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IBM looks to expand its POWER with new consortium

As the non-x86 front widens in the server wars, IBM looks to expand its POWER technology with the OpenPOWER consortium.


Google, IBM, Mellanox, NVIDIA and Tyan have announced plans to form a development alliance called OpenPOWER based on IBM’s POWER microprocessor architecture.

Servers are a high-margin business meaning that any company with IP that could be used for servers wants a piece of that lucrative pie.

“The founding members of the OpenPOWER Consortium represent the next generation in data-center innovation,” said Steve Mills, senior vice president, IBM Software & Systems, in a statement. “Combining our talents and assets around the POWER architecture can greatly increase the rate of innovation throughout the industry. Developers now have access to an expanded and open set of server technologies for the first time. This type of ‘collaborative development’ model will change the way data center hardware is designed and deployed.”

A trend that has recently emerged has been the use of ARM chips in servers. Granted non-x86 chips have been used in servers for a while, especially in non-web servers and customized commercial servers, though server makers have started pushing alternative architectures — see SeaMicro or AMD’s upcoming ARM based server processors as an example.

Another rising trend in the server business is the use of GPGPU. Many of the top supercomputer clusters use some kind of GPU, and Nvidia’s Tesla architecture can be found in servers big and small. Now that Nvidia has announced its plan to license Kepler and GPU IP to third parties, no doubt SoCs with POWER CPUs and Nvidia-licensed GPUs will emerge as the children of this relationship.

Does this mean that POWER is on a comeback? Maybe. The architecture saw its darkest year, when Apple moved to x86 in 2006,  just after it had the design wins of the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. To regain some prominence in the mainstream computing world, this new IBM led consortium will have to prove that POWER can be a viable alternative to x86 or ARM based chips.

Source: IBM Press Release

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