IBM Expands POWER7 Servers At High-End, Entry Levels

IBM's introduction of a new high-end POWER7 server with up to 256 processor cores as well as four entry-level "Express" models complements the launch in February of midrange POWER7 servers as well as the second quarter release of POWER7-based blade servers, said Steve Sibley, marketing manager for the company's Power Systems line.

The multiple POWER7 server launches come at a time when the Unix server market is declining.

Sibley said the POWER7 server business has not escaped the decline, and that POWER7 hardware revenue in the second quarter fell about 10 percent compared to the same period last year.

However, Sibley said, midrange POWER-based server sales increased in both volume and revenue in the second quarter compared to last year. "POWER-based blade sales were up 67 percent over last year," he said. "And that was coming off a pretty good year last year."

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POWER7 processors feature four, six, or eight cores per processor, each of which can run up to four threads for a total of up to 32 congruent computational tasks. For workloads that require extra memory, they feature Active Memory Expansion which uses memory compression technology to make the physical memory on the server appear as if it were actually twice what is actually available.

The new Power 795 server can be configured with up to 256 cores. Customers with certain older POWER6-based servers can upgrade them to a Power 795 by replacing the processors and recompiling the server's memory book, giving them an instant core capacity upgrade of 400 percent, Sibley said.

Customers can link two Power 795 servers via IBM's PowerFlex technology to provide a capacity on demand system in which they can activate only those processors needed in one system, move a workload from the other into the new cores, and deactivate cores when no longer needed.

"With our capacity on demand, customers don't need to select which cores to activate," Sibley said. "That's done automatically. The system also automatically finds a good core to take the place of another which goes bad."

At the entry-level, IBM introduced four new POWER7 servers. The Power 710 Express is a one-socket, 2U server. The Power 720 Express is a one-socket server in either a 4U or a tower configuration. The Power 730 Express is a two-socket, 2U server. And the Power 740 Express is a one-socket or two-socket server in either a 4U or a tower configuration.

Pricing starts at $6,380 for a Power 710 Express with one 4-core POWER7 processor, two hard drives, and 8 GBs of memory.

The new servers are expected to ship on September 17, Sibley said.