power6-processor.jpgIf you are in the market for an IBM System i or System p to run JD Edwards applications, you’ve probably been wondering when Big Blue will replace its current crop of POWER5 servers with ones that run on POWER6 chips. After all, IBM has been telling its customers that the price/performance of POWER6 will be significantly better than POWER5. Who wouldn’t want to benefit from that improvement if they could manage to hold off on an acquisition until the new servers ship?

Today, I’m going to offer all of the information that I can legally give you to satisfy your curiosity. That should help you figure out whether you should buy a POWER5 server now or wait for the POWER6 lineup to ship.

To figure out what IBM is up to with POWER6, let’s look at two events that took place a little over a week ago.

  • Event One. At IBM’s annual PartnerWorld event for its business partners, System p General Manager Ross Mauri told an audience about the big performance benefits that customers will gain from POWER6 servers. He then said, “Look for an announcement from us this month.”
  • Event Two. At the annual COMMON meeting for System i users, IBM’s Dr. Frank Soltis told customers that POWER6 servers will ship on “other platforms” later this year and on the System i in 2008.

Since the only “other platform” that runs the POWER6 is the System p, you can connect the dots between these two events and draw the obvious conclusion. We’re going to get POWER6 processors running on at least one System p model by the end of this month, but we’re going to have to wait at least eight months before we get POWER6 on the System i.

While I’ve been expecting that the new chips would not make their way to the System i until next year, I was surprised to hear what Mauri said about the System p. I was originally expecting that the first POWER6 servers would ship on the System p in late summer or early fall. At PartnerWorld, however, I saw the server that Mauri was talking about, so I know that he’s talking turkey. I can also tell you that the server I saw was quite impressive.

Though I cannot give you any model numbers or specs for the server (that is under non-disclosure), I will say that it is not a high-end or entry-level system. That said, I would look for IBM to unveil a midrange POWER6 model this month, then announce additional POWER6 models over the course of this year. This is normal behavior for the System p group, as it typically stages rollouts of new processor technology over multiple announcements. By contrast, I would expect a single “big bang” release of POWER6 for all or least most System i models in the early months of 2008. By that time, IBM’s fab facilities should be turning out POWER6 chips in high quantities, which should make it easier to pull off such an announcement.

I realize that this news could disappoint System i users who must make decisions about their servers this year. Then again, you may be able to use this information to gain concessions from IBM on whatever servers you acquire in 2007. Consider asking your IBM representative for a deeper discount on a current System i model or, at the least, attractive terms for upgrading whatever model you acquire to POWER6 in one to two years. Remember as well that as 2007 progresses, IBM’s many sales reps will offer increasingly generous proposals as they work to make their quotas. In short, use this time factor and the information I’ve offered here to make the best of your situation.