Electronics giant Samsung is now a member of the IBM-led OpenPower Consortium. The industry group’s mission is promoting chip designs based on the IBM Power chip, for use in data
center hardware and other products.
Last summer, IBM announced the formation of the consortium, following its decision to license the Power architecture. The OpenPower Foundation, the actual entity behind the consortium, opened up the Power architecture technology, including specs, firmware and software under a license. Firmware is offered as open source. Originally, OpenPower was the brand of a range of System p servers from IBM that utilized the Power5 CPU. Samsung’s products currently utilize both x86 and ARM-based processors.
The intention of the consortium is to develop advanced servers, networking, storage and
GPU-acceleration technology for new products. The four priority technical areas for development are system software, application software, open server development platform and hardware architecture.
‘Open Set of Server Technologies’
When the consortium was announced in August, IBM senior vice president Steve Mills said in a statement that “developers now have access to an expanded and open set of server technologies for the first time,” adding that such a “ ‘collaborative development’ model will change the way data center hardware is designed and deployed.”
Other members of the group include Google, Mellanox, Nvidia, Tyan and the China-based Suzhou PowerCore Technology Company and the Research Institute of Jiangsu Industrial Technology.
Along with its announcement of Samsung’s membership, the organization said that Gordon MacKean, Google’s engineering director of the platforms group, will now become chairman of the group.
Nvidia has said it will use its graphics processors on Power-based hardware, and Tyan will be releasing a Power-based server, the first one outside IBM.
Apple, Xbox, Playstation 3
Last month, IBM said it would be selling its x86 server business to Lenovo, which had previously purchased the technology giant’s PC business. IBM has been focusing on its professional services and cloud-based businesses, and there have been reports that it was also interested in unloading its semiconductor business.
In the first week of February, The Financial Times reported that IBM has appointed investment bank Goldman Sachs to find companies that are interested in buying, or jointly owning, its semiconductor unit. Other reports have indicated that IBM is hoping to sell its chip manufacturing business but retain its chip designing operation.
IBM Microelectronics, which showed a one-third drop in revenue for the fourth quarter compared to the same quarter last year, provides design and foundry services based around Power chips. It has also licensed ARM Cortex processor designs for networking custom chips.
Power chips have seen some successes, but some notable losses as well. Apple made a visible switch to Power chips for Macs, which it subsequently dropped for x86 designs in 2006, and both Microsoft ’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s Playstation 3 have utilized Power. But the next generations of both popular game consoles are now joining the ranks of x86-based hardware.