licenses is often insignificant compared to the cost of migration, remediation and testing when moving to a new database (and before anyone starts bangiong on about the Oracle compatability layer in DB2, sorry we are talking real world here, not penny-ante test databases in lab environments). So if I were IBM, I wouldn't be so sure that Oracle has a rosy future on AIX - HP have a contract tested in court (for what its worth), as far as we know, IBM don't even have that.

    >> All three machines also now have what IBM calls elastic capacity on demand, which is 15 processor-days of free capacity that come as part of the base price of the system, giving customers a little extra head room for a utility-style price.

    Pretty sure HP systems have had this "free x days of capacity" with every inactive CPU purchased for a long time (> 5 years?)

    >> customers would be wise to get some capacity planning help from IBM to figure out how their own applications might benefit as they jump from Power5, Power6, or Power7 chips to the new Power7+ chips in Power 770+ or Power 780+ systems

    >> IBM is also tossing in a PowerCare consulting gig, worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000, which consists of a two-week engagement with Global Services, for each Power 780+ and Power 795 deal.

    And here's the rub - consultancy and services - the capacity planning will cost you (in most cases), and bets the $20K of free consultancy tells you you need to spend more on IBM consultancy?

  2. Peter Scott

    Forget the speed!

    Just look at the "stealth"door on the 780 cabinet. Those angles.

    Bet if you look in the data hall with radar, that looks just like an iPad

  3. Phil 4

    Smoke and Mirrors anyone?

    Well, maybe we need to give IBM the benefit of the doubt since the webcast hasn’t even started yet and most of the launch materials have been released early. What I find amazing are the following!

    1) VERY CONFUSING GHZ/cores/socket configurations between Power 770+ and Power 780+ - Time for a new decoder ring! How the hell do you figure out which is best for your workload? More work to feed the IGS folks!

    2) The 8-core Power7+ chip runs at a slower clock speed than Power7 (3.7GHz vs 3.86GHz) but the 4-core Power7+ chip runs at faster clock speed than Turbo-core Power7 chip it replaces? (4.42GHz vs 4.14GHz TC). So much for 8-core superiority?

    3) Only Power770 and Power780 systems have been updated-Wheres the rest of the product line or will we have to wait a whole year for Power7+ to be released across the product line?

    - Theres no Power7+ DCM based systems, No improvements to blades, Power entry and mid range systems untouched-maybe next year?

    4) Looks like Turbo-core mode appears to be DEAD!

    5) Many of the benchmark results on Power 780 Power7+ were run with 4 cores/CPU or 6 cores/CPU and not 8 cores/CPU, hiding many of the scalability challenges of doubling cores per socket.

    6) Theres no database benchmarks (unless you call SAP SD-2 Tier a DB benchmark), no TPC-C, TPC-H, no SPECjEnterprise2010, no Oracle SW benchmarks, no Sybase, No Peoplesoft, No Siebel, no Websphere, etc.

    7) Theres no improvements to I/O / PCI-Express - no PCI-E Gen 3! IBM continues to use outdated PCIe Gen2, I/O backplane that was introduced with the model MMC.

    8) And heres the kicker. While Oracle continues to get kicked on making benchmark claims, IBM isn't? when stating "IBM Lab testing"

    Where are the public proof points on real world (new) benchmarks showcasing the 20-30% performance improvement claimed? Theres no OLTP ore Java enterprise results published so IBM cant prove these statements publicly. Publishing results on 6+ year old benchmarks is lame.

    From IBM press release:

    "IBM lab testing showed clients have a denser compute node with 20 to 30 percent per core performance improvement and the new POWER7+ processors deliver improved application performance. Expectations are as much as 40 percent improvement with Java based workloads and as much as 30 percent with traditional OLTP and ERP environments compared to POWER7"

    1. Kebabbert

      Re: Smoke and Mirrors anyone?

      5) Everybody knows there are scalability difficulties. Well see later when IBM releases more info.

      6) Those benches will come in due time.

      8) Yes, the author Timothy PM is very clearly IBM biased, and that is the reason he critizices Oracle, while IBM gets away with anything. But everybody knows this.



      I think it is was interesting to see that the POWER7+ was only 20% faster than the POWER7. I wonder how much faster the POWER8 will be. If it is only 20% faster too, then Intel might have caught up on POWER8 when it is released, in terms of performance.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Smoke and Mirrors anyone?

      I see the Power7+ SPECint and SPECfp scores are in. Even if these numbers don't tell the whole story about performance they are certainly important and the benchmarks are really easy to execute. Only reason not to publish those is that you have something to hide.

      Let's see what Oracle has done:

      T3 was at the time very competetive on throughput, not so on single thread. --> Oracle released throughput benchmarks.

      No SPEC benchmarks released for the T4. Wonder why.

      No T5 yet. When these finally make it to the market it will be interesting to see if they are followed by SPEC numbers. If so I bet they are good.

      1. tom 99

        Re: Smoke and Mirrors anyone?

        > No SPEC benchmarks released for the T4. Wonder why.

        Hmm... let's think. Same core/core performance as T3?

        And another news: so much for Oracle promises. Last year Larry promised T5 processor and systems to be announced in 2012. OpenWorld is over. No traces of T5. 2013?

        1. Phil 4

          Re: Smoke and Mirrors anyone?

          No SPEC CPU2006 benchmarks released on SPARC T4 because Oracle is focused on developing SPARC processors for systems to accelerate commercial software, not HPC, not games. SPEC is a RAW CPU benchmark that doesn’t test anything but the CPU. SPEC CPU2006 does not test I/O nor networking nor *ANY* SW including the Operating System, database, application server, Java, etc. It doesn’t test encryption/decryption if its on-chip. It doesn’t test flash cache algorithms. It doesn’t test system I/O-critical for database performance. It is good for evaluating the compute performance of the CPU, but not necessarily the system as a whole and Oracle is focused on selling optimized systems, demonstrating the values of the red stack, and not CPUs.

          There is little correlation between SPEC CPU2006 results and database performance. You can have leading SPEC CPU2006 results and poor database performance.

          If you look at the definition of the SPECint_rate2006 benchmark, its actually based on applications including chess playing, Video Compression, PERL Programming, Event Simulation, Physics: Quantum Computing and other bizarre tests. Certainly not markets that Oracle plays in nor cares about.

          Oracle has published over 14 #1 world record benchmarks on the SPARC T4 so far and I don't believe any of them have yet to be beaten by Power7+. If IBM really wants to prove superiority, let IBM showcase this running the same benchmarks and configurations as Oracle. IBM is after all, one of Oracles leading HW/SW partners.

          Since 2010, when Oracle acquired Sun, Oracle has released 3 newly developed SPARC CPUs, and in each generation, has proven significant performance improvements well above 50%, in some cases, above 2x. That’s not bad considering that it took IBM over 2 years to update Power7 to Power7+ and show performance improvements of 20-30% and only on two almost identical systems. When you consider that Power7+ has 75% more transistors, 2.5x more L3 cache, 25% GHZ increase and took 2+ years to develop and only get 20-30% performance improvement, you have to wonder? And where are the database benchmarks on Power7+?

          And finally, OpenWorld may be coming to an end but Oracle never stated that SPARC T5 would be announced at OOW. 2012 isn't over yet. SPARC T5 is going to knock IBM's socks off.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Smoke and Mirrors anyone?

            "SPEC is a RAW CPU benchmark that doesn’t test anything but the CPU."

            When you release a new CPU why go out on a limb testing everything BUT the CPU? Does sound silly to me. A database does integer work so knowing integer performance is important even if you buy an "engineered" system. And Oracle sells standalone servers. Just a small fraction of a fraction of Sparc customers is interested in SuperClusters.(Time will tell when that fraction becomes NaN by the way).

            And it is not like Oracle hasn't done the tests. They have run the tests, looked at the numbers and chose to not publish them. The reason may of course be that those numbers were so stellar that Oracle was afraid that it would raise customer expectations to unrealistic levels. But given Oracle's history of extreme hyperbole that theory does not sound plausible at all.

            Customers are not stupid, we know that the purchasing desicion is determined by a lot of factors and metrics. Not all of them side with one specific architecture and that is just how it is.

            A person looking for a sports car certainly know that metrics like bhp, weight, accelleration and top speed don't tell the full story about the capabilities of a car. Still they are of interest. If Oracle sold sport cars those numbers would be hidden from the customer, replaced by a lot of hand waving, FUD against the competition and lap times on their own race track located at the Oracle campus.

          2. Jesper Frimann

            Re: Smoke and Mirrors anyone?

            @Phil 4.

            "No SPEC CPU2006 benchmarks released on SPARC T4 because Oracle is focused on developing SPARC processors for systems to accelerate commercial software, not HPC, not games."

            Why have they then been releasing numbers for every previous generation of the SPARC processors up to and including the T3 ? Oracle (who took over SUN's SPEC license's) has license nr. 6.

            And other vendors have not been shy of giving the public the numbers they need. I remember machines like the HP N4000 with PA-RISC 8600 absolutely hammering for example the IBM M80 with RS64 processors.


            Now the T4 was IMHO a great feat of engineering, it's basically the first real general usable processors of the T processors. And if you've ever read for example the Hotchips presentations of the Processor, then you'll see that the Oracle processor people actually use relative specint/fp to relate the T4 to the T3.


            Lets just quote one of the slides:

            Singlethread performance

            • Estimate ~5X S2’s SPECint2006* performance

            •Estimate ~7X S2’s SPECfp2006* performance

            Throughput performance

            •~2X S2’s per thread throughput performance

            The real clue about why Oracle haven't released much numbers on the T4 is the last sentence here... which implies that the overall chip throughput of the T4.. is roughly the same as the T3.

            Again which is a great feat as Oracle managed to remove some of the stupidity of the T processor line, by allowing for relative good single threaded throughput in the T4.

            Or .. well just look at slide 10.. here it is from the horses own mouth.. the throughput of the T4 is the same as the T3. So we are talking in the range of 666 on specintrate for a 4 socket system. Kind of a drag when the competitions lowest clocked 4 socket system is doing 1000+, and your own brand spanking new x86 systems are doing 700 .. on 2 sockets. The real problem here is that this does not fit into Larrys marketing machine.

            Again the data is from the horses own mouth. What pisses people like me and others off is that that the lack of data makes my job harder. I have to write up the standards and strategy for my company's usage of SPARC, Itanium and Power systems. And the lack of data and facts makes my job harder. Or even worse will mean that the guys who has to use the standards I make will get their sizing data wrong.

            Now we can agree upon criticising and putting down specCPU2006, it has become a shitty benchmark.. kind of broken some would say but it's there and people use it, even your own beloved Oracle uses it.

            As for the world records.. have you been smoking mushrooms ?

            Now do I really have to go through them all and show you how crap they are ?

            Lets look at



            SPARC T4-4 Server Sets First World Record on PeopleSoft HCM 9.1 Benchmark.

            Again if you investigate the benchmark.. it's the only... ONLY 9.1 submission.

            SPARC T4-4 Server Delivers Best Four-Processor Result on TPC-H Benchmark at 3 TB Scale Factor

            It's the only 4 processor system who has a submission. So ofcause it's the fastest 4 processor system, is it the fastest ? No bloody way,

            SPARC T4-4 Server with Sun FlashFire Technology Delivers Record Performance on PeopleSoft Enterprise Payroll 9.1

            3 submissions... M5000, z10 mainframe and then the T4-4 (not really a big field to compete in)

            Here they actually manage to beat a mainframe by roughly a factor of 2. But.. the mainframe have a virtual machine with 8 cores for the benchmark + 1 support processor, 24 GB of RAM and then a traditional disk storage system.

            The T4-4 has 32 cores 256GB of RAM and flash disks.

            So .. the native database of the application and the native language format, 3 times the cores, 10 times the RAM and flash disks and a bare metal installation. Geee... guess mainframes are kind of tough anyway ?

            Oracle’s SPARC T4-4 Server with Oracle Database 11g Beats Itanium and POWER7-based Systems on TPC-H Benchmark at 1 TB Scale Factor

            Again it is by far not the fastest result, not even using Oracle (which is an HP result).. so it's not a bloody record.

            SPARC T4-Based Highly Scalable Solution Posts New World Record on SPECjEnterprise2010 Benchmark

            This is actually the first record that they have.. on a little obscure spec benchmark with 29 submissions, they actually managed to win one. by throwing a shitload of hardware after this benchmark, as others also have stated here.

            SPARC T4 Server Delivers Outstanding Performance on Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition 11g

            To deliver outstanding performance does not make it a world record. And I've searched and searched.. and the only other machine I can find that have made this benchmark is the T5440.. So.. a benchmark only run by Oracle on Oracle hardware beats an older version of the machine... is this a world record ? Technically.... i guess it is ... but honestly ? You've gotta be kidding, how can they post statements like this and not feel ashamed ?

            SPARC T4-2 Server Achieves World Record on Oracle E-Business Suite R12 Benchmark

            Again in this particular category... the only ... submissions made.. are by Oracle. So again in a field where you are the only one that have submitted a result.. on a benchmark you make yourself.. you hold the world record... HOW NICE... get real.

            SPARC T4-2 Server Achieves World Record Results on PeopleSoft Enterprise Financials 9.1 Benchmark

            Again... the T4-2 is the only... ONLY server to ever submit a 9.1 benchmark.. there are some M series machines also Oracle on the version 9 of the benchmark.. but again.. in a field where you are the only one to participate you win and set a world record... it's ridicilous.. do you see the pattern ?

            SPARC T4-2 Server Achieves Best Single-System JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Benchmark

            This one is also funny.. cause they actually get creamed by an IBM iSeries machine again with internal disks versus flash, and 0.17 second response time versus "Sub second" for the T4.

            Again Oracle manage to say that they win the benchmark by saying "78% more Users/rack unit than the IBM Power 770 server. " Man that made me chuckle... user per rack unit... *cackle*

            SPARC T4 Servers Set World Record on Siebel CRM Benchmark

            Again here the results are few.. but a host of T4 systems with 1.5-2 times the processors (depending on the role in the benchmark) 1.5-2 times the memory, flash disk versus traditional disks, 7 times the response time manages to do 8000 more users than a setup of POWER servers, that does not run at full utilization. 20-80% depending on role in the benchmark.

            It's really not impressive.. but sure you can call it a world record.. .but.. again.

            SPARC T4-2 Server Tops Industry-Standard, General-Purpose Java Benchmark

            This is SpecJVM2008.. it's a benchmark for ... ... PC's. The only real machine that you can compare the T4 benchmark results with is an ... 2009 Apple.. iMAC. And it does 50 with 1 chip and 2 cores, versus 450 for the T4-2 with 16 cores and a version of java that is 8 generations later than the iMac.

            Sooooooooo... it's a world record that you beat a 3 year old iMac running an old java version with 10% per core ?

            Do you know how ridiculous that makes your statement:

            "Oracle has published over 14 #1 world record benchmarks on the SPARC T4"

            Oracle Communications ASAP enables Service Activation of over 150 Million Mobile Subscribers on Oracle's Newest SPARC T4-2 Server

            Ehh.. this is an internal Oracle benchmark.. it's very hard to dig up anything on this benchmark.. but one statement from a T3 "benchmark test" sprung to mind:

            "Oracle used internally developed cryptography performance tests to measure performance."... come one.. this is not a industry benchmark.. it's.. a ridiculous claim.

            SPARC T4-2 Servers Deliver New World Record on Oracle's JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Benchmark with Interactive and Batch Components

            Here we have a host of 2xT4-2 and a T4-1 and a Flash array against a single lille 8 core IBM i POWER7 machine with some internal disks. I mean.. come on there isn't even a site where you can compare benchmark results. IT's x10 the RAM x5 the cores and flash storage versus internal SAS disks. Come on... it's laughable.

            Again all these Oracle product benchmarks are not really industry standard benchmarks.. They are more POC benchmarks.. to show that the solution can be done.

            Now do you understand why people think that Oracle is full of it ?

            It is quite understandable, when you do the research, why people think Oracle is full of it.

            // Jesper

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Smoke and Mirrors anyone?


              Nice summary of those Oracle "World Records". What a parody. That is similar to a slightly obese athlete with a limp boasting about setting the track and field World Records in 275m hurdles, 50 km backwards walk and high jump with rucksack.

              The only real record I see here is how much you can lower the bar on ethical conduct.

    3. Jesper Frimann

      Re: Smoke and Mirrors anyone?

      Again.. you really don't have a clue do you ?

      1) Naaahh.. you just do a RTFM.

      2) Naaah... If you would have made yourself the trouble of reading the something as simple as the spec sheets, you would know be able to see that the POWER 780 machine now is a 4 socket per system unit only machine. Hence you really should compare it to the previous version of that model. That model had 4-16 socket 6 core per chip POWER 780 that ran at 3.44 GHz.

      The new machine does 128 cores at 3.7 GHz in 16 sockets. Or you can have a 64 core version with 4 cores per chip, that runs at 4.42 GHz. So it's 96 cores at 3.44 GHz versus 128 cores at 3.7GHz or 32 cores at 4.14 GHz versus 64 cores at 4.42 GHz.

      Now that is quite an improvement.

      3) It's business as usual, this is how they always do it.

      4) Read 2.

      5) Do you have trouble reading ? 12,560,858SpecJBB2005@128 Cores and 6130SpecIntRate2006@128 Cores for the POWER 780 and 57024@SAP users for SAP 2-Tier@96 Cores. ... On these benchmarks it's only surpassed by the POWER 795 and an the SGI Altix. Now that is kind of a feat for such a server.

      Not to mention some LINPACK numbers that are insane.. x1500 better than last version, guess some of the accelerators kind of meant that IBM broke/cracked that benchmark.

      6) Come on.. There have been released 8 industry standard benchmarks results on the POWER 780 on the first day.. that is a factor of 2 of the 4 that have ever.. been released on the T4-4. *Bleh*

      7) You don't really get the IO system of the POWER server do you ? Again your "Oracle only" view limits your comprehension of other .. better... solutions.

      8) Yawn..

      // Jesper

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Smoke and Mirrors anyone?

        What accelerators would those be that increase floating throughput (in any algorithm) by a factor of more than 1000? Are you sure you know what you're talking about right now?

        I am guessing IBM made a typo and the POWER7+ LINPACK numbers are in MFLOPS, not GFLOPS.

  4. wfavorite

    The smell of FUD in the morning...

    "...HP have a contract tested in court (for what its worth), as far as we know, IBM don't even have that."

    The smell of FUD in the morning... it smells like... defeat.

  5. John Savard Silver badge


    Obviously, some IBM hardware customers want to have the option of using Oracle software. Not making that option unnecessarily expensive is a reasonable way to keep IBM hardware competitive.

    Their database software, meanwhile, will compete on its own merits - which appear to be good enough that they help to drive the sales of IBM hardware.

    IBM, after all, has experience of antitrust difficulties, so not giving Oracle a chance to whine that IBM is locking it out of its hardware may be a priority at IBM. But the fact that IBM hardware purchasers have a broad choice of software is itself a selling point.

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