OpenPOWER IBM S812LC - First Look
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If you just want the S812LC pictures, you should scroll down a bit ...
For reasons I do not understand there are very few picture of this new machine from IBM. So I want to fix that in this blog entry and as a picture says 1000 words this will hopefully explain a lot about the machine - the equivalent of 37,000 words! First, thing you need to know is that it is not in the regular IBM Power Systems series of machines. It is designed and developed by OpenPOWER Foundation early member Tyan use the POWER8 chip as the basis. This means it is rather different. On the downside it is missing some of the features we expect with a Power System machine but on the good side it is very inexpensive. In my opinion regular POWER people will see this as missing many expected features (I know I did) but it is built for a lower price. You have to judge what your priority are. It is a Linux only machine incompatible with a HMC and no PowerVM pHypervisor - it uses the OPAL firmware.
The IBM Announcement letter is here: ZG15-0221 from 5th Oct 2015 with a wordy title of: IBM Power System S812LC server is designed to improve managing Hadoop and Spark workloads with a system optimized for efficiency and designed for big data. While probably true, I think the machine also makes a nice lower cost POWER8 general purpose machine too. The machine became generally available 30th Oct 2015
The announcement letter covers the details but I will give you the highlights (as I see them) here:
Features to be available by the end of December 2015 that I am looking forward to trying.
Just in case, your IBMer or IBM business Partner may talk about a machine called "Habanero" . . . this is the internal code name for the S812LC (which is quite a mouthful to be honest). The machines are made by Tyan but there are some changes for the IBM version and additions testing done. One difference that is very obvious from the front is the Tyan machines have light blue corners that you grab to pull the machine out of the rack but the IBM machine are the regular "stealth" black "Oooo!!" :-)
One think I have to point out - these machines use industry standard components to reduce the price but please don't go making assumptions about that statement. Please "tell off" the next IBMer that tells you to use "industry standard DIMMs" and "industry standard adapters/cards". While they might fit in the DIMM slots or PCIe socket they may or may not work. Our test team has tried a wide variety and found components with the same specification differ wildly in practice and even two cards that worked fine individually in the machine when both are used together the machine could not boot. To make it very clear - you should only use components approved by IBM and purchased from IBM or an IBM BP - if you want IBM support. Non-approved parts in the machine means you are not supported by IBM. At the very least, they will need to be removing before support is called - if that means the machine can't boot (no RAM or no boot device) then effective it isn't supported.
Warning: These pictures are from my Early Ship Machine but I have been told there is no significant
changes except there may be additional information or warning stickers on the box & inside,
Here is the first picture - clearly we removed the top cover which is a shiny metal colour that you can see later on.
Below a closer look at the internals:
Below is an overhead picture:
The below picture highlights some features.
Below - a view of the front of the machine in particular the ends
You can see the lower parts a black, with an IBM logo.
Below we see the back of the machine:
Notes from the left:
Below a close up of the inside from the rear:
Below the rear disk unit is being remove from the disk carrier
Below the removed disk units
Below the disk carrier can be removed if you have the top of the machine removed which can only be done with the machine out of the rack:
Below we removed the power supplies - just to take a look:
Below we replace the CPU Air Dam which ensures a good air flow to the POWER8 processor chip:
Below the lid is replaced:
Below - we think there are two sorts of rails = basic and rolling. We have only seen the simpler ones as below:
Below the machine being slid back in to the rack:
Below the machine is in final position the locking screw us used to ensure it does not move.
Below the rear view
Below my computer room manager Mike Pearson gives the S812LC machine the thumbs up - he approves of the S812LC and starts work on the second machine - phew!
Below we are keen to power the machine up.
Below we get the Petitboot screen, select the normal boot of Ubuntu and then get to the Ubuntu login.
We then put Ubuntu on our network by assigning a IP address to eth2 (see picture above) - same procedure on Power as for an x86_64 machine - that is the whole point of Linux on Power - its all exactly the same Linux except faster CPUs.
Next we network connect the Service Processor called a BMC by using ipmitool on the Ubuntu of the machine to assign the IP address to the BMC - then we can remotely use ipmitool on some other machine to control the S812LC machine via the BMC. For example: power on and power off the machine and get to the console prompt.
Then the fun begins - Ubuntu uses SMT=8 by default so this 10 core machine looks like 80 CPUs.
We also noticed the cores can run at different frequencies but more of that and monitoring the over clocking with nmon in a different blog entry.
I hope this is useful in demystifying this interesting new machine = S812LC.
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Got a question? Add a comment and I will do my best to answer it or find someone who can.
Cheers, Nigel Griffiths
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