back to article Big Blue takes the fight to Xeons with Power7+ entry, midrange servers

The dateline for the Power7+ entry and midrange server launch says "Johannesburg, South Africa", and not just because Rod Adkins, general manager of IBM's Systems and Technology Group, is there meeting with about a hundred local CIOs. Big Blue also wanted to emphasize that its Power Systems business is doing better against X86 …


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  1. tom 99

    untitled comment

    > The chips support 20 logical partitions (IBM's name for what everyone else calls a virtual machine)

    TPM, everyone else? Oracle calls them LDOMs.... :)

    > The Power 750+ server has six PCI-Express 2.0 slots

    Looks like the PCI-X is finally gone for good!

    1. Dapprman

      Re: untitled comment

      Would like to add that IBM have been calling them LPARs since the early mainframe days, before X86 architecture occured, never mind before 'virtual machines' where theorised.

      BTW I'm not that old, but I did find myself ebing lectured by an old mainframer some 15 years ago when I asked what an LPAR was.

      1. rch

        Re: untitled comment

        IBM uses the term Virtual Machines(VM) nowadays, like in PowerVM. They try to convince us lusers to follow that but we don't comply and still call them LPAR.

    2. Phil 4

      Re: Power750 finally has PCI-Express 2.0 slots?

      Wow-they’ve caught up to 2007 PCIe Gen 2 technology while Intel and soon Oracle will have PCIe Gen3 across their product lines. Power 795 is still PCIe Gen 1!

  2. Anonymous Coward

    A Bit Lame

    If IBM can just claim "equal pricing", then why should anyone buy their machines ? It is certainly more expensive to run a somewhat exotic machine than running an x86 machine.

    Can't they say "equal price and better performance, here are the benchmarks ?".

    I know that Power CPUs have been excellent performers in the past. They were significantly faster than x86.

    Also, IBM really have to do something innovative such as

    A) FPGA inside the CPU

    B) Content-addressable memory

    C) Publish Open-Source libraries to actually use the hardware acclerators

    Finally, PowerCloud:. Must be as easy as entering Credit Card number, just like AWS. Public price lists for that. No stupid IBM lingo ("SmartCloud"), please. Make sure small independent developers use your cloud services and learn your great technology. That's the best marketing tool you can ever get, as these developers will at some point influence purchasing decisions at the corporations they work/consult for. Do NOT just look for the "corporate IT decisionmakers with a big budget".

    1. Kiralexi

      Re: A Bit Lame

      IBM consistently _does_ publish benchmarks, and yes, they're faster than Xeons - especially for multithreaded or cache-sensitive workloads.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    So They Have Something Highly Complicated


    How do I select Power CPUs ? Is it all x86 ?

  4. Anonymous Coward

    As Always

    ..somebody has to explain the complexities of IBM's contraptions:

  5. Allison Park


    Will be interesting to see how the new pricing effects the product line. We have standardized on the p770 for all of our data intensive workloads. We have some of our websphere on the 770's but the majority of it (non-ecommerce) is on intel. If the price is right we will move to Power entry for our application systems. The reliability and certainly the IBM software pricing is advantages Power.

    We have not bought an AMD box or Itanium box here in over four years so we have changed our standards to say Intel not "x86". Call a spade a spade.

    Anybody see that coke ad during the superbowl, we are still laughing on how stupid and non-funny it was.

    Budwiser made us all cry and godaddy made us all throw up in our mouths.

    Pepsi Next was the best but it assumes you have seen project x.

    cheers e99

  6. Phil 4

    IBM Power is extremely expensive so they must drive perception of "low cost"

    The IBM Power 710 for just $5,947 is a joke and is IBM's bait and switch system. IBM will lose money if they just sell the box as is with nothing attached or added. The system is an extremely basic 4-core, 8GB server with no OS, no virtualization, no SW maintenance, no HW management, and basically everything is optional-DVD drive optional, memory card risers optional, RAID optional, etc etc etc. By the time you add all the options, that are really needed to run the system properly, you're looking at over $20,000! And if you compare a like for like, core to core configuration against Oracle SPARC T4 systems for example, the IBM Power7+ systems are 30% to several times more expensive. Have you priced out the new Power 760 system? We're talking $400K plus for a 48-core system! Even a Power750+ 4-socket 32-core box is well over $240K. Watch out for IBM's "Option Gotchas". The devil is always in the details

    1. Jesper Frimann

      Re: IBM Power is extremely expensive so they must drive perception of "low cost"

      Why would you want to compare a POWER server core to core with a Oracle T4 server ?

      POWER7+ does run circles arount the T4, a POWER 740 seems like a good match. Again if you take the SPECjEnterprise2010 benchmark you'll see that a POWER7+ core is aprox x2 of a T4 core.

      That gives you a a price of 94787$ for a machine that is exactly like the Medium configuration of the T4-4 that will set you back , besides the fact that machine has a price tag of 96.656$.

      Now the real difference here is that the POWER 740 will have 3 years of warrenty and 4 years of SWMA on POWERVM and AIX in that price, where as the Oracle solution only has 1 year of HW warranty... nothing else..

      And then we haven't even started talking about the soft issues, like that the T4-4 in the medium configuration uses 2265 Watt@100% load and the POWER 740 will use 810 Watt@100% load.

      So much for cool threads btw... they kind of turned hot.

      And that POWERVM will do overcommitment, where as LDOMS basically is partitioning on a thread level, and that the POWER 740 will do HW memory compression.......

      Phil, you are betting on the wrong horse.....

      And let me save you some time.. doing the math with a 750 rather than the 740, adds aprox 40KUSD to the price, and it'll do 1,267 Watts@100% load.

      But then you'll also have serious mismatch, and that is in the POWER 750's favor.

      // Jepser

      1. Phil 4

        Re: IBM Power is extremely expensive so they must drive perception of "low cost"

        Your comparisons are a little flawed Jesper...

        Regarding "POWER7+ does run circles around the T4, a POWER 740 seems like a good match. Again if you take the SPECjEnterprise2010 benchmark you'll see that a POWER7+ core is aprox x2 of a T4 core."

        The Power780+ @ 4.42GHz SPECjEnterprise2010 score of 10,902 EJOPs does not compare to a SPARC T4 *clustered* score of 40,105 EJOPs, and certainly doesn’t beat it. Sure, if you calculate per core performance, the Power7+ has higher per core but thats with a *single* Power 780+ system that’s half configured versus 6 x SPARC T4-4 servers clustered with Oracle RAC which clearly has overhead and more complexity to manage. IBM is playing tricks versus previous Power7 result. How else could IBM get a ~2x per core increase over previous Power 780 configuration when rPerf shows roughly~19% increase/core? Also, a Power780+ doesn’t compare to a Power740+ as you suggest. Why didn’t IBM try to beat Oracles SPARC T4 result? Because they can't. Why didn’t they run a Power 740+ to show its per core superiority to SPARC T4? Because they cant. IBM wants you to believe that you can extrapolate from a specially configured high end, million$ setup that avoids all bottlenecks of the system. And I would bet if IBM used a fully configured system (16 x sockets, 128 cores) instead of a base config of just 32 cores, the performance/core would drop significantly due to the latency overhead of the CEC fabric. Plus, a Power 740+ as you suggest, is running a slower Power7+ @ 4.2GHz and is limited to half the memory of a SPARC T4-4 for example. Its not an equal comparison.

        Show me a benchmark with same SPARC T4 4-socket and Power 4-socket system configurations and then we can talk about who's CPUs and cores are faster. Where are the TPC-H, TPC-C, SPECjEnterprise2010 benchmarks on Power7+ with mid range?

        If I were to use your comparison however, a *large config* SPARC T4-4 32 core 1TB RAM lists for approx $117K, where as a P740+ 4.2GHz /1TB system with half the cores (16), lists for ~$150K and that’s without PowerVM and AIX Std Ed. A ~$30K difference. You probably didn’t configure with same RAM, memory riser cards, DVD drive, RAID card and all the other "options" needed to compare to whats built-in on SPARC T4. Also, a closer comparison would be a Power 750+ with 32 cores, 1TB RAM which lists for ~$270K when configured identically to a SPARC T4-4 and again, performance wise, should be close considering the SPARC T4-4 beat previous Power 780 8 CPU/32core @ 4.14GHz on TPC-H @ 1TB and 3TB for example. And note that SPARC T4 is a year old with SPARC T5 coming out soon with well over 2x more performance and scalability, not the minimal 20-30% or so that Power7+ gets over Power7 almost 3 years ago. So regardless of your comparison, IBM's Power systems are expensive and price/perf sucks compared to SPARC.

        1. Jesper Frimann

          Re: IBM Power is extremely expensive so they must drive perception of "low cost"


          Phil, you are starting to sound like Kebbabbert. You really have to do some homework.

          Again as I've told you before. Oracle's own Chip development people rate the throughput of the T4 only to be slightly ahead of the T3 when comparing these two with regards to throughput.

          Slide 10 here.

          That puts even the 3.6GHz version of the POWER 740 ahead of the T4 chip, and to cut the T4 some slack, lets call it even. Even though the T3-4 documented does 666 specintrate2006 at 4 sockets and a 4.2Ghz POWER7+ Power 740 does 884 specintrate2006 at 2 sockets.

          And I can compare what I like, specially when it has merit. Furthermore you forget that both the POWER and the SPARC submissions both have several JEE server instances running. HENCE they are really both clustered submissions. the POWER submission uses 8 instances the T4 uses 16. So it's not that different.

          Now the T4 submissions uses a whooping 2TB of RAM compared to the 256GB of the POWER7+ submission. So the T4 submission actually uses 2.2 times the memory per BOBS, compared to the POWER7+'submission. Again as this is a benchmark where price is not really an issue Oracle is throwing a lot of HW after it where it doesn't really show to the untrained eye.

          Now you ask why the POWER7+ submission is so much faster than the POWER7, it's cause the + submission uses 8Gbit Fiber, 10Gbit ethernet, and SDD which the POWER7 benchmark didn't. Again network performance is a significant factor in the benchmark, or so the FAQ says.

          And surely that POWER7+ now have much the same accelerators as the TX processors have had for some time, which does give a good boost on this particular benchmark, also helps. Again this is nothing new, and as I and many others have said, Oracle have only submittet benchmarks for the T4 where it could exploid it's accelerators or that it was a software stack that Oracle owned totally themselves.

          Furthermore the POWER submission is a virtualized benchmark, this is not bare metal as the T4 submission, but a fully virtualized environment, ok with dedicated adapters.

          And talking about memory.. again Oracle uses 2.2 times the memory per transaction, and the POWER servers do support memory compression in hardware, which btw isn't used on the benchmark. So your whole memory capacity argument is kind of hollow.

          And you are looking for benchmarks, to compare.. the only one that is really there is the SPECjEnterprise2010 benchmark, besides TPC-H. The later is one is one that oracle cracked years ago. Before T4 or T3 was introduced, so that one you really can't contribute to the T4.

          And why don't you try with your 14 world records again, that one I just need to link to the last time I debunked it.

          And I don't know where you get your pricing numbers from but from the Oracle website their Large Config on a T4-4 is 297,664.00 USD, again...without any maintenance which this time is US$35,719.68.


          Again the yearly maintenance for the Oracle box is more than what you pay for a POWER 740 (HW only) with 64GB of RAM and 16 x 3.6GHz cores again with 3 years of warranty.

          It's hilarious. As anybody who have ever been an Oracle customer knows, then Oracle support is extreemly expensive compared to other vendors like HP and IBM.

          Larry want's Oracle to become the new IBM of the 80ies, and IMHO that is not something that is good for customers.

          // Jesper

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IBM Power is extremely expensive so they must drive perception of "low cost"

      Where is the SPECint scores for the Sparc T4? I see that Oracle published them for the T3 but suddenly they decided to hide this information from their customers.

      Phil, you work for Oracle. Please tell us why.

      1. Phil 4

        Re: IBM Power is extremely expensive so they must drive perception of "low cost"

        Oracle is in the enterprise software business not HPC. If you look at the SPEC CPU definition here: , you will see that "SPEC CPU2006 focuses on compute intensive performance, which means these benchmarks emphasize the performance of:

        • the computer processor (CPU),

        • the memory architecture, and

        • the compilers.

        "SPEC CPU2006 is not intended to stress other computer components such as networking, the operating system, graphics, or the I/O system". When you can tell me which enterprise software environment, like database, middleware, ERP, OLTP, datawarehouse, BI, etc does not require networking, I/O or an operating system, I'll tell you why I think Oracle didn’t publish SPARC T4 SPECint2006rate scores. Furthermore, SPECint_rate2006 benchmark is actually based on applications including chess playing, video compression, PERL programming, event simulation, physics: quantum computing and other bizarre tests. Great for CPUs like Power and even Xeon which run in gaming consoles and PC's for playing games and HPC, but not enterprise software. None of these tests should be of concern for Oracle customers.

        So if you want to hide your systems poor I/O throughput, poor networking or OS scalability performance, run SPECint2006rate because its not tested. Otherwise run benchmarks that simulate customers real workloads.

        Oracle has published over 20 benchmarks on SPARC T4, many of them world records, and run across all of Oracles SW, so if you're an Oracle customer, you're covered. Should be asking IBM why there are no OLTP, datawarehouse, or *any* Oracle based benchmarks on Power7+? Does Power7+ run Oracle SW? And dont tell me Oracle isnt allowing IBM to publish Oracle benchmarks. Don't you think IBM would talk to the press if this was the case?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: IBM Power is extremely expensive so they must drive perception of "low cost"

          You have failed to answer the question. Oracle of course knows the Specint for the T4 since it is a very easy benchmark to execute. It is probably only a fraction of a fraction of the work compared to building one of Oracles one-off DYI clustered solutions to beat IBM in TPC-C.

          T3 scores were quite good at the time so those were published. Until proven otherwise customers will assume that the scores for T4 aren't very impressive.

          Specint is important because integer work is what lots of applications do, including databases. It is one of many data points in the decision making process. Oracle should let us customers decide what is important and not.

          Is bhp the only data point when buying a car? No. Would that information be of interest if you were looking for a sports car? Yes.

        2. Jesper Frimann

          Re: IBM Power is extremely expensive so they must drive perception of "low cost"


          If you had bothered reading the oracle presentation from hotchips, you would have seen that it uses OLTP workloads, when it put forth it's claim that the throughput of the T4 chip is more or less equal to the T3.

          The really big feat was that Oracle managed to increase single threaded throughput by almost a factor of five, hence actually taking the T4 out of the niche where the T3 was stuck.

          Now nobody likes using specint/fp. it's not a particular good benchmark as your rant about. Historical for example POWER servers have normally been much better at OLTP and IO heavy benchmarks, as this is what the servers have been geared at.

          But it still doesn't change that the chip throughput of the T4 is roughly the same as the T3.

          Now for example if you compare the T4 and the T3 you can actually use the Enterprise2010 benchmark, where you have can see that 16 T4 chips give you aprox x4 more throughput than 4 T3 chips does.


          As for all the T4 world records.. again .. we've been over this several times. T4 is the fastest chip in the world on Oracle product benchmarks where the only competing chip is the T4. The only industry standard benchmarks that have been done on the T4 is the spec Enterprise2010, where it now gets trashed, as other vendors turn to the benchmark, and figures out how to tune for it. Just like I predicted.

          And then there is the tpc-h benchmark, again a benchmark that Oracle cracked some years ago, and if you look at how the setup is on the Oracle benchmarks, it's very very different from all others. Again Great work by Oracle, but it doesn't really say that much about the superiority of the T4. Again one measuring doesn't really make a trend now does it.

          And funny to see you echoing the newest Oracle marketing message. Power have bad I/O. It's so Carl Rove. Attack your opponents strongest side with FUD.

          Just to counter that, then IBM did a real nice benchmark some years ago.. a SPC1 benchmark, where they rather than having a LOT of hardware with a lot of RAM for caching, and IO processors and and and.. simply used a virtualized solution with the storage attached to the Virtual IO servers, that then virtualized the storage and shared it to the virtual machine that ran the benchmark. The machine used was a partitioned POWER6 based power 595. Again an almost 5 year old machine.

          Now.... the link to the benchmark is here:

          As you can see the IO setup uses 14 ancient PCI-X adapters and 2 old PCI-X drawers, that are cabled for max connectivity and not performance (4 cables not 8) and it runs virtualized POWER solution, with VIO servers and all. Furthermore the setup uses Virtual SCSI. Old and slow compared to what you could do today with NPIV:

          At the time of submission this was the World Record for the SPC1 benchmark. And again... this is a pretty standard setup, that isn't even extreem in any way.

          Where it gets fun is to compare it to a Oracle Sun ZFS Storage 7420c Appliance benchmark, with a setup that isn't that different what Oracle could do today.

          The SUN benchmark uses 2 storage servers with a total of 1TB of RAM and 64 X7550 Xeon processors. and a shitload of IO adapters. The host system driving the benchmark uses 6 PCI-e Gen2 dual port 8Gbit adapters. And even though the old POWER machine only uses to old PCI-X based IO with 14 pci-x SAS adapters, the drawers are even cabled for max connectivity and not performance (4 cables not 8) and it runs virtualized POWER solution, with trashes it with a factor of 2 both on throughput and on response time.

          Now how you can think that a POWER7+ based server, with a IO system that is 3 generations newer than what is in the old POWER6 based p595, can have IO problems compared to a T4 based machine is IMHO a riddle. Again the T3-1 that is used in the Oracle benchmark above has the same IO system that the T4-1 has, and the T3-1/T4-1 IO system is IMHO better per chip, than the T4-4 has.

          To be quite honest... you should try to read a manual. And try to understand what is going on under the covers rather than just echoing marketing material.

          // Jesper

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    where is SPECint Oracle

    Larry...come on....are you afraid of the truth?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    x86 vs POWER

    This is very interesting. With Itanium and SPARC definitely gone, it's very likely that we will see a future server CPU market dominated by x86 and POWER. That has of course been in the making for a long time but now the picture seems to be getting clearer. I'm still not convinced that ARM has much to gain in the server market. The only real-world effect of the decentralized model that so many are touting as an advantage of the ARM ecosystem seems to be that chip manufacturers will compared to Intel have much more restricted access to fab capacity at smaller process nodes (witness Qualcomm's disaster with Krait availability). No one has actually been able to show me that ARM players can actually make server chips more cheaply than Intel can, and aside from cost, there is absolutely nothing that ARM manufacturers can offer in the server market.

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