Monday, 21 April 2008

2 become 1

Am I talking about the Spice Girls 1996 Christmas mega-hit (the USA had to wait until July 1997, when it reached number 4 in the US charts)? No, obviously, I’m talking about IBM’s recent announcement that System i and System p have officially converged.

System i is still often thought of by its old old name of AS/400, and System p is still commonly called RS/6000. However, in Nashville at its COMMON user group meeting, IBM announced two standard configuration systems. These are the IBM POWER 520 Express and the IBM POWER 550 Express. So what’s the big deal? Well they can run AIX, Linux, or IBM i (formerly-known as i5/OS or OS/400).

Clearly this is another step in IBM’s not-very-secret-at-all Project ECLipz, in which their three different processor lines would eventually merge. This isn’t the first sign, you may recall the Power5 processor could run both System i and System p. The logic behind Project ECLipz is that it makes no sense financially for a single company to develop and maintain three separate CMOS and chipset architectures. In addition, there are the associated three separate hardware and support infrastructures. Why not have just one?

So, apart from coming out with a new name for OS/400 or i/OS (that’s the IBM i tag), what was actually announced? The 520 can ship with up to two 4.2GHz Power6 processors, and customers can activate one, two, or four cores on the systems. The 550 ships with two, four, six, or eight cores, meaning it can have up to four Power6 chips running at 3.5GHz or 4.2GHz. These are both low-end models.

Also announced was an i Edition Express for the BladeCenter S. Customers can slot the JS12 Express blade into the BladeCenter S chassis, allowing Power and x86 systems to be run in the same case.

Forgetting the new name for the System i software part, the real significance of the announcement is that we see another small step on the road towards convergence of IBM’s different systems. Cynics might say it will take a long time before System z, with all its major differences, can merge with the other two. However, it looks like those 2 (Systems i and p) will definitely become 1.

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