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IBM plans 24-core Power 10 processor for Oracle's database server

Friday, December 16, 2022

IBM has quietly announced it's planning a 24-core Power 10 processor, seemingly to make one of its servers capable of running Oracle's database in a cost-effective fashion.

A hardware announcement dated December 13 revealed the chip in the following "statement of general direction" about Big Blue's Power S1014 technology-based server:

IBM intends to announce a high-density 24-core processor for the IBM Power S1014 system (MTM 9105-41B) to address application environments utilizing an Oracle Database with the Standard Edition 2 (SE2) licensing model. It intends to combine a robust compute throughput with the superior reliability and availability features of the IBM Power platform while complying with Oracle Database SE2 licensing guidelines.

The Register asked IBM to share details of the planned CPU, and why it feels the need to make one that complies with the SE2 license. The IT giant has not responded, though Oracle's description of the SE2 licensing model goes a long way toward explaining why Big Blue will build a processor for it. Oracle's blurb states:

Oracle Database SE2 can be licensed on servers with a maximum of 2 sockets. However, the core counts per 2-socket server can increase over time without impacting customer license obligation. With Oracle Database SE2, customer license costs remain the same regardless of the number of cores in the socket.

The Power S1014 is a single-socket 4U device, which IBM offers with processor modules boasting four or eight Power10 cores.

The jump to 24 cores will therefore represent a significant capacity boost for Oracle-on-Power users who opt for a mere single-core server, without requiring them to pay more for Big Red's database.

IBM's decision recalls Lenovo's 2019 release of the ThinkSystem SR655 server – a machine which filled its sole CPU socket with a 64-core AMD Epyc 7002. Lenovo promoted the manycore machine as a fine way to run plenty of VMs under VMware's server virtualization offerings at a time when Virtzilla licensed its wares per socket and few server-grade microprocessors could match the Epyc family's core count. Buyers liked that idea because a 64-core chip is, on paper, capable of handling more guests than lesser processors.

VMware did not like that idea as much and quickly changed its licenses so that CPUs with over 32 cores counted as an extra socket for licensing purposes.

The difference in this case is that Oracle's SE2 license allows for increased core counts without increased charges. VMware's licenses did not when Lenovo made its Epyc move.

But Big Red is infamously fond of ensuring it maximizes revenue from customers. As the Power S1014 did not have a 24-core option at launch, it could well decide that tripling core count is a more generous interpretation of the SE2 license than intended, and give it a tweak.

By: DocMemory
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