by Patrick Quairoli, Technical Alliance Manager
On Tuesday IBM completed their roll out of their POWER7 server line. This milestone gave me an opportunity to look back at a humbling realization.
For years I have known that IBM POWER exhibited the key capabilities of reliability, availability and scalability (RAS) which have been tenants of a UNIX platform. I also knew that POWER leveraged key leanings from IBM's flagship System z mainframe to achieve many of those objectives. Additionally, I knew that POWER was a supported platform for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server — in fact SUSE Linux Enterprise was the first Linux distribution to support all of IBM's hardware platforms.
So in early 2010 as IBM began launching their new POWER7 server line up, I did not give much thought about what that meant for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. I knew SUSE Linux Enterprise Server would support the POWER7 architecture much like it had supported POWER6 and its predecessors. I knew our enterprise SAP, DB2 and HPC customers would continue to receive the scalability benefits of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on POWER. I knew that customers could get the same “best of both worlds” benefits of running best-of-breed AIX applications on the same box as best of breed Linux applications thanks to POWER'S ability to create multiple logical partitions or LPARs.
It was not until a colleague of mine from IBM asked me to present the benefits of running SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP1 on IBM POWER that I became amazed about what I did not know. I started by reviewing the release notes to see what was new. I learned about some of the usual suspects like OFED 1.4, FCoE, kernel resource management and improvements to zypper. These are great enhancements to SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 SP1 but not POWER specific.
Next, I reviewed Novell's feature and enhancements system to see what IBM requested as key support features for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP1. What I found was much more interesting: multi-path I/O, active memory sharing, dedicated/shared processors, and huge page size support. All of these features point to availability and scalability of SUSE Linux Enterprise on POWER, but what about reliability?
That is when I came across this study which has a number of nice things to say about SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11. What I found was that SUSE Linux Enterprise Server had fewer tier 1 and tier 2 incidents than its competitors, and like its competitors it had fewer than one tier 3 incidents per year. Ironically only the AIX performed better. That leads me to the most interesting find which is the performance of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on POWER.
One of the things I love about IBM is the significant pride they have in their technical prowess. Recently IBM provided a “performance data” tab on each of their server hardware offering pages. What I learned was that SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 was able to provide best-of-breed performance for SPEC int_rate and SPEC fp_rate on two socket systems like POWER 730, 740, 4 socket system like POWER 750 and 8 socket systems like POWER 780. It is humbling to fathom an achievement like the POWER 795 which touts 256 POWER7 4.00 GHz processors and 8 terabytes of memory only to turn around and remember that SUSE Linux Enterprise supports 1024 processors and 16 terabytes of memory!
This little investigation lead me to realize there is a lot about IBM POWER and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for IBM POWER that I did not know. But the more I learned the more I understood how IBM was growing its share in the RISC market year over year and why Linux on POWER shows even more promise now than ever before.
Congratulations to my friends at IBM on their POWER7 launch!