IBM Sees Power in Consortium Numbers, Goes Open Source
By Barry Levine / CIO Today. Updated August 07, 2013.
The System-on-a-Chip server market has a major new alliance. On Tuesday, IBM, Google, Nvidia and others announced plans to form an open development alliance centered on IBM's Power microprocessor architecture, making this hardware and software available for open development for the first time.
The alliance, called the OpenPower Consortium, will build advanced server, networking, storage and GPU-acceleration technology for next-generation data centers. The consortium is intended to foster collaboration among existing product lines, such as IBM and Nvidia working to integrate Nvidia's CUDA GPU with Power ecosystems.
IBM's Power product line of processors first appeared in the 1990s, and is used in a variety of the company's servers and supercomputers. CUDA is Nvidia's parallel computing platform and programming model that is designed to offer major increases in computing performance through the use of graphics processing units. There are more than 300 million CUDA-enabled GPUs in laptops, workstations and supercomputers.
"Will Change' Data Center Hardware
A spokesperson for Nvidia told news media that the consortium "brings together an ecosystem of hardware, system software, and enterprise applications that will provide 'Powerful' computing systems based on Nvidia GPUs and Power CPUs."
Other consortium members include Israeli chip designer Mellanox Technologies and Taiwanese server supplier Tyan, and membership in the consortium is open to any company wishing to develop the Power platform.
Power firmware will be offered as open source, enabling customization of server hardware for varying workloads and purposes. Power hardware and software will be available for open development for the first time, and Power IP will be available through a license. Previously, Power technology was available under a blanket license.
Steve Mills, senior vice president at IBM Software and Systems, said in a statement that "this type of 'collaborative development' model will change the way data center hardware is designed and deployed."
25 Percent Revenue Drop
He added that the founding members "represent the next generation in data-center innovation," and that access to an expanded and open set of server technologies can "greatly increase the rate of innovation throughout the industry."
The formation of the alliance comes following a 25 percent drop in revenue for IBM Power Systems in the second quarter, year-over-year. It could prove to be a critical step in IBM's competition with Intel Corp. and ARM Holdings, particularly for the huge workloads required for massive Web applications conducted by Google, Amazon and others, for the High Performance Computing market, and for cloud computing.
Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, told us that, since "IBM was pretty much the only company using Power technology, it is looking for a way to expand the market for that technology."
He added that Intel is "really the only other company supporting its own architecture entirely, while everyone else has banded together to finance development." Kay pointed out that "it is very difficult and expensive for a single company to maintain an architecture."