Benchmarking A 10-Core Tyan/IBM POWER Server For ~$300 USD
If you live in the EU and have been wanting to explore IBM POWER hardware on Linux, a load of Tyan Habanero servers recently became available through a German retailer for 269 EUR (~$306 USD) that comes equipped with a 10-core POWER8 processor. While not POWER9, it's still an interesting Linux-capable beast and the price is unbeatable if you have been wanting to add POWER hardware to your collection. Phoronix reader Lauri Kasanen recently bought one of these IBM POWER servers at the 269 EUR price point and has shared thoughts on this server as well as some benchmarks. Here is Lauri's guest post checking out this low-cost 2U IBM server.
Recently a batch of refurbished POWER8 servers became available for very affordable prices. Always eager to play with power, especially for netbook-class prices, I grabbed one, and decided to run some benchmarks for everyone. For comparison data I used Michael's POWER9 benchmark from November, recent enough that software versions are close enough.
The Tyan Habanero, TN71-BP012, comes with either an 8-core POWER8 @ 3.3 GHz, or a 10-core @ 2.9 GHz (default speeds, both have turbo). 32 RAM slots capable of fitting up to 512 GB of 1333 MHz DDR3 registered ECC memory, 12 front slots and two inner slots for drives, and four PCI-E slots (one v3 x16, three v3 x8). On the front we have one USB 3 slot, the power button, and the identify button. Identify fires up some blue leds, showing the system is ok; it can also be activated by software remotely, useful for telling which server in a rack you're supposed to touch.
The refurb kit did not come with the front caddies or the PCI-E SAS card to connect them. Not a big deal, I plan to use only one hd anyway. The inner HDD tray fits two SATA drives, with screw holes for both 3.5" and 2.5" drives. The manual also mentions a different tray being available as an option, which fits two 2.5" drives and two M.2 drives. The kit comes with redundant 750 W power supplies, plenty for normal use. On the back, we have two USB 3 slots, VGA, serial, the BMC's Gbit ethernet port, and four 10 Gbit ethernet ports provided by a Mellanox card. The USB 1.1 port is not functional.
My unit came with the 8-core cpu with a TDP of 190 W and a turbo of 3.8 GHz, base 3.3 GHz. After a short component price check, I settled on a Toshiba 3 TB hard disk, and 4x8 GB RAM. The motherboard is somewhat picky on what RAM it takes (according to the manual anyway), and memory prices are still elevated, but I think 32 GB should do for the time being. Being a mere 8-core it's not going to reach the 44 cores of the Talos II or the ThreadRippers, but it's an interesting data point anyway, especially vs POWER9.
Installing Ubuntu was fairly easy. The system comes with Petitboot, which detected the Ubuntu 18.10 server iso I had dd'd to an usb stick. There was a slight hitch after boot in that the installer didn't start, with the screen just displaying an underscore, which I guess was caused by the installer trying to show on the BMC system console instead of the VGA output. I switched to tty2 with alt-F2, activated the tty as the message requested by pressing enter, and ran /sbin/debian-installer. From then on everything was smooth.