IBM Announces the OpenPOWER Consortium

IBM's Tom Rosamilia describes IBM's OpenPOWER Consortium announcement. IBM is sharing the complete blueprints for its POWER microprocessors with several major industry partners: Google, NVIDIA, Mellanox, and TYAN. Others are welcome to join. Yes, that Google, the search giant that buys many thousands of bespoke servers but which also has some of the most challenging data center-related problems in the world. Now Google gets an entire, more advanced microprocessor design to use as it pleases.

It's no secret that the traditional RISC UNIX market has struggled. IBM has been steadily gobbling up UNIX server marketshare for several years as other UNIX vendors, lately HP and Oracle/Sun, collapsed. But it's not good enough to dominate a (probably) declining market, so IBM is wisely trying to expand the whole market and go all-in on Linux cloud infrastructure. IBM has got some superb launch partners in that effort.

I think it's a bold IBM move but a calculated one. IBM is basically trying to replicate ARM's success in the processor licensing business but in a much different market, a market Intel currently dominates with its proprietary X86 architecture. I'm referring to massive, horizontal scale-out computing architectures in remote (typically) data centers: large Linux-based public clouds, notably Google's, but also with NVIDIA-infused GPU technologies for supercomputing (as another example). Not competing with ARM at all which, despite a few rumblings, isn't charging into data centers. Optimizing microprocessors for mobile use cases is quite different than optimizing for public cloud backends.

So will Intel get "squeezed" in the middle? The middle has proven to be a dangerous place to be in the server processor business. Which is why I also remain extremely bullish on zEnterprise, by the way (and which is doing very well indeed). It's certainly an interesting development, and it's really good news for customers. Frankly IBM had to do something bold, and this move definitely qualifies.

It also puts IBM's acquisition of SoftLayer into better focus. I was a little unclear how SoftLayer would fit into IBM's strategy, but now it makes a lot more sense. It also makes complete sense for IBM's launch partners to join the OpenPOWER Consortium.

I like this.

by Timothy Sipples August 7, 2013 in Cloud Computing, Linux, Systems Technology
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