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Power Systems E850 Technical Highlights

The new, IBM enterprise class E850 Power Systems server offers configurations as large as 48 cores and 2 TB of memory all in a 4U rack drawer. Enterprise features include Capacity on Demand (CoD) for both processor cores and memory. This article will provide an overview of E850 configurable features and associated requirements.

Processors Options

The E850 has four processor sockets and the first two sockets must be populated. The third and fourth sockets can be populated with the initial order or can be added later. Processor modules are available in three configurations:

  • 8-core (3.7 GHz)
  • 10-core (3.3 GHz)
  • 12-core (3.2 GHz)

All installed processor modules must be identical. With all four sockets populated, the maximum system configurations are 32, 40 or 48 cores. The following CoD processor core activation options are available for the E850 server:

  • Permanent
  • Elastic (On/Off)
  • Trial
  • Utility

All of the cores for the first two processor modules must be permanently activated. Additional cores that are installed can be activated using any of the four activation options. Note that Power Enterprise Pools and associated mobile activations are not available for the E850 server.

Memory Configuration

Memory cards are available in 16, 32 and 64 GB sizes and must be installed in pairs. For each populated processor socket:

  • At minimum of four memory cards must be installed
  • A maximum of eight memory cards are supported

For example, a system with all four processor sockets populated must have at least 16 memory cards installed and can support up to 32 memory cards. Using the 64 GB memory cards, this yields a maximum memory configuration of 2048 GB (2 TB). IBM has issued a statement of direction to increase the maximum memory to 4096 (4TB) at some point in the future. The E850 memory is also CoD based. Memory can be activations can be:

  • Permanent
  • Elastic (On/Off)
  • Trial

Half of the installed memory must be permanently activated. Any additional installed memory can be activated using any of the three CoD activation methods. In addition, Active Memory Expansion (AME) is available to increase useable memory for virtual machines. Active memory mirroring, which mirrors the hypervisor working memory, is also available.

Packaged Activation Offerings

Two packaged offerings are available to reduce the overall system cost: Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) and SAP HANA Solution Edition. The IFL option provides the option to run Linux virtual machines at a lower cost. IFL is an orderable feature that provides four core activations, 32 GB of memory activations and four PowerVM licenses at a reduced cost. The cores and memory activated with the IFL feature can only be used for Linux virtual machines. The SAP HANA Solution Edition provides reduced overall cost for the following E850 server configuration:

  • 32-cores (3.72 GHz), all activated
  • 1TB of memory, all activated
  • (2) 4-port 8Gb FC adapters
  • (2) 4-port Ethernet adapters with two 10GbE and two 1GbE ports

The SAP HANA Solution Edition is based on the SLES 11 operating system.

Systems Management

The E850 can be configured as a single system image or partitioned using the integrated virtualization manager (IVM) or a hardware management console (HMC). Permanent core and memory activations can be enabled through the advanced system management interface (ASMI). This makes the E850 the first CoD capable Power Systems server that doesn’t require an HMC. Use of other CoD capabilities does require the use of an HMC. When using elastic CoD (on/off) for processor cores, the 24-hour billing feature includes temporary licensing for the following systems software:

  • AIX
  • PowerVM
  • PowerVC
  • PowerVP
  • IBM Cloud Manager with OpenStack
  • PowerHA
  • PowerSC
  • Cluster Systems Management (CSM)
  • General Parallel File System (GPFS, recently renamed to Spectrum Scale)

This greatly increases the value of utilizing Elastic CoD core activations with the E850 server.

Disk Media and Adapter Slots

All E850 configurations include eight SFF-3 disk bays (HDD or SSD) and four 1.8" SSD-only bays. The disk bays can be configured with one of three different backplanes:

  • Split backplane without write cache (default)
  • Dual controllers without write cache
  • Dual controllers without with write cache

With the split backplane option, there are four SFF-3 and two 1.8" SSD-only bays for each half of the split backplane. The integrated SAS controllers for all three backplanes offer RAID 0, 1, 5, 6 and 10 functionality. Easy Tier is integrated into the E850 server and it provides two tiers of storage. The split backplane provides RAID 10T2, which is mirrored disk protection with two tiers. The dual controller backplanes provided RAID 5T2, which is array disk protection with two tiers. HDD and SDD device capacities range from 146 GB to 1.8 TB. HDD and SSD devices can be intermixed on the same SAS controller; however, they cannot be intermixed within the same RAID array. An internal DVD-RAM drive can be configured into a dedicated slot. When the split backplane is configured, the DVD-RAM drive shares the same SAS controller that’s connected to the upper row of disk drives. For the dual controller backplanes, both of the SAS controllers are connected to the DVD-RAM drive.

The E850 has up to 11 PCIe Gen 3 adapter slots. The number of available slots is dependent on how many processor modules are installed:

  • 2 processor modules: 7 slots
  • 3 processor modules: 9 slots
  • 4 processor modules: 11 slots

Eight of the 11 slots are CAPI (Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface) capable, which allows special, CAPI capable adapter cards to interact direct with system memory. This reduces processor overhead for memory management.

If additional adapter slots are needed, the PCIe Gen3 I/O Expansion Drawers can be attached to the E850 server. Each I/O drawer can be configured with one or two 6-slot fanout modules. Each 6-slot fanout module attached using an optical adapter that consumes one slot in the E850 server. The number of I/O drawers that can be attached is based on the quantity of populated processor sockets:

  • 2 populated processor sockets: 2 I/O drawers
  • 3 populated processor sockets: 3 I/O drawers
  • 4 populated processor sockets: 4 I/O drawers

Physical Specifications

The E850 is 30.6" deep and can be installed in standard 19" racks. It requires 4U of vertical mounting space. Power is provided through four 1400W power supplies that operate at 200-240V. There is one flexible service processor (FSP) that has two 1 Gb Ethernet HMC ports. This allows redundant HMCs to be configured for E850 server management. The only other user accessible ports integrated into the E850 chassis are four USB 3.0 ports, two on the front and two on the back.

Enterprise Class Features at a Midrange Price Point

The Power System E850 offers many enterprise class features in the space of a scale-out server. The inclusion of CoD features provides the capability to have spare resources installed that can be instantly activated to meet computing demands. The E850 server can be a great starting point for implementing an on-demand or cloud capable computing environment.

Charlie Cler supports customers in a solutions-architect role at Forsythe Technology Inc. He can be reached at



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