IBM has announced a new PowerLinux server called the 7R4. The 7R4 is basically the Linux version of the Power 750 server and is a step up from the existing 7R1 and 7R2 servers. The 7R4 has 4 sockets and 32 CPU cores. The 7R4 is expected to be available from August 23, 2013.
The 7R4 is from the same Power Systems architecture as the IBM Watson system, which itself runs Linux. It is designed to be highly scalable, and is capable of processing large quantities of structured and unstructured data. It can run 4 threads per core; this is opposed to Intel, which currently runs 2 threads per core.
The 7R4 supports the use of EnterpriseDB Postgres as the database software. There are built-ins that enable Postgres to run many existing Oracle applications with little change. IBM's flagship database product DB2 is supported on the 7R4, as one might expect. According to IBM, around 98% of Oracle-based applications can also run on DB2.
There are a couple of competitors for the niche that the 7R4 is expected to occupy. One of these is Oracle. The equivalent Oracle server is likely to be a SPARC-basedserver. With the 7R4, IBM is attempting to make some inroads and potentially have customers migrate away from using Oracle database software. The other competitor is HP. HP has a range of similar type servers in the Proliantclass.
The Linux distribution used is RHEL or SUSE. At this stage, these are two supported distributions. The minimum version of RHEL used is 6.4, while for SUSE it is Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP2.
Whilst the server can be connected to a SAN, some applications may see benefit from running purely on internal drives. However, the server has only 6 internal bay slots. This suggests that connection to a SAN will be useful for working through large datasets that may outstrip the internal drive bay capacity. Connection to a SAN, in any case, can provide other types of redundancy, such as hardware RAID and storage virtualization.
The release of the 7R4 may be one way that IBM can establish a bridgehead in the Linux server market whilst simultaneously keeping costs down. It does mark a further step down the road for Open Source software, with the use of Postgres being emphasized as a particular selling point.
Scott Reeves has worked for Hewlett Packard on HP-UX servers and SANs, and has worked in similar areas in the past at IBM. Currently he works as an independent IT consultant, specializing in Wi-Fi networks and SANs.