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With Power 9 becoming available in 2018, IBM didn’t just improve over its own Power products, but also increasingly over x86. Power 9 has twice as much core performance and 1.4 times more memory than x86. Compared to Power 8, Power 9 has 1.5 times as much performance and twice as much memory.
Functionality-wise, Power 9 leverages improved thread performance, optimized analytical processes, and extreme big data. There have also been innovations in the area of next-gen memory. The on-chip architecture convinces with Open CAPI and BW improvements. Power 9 offers two memory architectures: Scale-out (Direct Attach Memory) with up to 170 GB/s, and Scale-up (Buffered Memory) with up to 230 GB/s per socket and with extreme capacity (up to 8 TB/socket).
If we also factor in that Native PCIe Gen4 has twice as much memory as Native PCIe Gen3 (Power 8), then we can proudly say that we truly have the most efficient system on the market today. Also in the area of multithreading (SMT8), Power 9 offers 50 percent better scalability than Power 8 (a comparison to x86 systems cannot be drawn, as they are still bound to SMT2).
In their brimming IT landscapes, customers have to deal with ever-changing workloads. In this context, it is important to note that Power 9 dynamically switches between SMT models to optimize capacity and always keep applications like Hana on the safe side.
From an economical perspective and compared to e.g. Power 7, Power 9 achieves up to 50 percent cost savings in two to three years. Three times more performance/core, more than 12 percent additional capacity, and 60 percent core reduction reduce licensing and maintenance fees significantly.
Another building block of our partnership
If we focus on our successful partnership with SAP, we can proudly say that our collaboration and technology integration have reached another milestone. Power rose through the ranks and became the platform of choice for mission critical enterprise environments. And it only took three years! More than 2250 customers worldwide can vouch for us.
According to our own research and available analyst data, IBM has a market share of 20 percent in the Hana business. In May 2019 at Sapphire in Orlando, Intel furthermore announced that it had a market share of 75 percent – which would increase ours to about 25 percent. We are looking forward to independent market research confirming this information.
Based on experiences of past years in the cognitive, AI, and SAP area, Power 9 has been further optimized to be able to effectively support SAP Business Suite. The entire Power platform is still certified for Hana (from scale-out boxes with up to 24 cores and 4 TB RAM and Midrange E950 with up to 48 cores and 16 TB RAM to Enterprise E980 with up to 192 cores and 64 TB RAM).
It goes without saying that we continue to support traditional workloads like AIX – there is a definitive roadmap until 2028. This is also part of our usual investment protection package and allows customers to plan long-term and arrange transitions as they choose.
The migration to Hana is taking longer than expected. In his Sapphire 2019 keynote, Hasso Plattner told attendees that he thought it would only take three years. Now, five years have gone by, and there’s no end in sight. We will therefore continue to support traditional SAP solutions until 2025 and beyond, if necessary.
Regarding Linux, it is worth noting that the trend is still going towards Little Endian, and with RHEL 8 availability, it encompasses both Red Hat and Suse. (In contrast to Big Endian, Little Endian is a storage format in which the Least Significant Byte (LSB) is put first and stored in the lowest memory address.) As usual, Power 9 has the same SAP product release dates and lifecycles as x86. This is also true for source and release plans.
The trend towards Little Endian for Linux on Power also accelerates the acceptance of third-party operators. The steep increase of Hana on Linux on Power further supports the expansion of the entire SAP ecosystem. This includes ISV solutions. The growing interest of ISVs in turn extends the reach of Hana on Power (HoP).
Another important factor is the unmatched IBM virtualization. It connects numerous SAP solutions and is still built in and free of charge.
Last but not least, here’s a benchmark that we were able to achieve with a fully loaded Power 9 E980. We reached a throughput rate of 1,149,020 SAPS, which supported 205,000 simultaneous S&D benchmark users. This is roughly twice the throughput rate of the newest Intel platinum-based Skylake systems.
In general, Power 9 systems show 25 percent more SAP transaction input per core compared to Power 8 systems. The Power platform’s Power Enterprise Pools combined with elastic capacity on demand were enhanced. For customers, this means a more dynamic utilization of systems as well as significantly more economic efficiency.
Furthermore, the enhancement lead to live partition mobility which allows customers to migrate operating workloads between systems and guarantees uninterrupted availability.
I think we don’t have to start praising RAS features again. They are still unmatched, from their flexibility to their mainframe-comparable safety coefficient.
SAP Hana on Power – trends and facts
Another quick story about the unrivaled success story of Hana on Power. Last year, IBM received the SAP Pinnacle Award “SAP Global Partner of the Year – Infrastructure”.
But that was not enough for us. In the first quarter of 2019, we received three SAP Innovation Awards. “Breakthrough in protein analysis advances war on cancer” together with the University of Munich; “Sustainable shopping and vision of Zero Waste: Coop improving their customer experience with AI” together with Coop Switzerland; and again with the Indus Motors Toyota Company.
More than 60 CSPs and MSPs are currently using IBM Power with their SAP workloads. The SAP cloud market has decidedly shifted towards IBM Power. Just to name a few reference customers: Syntax, Itelligence, CTAC, Seidor, Dedagroup, and D.F.I.
Cloud computing or on-prem
IBM does have Power systems in the cloud and will start offering Power 9 systems for SAP workloads (including SAP Hana) in the IBM Cloud this year. The primary motivation for this decision was massive failures on x86 and lack of competitiveness compared to AWS and others. TCO as well as RAS availability are superior on Power.
And yet, I still hear some customers saying that SAP neglects one of the implementation methods – SAP on-prem. On-premises systems are more or less shunned. Everything revolves around the cloud. This was also one of the key messages of Sapphire 2019 – coming directly from Hasso Plattner himself. However, this approach leaves out some crucial parts.
First, the in-memory Hana concept was originally meant for the commodity market and was restricted to x86. This is becoming more of a problem every day. Appliances are not up to date anymore (even SAP is now recommending TDI, Tailored Datacenter Integration, wherever possible) and Hana is full to the brim.
New strategies like data tiering are marketed as innovation. However, they are only weak attempts at trying to curb the exponential growth. The cloud is becoming a mystic and legendary medium who can save everybody and anybody. It’s not that the cloud is inherently better – it is only as good and as economical as its underlying infrastructure.
Companies like Syntax don’t build their cloud strategy on Power because we are such good friends, but because it gives them a competitive technological and economical advantage over AWS and others.
Second, choosing a cloud environment can come with some long-term, non-terminable strings attached – even though that was never the intention. Not to mention the question of how you would ever get sensitive data out of the cloud again. Every experienced analyst is therefore advocating for a hybrid cloud strategy – and so are we.
A good balance between on-prem systems and cloud guarantees a stable, secure, manageable, and cost-efficient IT strategy. What the implementation of such a strategy would look like in real life and what challenges customers would face explains one of our most successful partners, Syntax, in the next article in the series.
But we do not stop at technological and economical benefits. We are also involved in the academic sector. For example, we have been collaborating with the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany since 2016.
Since May 1st 2019, they have been offering an online course titled “Future in Computing -IBM Power 9 and beyond” on openHPI.de. Recently, the HPI course reached 1500 participants. This cooperation is very important to IBM because it helps us adjust our offers to ever-changing requirements of IT, customers, and companies.
We want to talk to future generations and benefit from their unbiased ideas. SAP itself is following the same strategy. New and younger top executives have taken on leadership roles, many of them HPI alumni. And all of them are chanting the same mantra, “Innovation! Innovation! Innovation!”
In conclusion, we can look back on a surprisingly fast success story of our SAP and IBM cooperation in the Hana environment. We are confident that we can increase our market share in the future. Considering the number of companies still having to implement the Hana platform, a 50 percent market share doesn’t seem like too high a goal.