IBM Launches POWER8 Systems, OpenPOWER Roadmap

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2014-04-24 Print this article Print

IBM's collaboration with Canonical, the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu with more than 20 million users worldwide, provides easy migration for applications to Linux for cloud deployments to deliver big data and mobile software applications and to boost the performance of existing applications across cloud platforms. IBM is offering the latest release of Ubuntu Server, Ubuntu OpenStack and Canonical's Juju cloud orchestration tools on the new Power Systems announced today and all future POWER8-based systems. 

This complements the existing support by IBM for Red Hat and SUSE Linux operating system distributions on its complete lineup of Power Systems.

Meanwhile, at the Open Innovation Summit, the OpenPOWER Foundation, showed the first reference board and OEM systems, and innovations including many forms of acceleration, advanced memory and networking. OpenPOWER has grown to more than two dozen members including global hardware and software thought leaders. The foundation makes POWER hardware and software available for open development, as well as POWER intellectual property licensable to other manufacturers. OpenPOWER is greatly expanding the ecosystem of innovators providing value back to the industry and end users.

“We are very pleased with the growth of the OpenPOWER community and the progress made by the Working Group members even at this early stage,” said Gordon MacKean, Chairman, OpenPOWER Foundation, in a statement. “The projects feeding the innovation pipeline to date will greatly enhance the performance of the next generation of servers by eliminating system-level bottlenecks.”

At the summit, the OpenPOWER Foundation presented its first white box server details including a development and reference design from Tyan, and firmware and operating system developed by IBM, Google, and Canonical. The OpenPOWER Software stack in this white box design is targeted for ease of implementation in hybrid deployments. IBM noted it will be deploying systems leveraging this OpenPOWER hardware and software stack in Softlayer later this year.

Speaking on why the time is now right for OpenPOWER, Brad McCredie, president of the OpenPOWER Foundations, said, “The first thing is the decline of Moore’s Law. It’s very hard to just take the silicon and keep going. The second is the decline of PC volumes. The PC isn’t going to be dominating all of the specifications. The third is we’ve entered the third generation of scale-out computing, which we think will look a lot like OpenPOWER.”

McCredie noted that IBM’s POWER technology has been known for building big systems that have doors on them – that you can open a door and walk into them because they are so big. However, “We’re taking that technology that builds computers that have doors on them and we’re decomposing it into its elements and we’re making it available to the ecosystem to innovate. We’re taking the processor and we’re allowing people to license that processor technology – the very technology that’s in the world-famous computer that’s run banks, and let them innovate on that and make scale-out computers. We’re building firmware stacks. They’re going to be open source to enable people to take that and innovate to build computers with scale-out performance.”

MacKean, who also is the engineering director for the platform group at Google, said Google has always considered itself an innovation leader in platform technology. He said Google looked at OpenPOWER as the opportunity to launch that third generation of scale-out computing McCredie described – to really break down the barriers that exist between the components.

“We wanted to create something where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, to really fix those bottlenecks that exist between those different components that make up a system – networking, memory subsystems, I/O subsystems, storage subsystems and acceleration,” MacKean said.

He added that Google is doing a thorough evaluation of POWER for the kinds of workloads the company sees and is helping to develop and harden a lot of the codebase and development tools, the operating system and the compilers. “We’re working very closely with the rest of the member companies in helping to harden that software stack,” he said.

Founding OpenPOWER Foundation member NVIDIA is adding CUDA software support for NVIDIA GPUs with IBM POWER CPUs. IBM and NVIDIA are demonstrating the first GPU accelerator framework for Java, showing an order of magnitude performance improvement on Hadoop Analytics applications compared to a CPU-only implementation. NVIDIA will offer its NVLink high-speed GPU interconnect as a licensed technology to OpenPOWER Foundation members.

Twenty-five members have joined OpenPOWER including Canonical, Samsung Electronics, Micron, Hitachi, Emulex, Fusion-IO, SK Hynix, Xilinx, Jülich Supercomputer Center, Oregon State University, and several others since OpenPOWER formed as a legal entity in December 2013.


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