IBM Takes Aim at Intel With Upcoming Power9 Chips
IBM also is getting testimonials from customers like Kinetica, which offers an in-memory database technology powered by GPUs. CEO Amit Vij told eWEEK that his company is adopting the Power architecture and testing Nvidia's NVLink to accelerate the performance of its products. Kinetica is seeing a three- to four-times performance increase using Power chips with NVLink as well as significant gains in other areas. Industry analysts have said that enterprises and service providers are looking for an alternative to Intel to help drive innovation in the market, protect them against supply chain problems and serve as leverage in price negotiations with Intel. In this case, the Power9 chip could prove to be an asset, according to Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights and Strategy. "If someone is seriously looking for an alternative to Intel, then IBM is in a good position," Moorhead told eWEEK, adding that if a business is just looking to gain leverage in price negotiations, then IBM "is no different than anyone else." That said, he likes what IBM is doing with the architecture, including having multiple ports in Power9 for different accelerator technologies, which could further enable manufacturers and system makers to more easily optimize the chips for particular workloads.The analyst said he expects to see the adoption of non-IBM Power systems grow in China, but that for the architecture to really take off, a major end user like Google will have to decide that it will move a percentage of its workloads onto the chips. According to a roadmap laid out at the OpenPower Summit in April, IBM next year will release Power9 SO, a 14-nanometer design with 24 cores (twice that of Power8) and aimed at scale-out environments. Later in 2017, the Power9 SU with an enhanced microarchitecture will come, followed by a third version. Between 2018 and 2020, 10nm and 7nm "partner chips" using the Power8 and 9 architectures may be available. Power10 will come after 2020, sporting a new microarchitecture, officials said.
"What they have is a kind of Swiss army knife of accelerator ports," Moorhead said.