On May 21, IBM unveiled its first production server running the much-awaited POWER6 processor. That raises fresh questions about when POWER6 chips will come to the rest of the System p product family, not to mention IBM’s System i. Those questions are on the minds of JD Edwards customers, as many of them run their applications on POWER servers. Fortunately, IBM is providing its field force and Business Partners with answers, and I’m going to reveal them to you in this posting.

When IBM unveiled its first POWER6 server last week, the box on the dais was none other than a System p Model 570. As the only server that currently offers the new chips, the revamped p570 is a formidable system. Like previous p570 configurations with POWER5+ chips, the new p570 comes with one to eight dual-core processors. However, the POWER6 cores run at much faster clock speeds of 3.5, 4.2, and 4.7GHz. These speeds, not to mention refinements such as larger L2 processor caches and a processor bandwidth of 300GB per second, give the new p570 dramatically better performance. When running the TPC-C benchmark, for instance, a 16-core p570 clocked at 4.7GHz can crank out 1,616,162 transactions per minute (tpmC). That is 57% more than a p570 running the same number of POWER5+ cores at 2.2GHz.

Naturally, JD Edwards users will want to know when POWER6 will come to other System p and System i models. Based on sources close to the company, IBM will likely roll out POWER6 on all of its System p models that are smaller than the p570 during the second half of this year. During the first half of next year, Big Blue will complete its System p rollout by bringing POWER6 to its high-end p590 and p595 models.

Whither the System i?

As for the System i rollout, IBM sources are telling me that they will not roll out POWER6 versions of the System i product line until the first half of 2008…with one exception. During the second half of this year, the computer giant will announce a System i Model 570 with the same POWER6 chips as the p570.

Before you get too excited about this news, there are two things you should know about the POWER6-based i570. First, the new system will require you to run i5/OS V5R4 at the latest System Licensed Internal Code (SLIC) level. For many customers, running that current of an i5/OS release is impossible or just too risky. By the way, all System i models running POWER6 will require V5R4 with the latest SLIC or the next i5/OS release that will ship in 2008.

Second, you should know that IBM will do extensive integration testing of i5/OS V5R4 on POWER6 over the coming months. However, customer beta testing of V5R4 on POWER6 servers will probably not start until July. To give IBM time to stabilize V5R4 on POWER6, many or most customers will want to hold off on installing a POWER6-based i570 until the end of this year. By that time, many customers may decide to wait until POWER6 rolls out on other System i models during the first half of 2008 just to see what other options are available to them.

If you are one of those System i users that is considering your options, I would encourage you to go to the MC Press Online web site next Monday. On that day, the site will publish a new article of mine that will lay out further information about the System i rollout. As a preview, just let me say this. If you play your cards right, you could purchase a POWER5+ server this year at comparable price/performance levels to what you’ll spend on a POWER6 server next year. Like I said, check out my MC Press article next week.