IBM Debuts Long-Awaited POWER10 Processors

eWEEK PROCESSOR ANALYSIS: The development of POWER10 took over five years and resulted in hundreds of new and pending patents. The new solutions will deliver significant novel features and capabilities.

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Upcoming products, advances and innovations are part and parcel of every technology conference, from the smallest vendor confab to massive events like CES and MWC. So, it was no surprise that at this week’s Hot Chips 2020, the annual IEEE symposium that focuses on high performance microprocessors, much of the spotlight focused on next-generation microprocessors, including IBM’s upcoming POWER10.

Let’s take a look at IBM’s 10th-gen POWER processors, the advances the company has achieved since it introduced POWER9 at Hot Chips 2016, and what that means for enterprise customers and partners.

IBM POWER10 From the Inside

According to IBM, the development of POWER10 took more than five years and resulted in hundreds of new and pending patents. The new solutions will deliver significant novel features and capabilities:

  • POWER10 is IBM’s first commercialized 7nm processor and is expected to deliver up to 3X better capacity and energy efficiency within the same power envelope as POWER9.
  • POWER10-based servers will be co-optimized for Red Hat Open Shift, making those systems ideal for supporting hybrid cloud implementations.
  • IBM developed a new technology—Memory Inception—that enables groups of POWER10-based systems to access and share their memory resources, enabling the creation of multi-petabyte memory clusters.
  • On the security side, POWER10 will offer more AES encryptions than POWER9, enabling systems to support end-to-end encryption and faster encryption functions. POWER10 is also designed to deliver hardware-enforced container protection and isolation capabilities, which can be used to prevent compromised containers in the same VM from being accessed or affected by the same intrusion. IBM also noted that POWER10 will support dynamic execution register control, enabling users to design applications that are more resistant to attacks but minimally impact system performance.
  • POWER10 processors will contain embedded Matrix Math Accelerator, enhancing in-core AI inferencing performance without requiring additional specialized hardware. As a result, POWER10 processors will improve AI inference up to 10X for FP32, 15X for BFloat16 and 20X for INT8 calculations as compared with POWER9. IBM believes these improvements will help infuse AI functions into typical enterprise applications and enable customers to gain greater insights from their data resources.
  • Samsung will manufacture the chips using IBM’s designs. IBM Power Systems solutions based on POWER10 silicon are expected to be available in 2H 2021.

POWER10: Built for Enterprise Hybrid Cloud

POWER10 will clearly offer significantly improved performance and energy efficiency over POWER9 chips, along with a raft of new capabilities resulting from unique or novel developments from IBM Research. But it is worth noting that the company is also embarking on a notably different go-to-market strategy with its new CPUs.

POWER9 was designed to deliver massively better compute than prior-gen POWER chips. Plus, with the integration of technologies from partners including NVIDIA and Mellanox, POWER9 could support unique hybrid system designs, including U.S. Department of Energy installations that led the Top500.org list of global supercomputers for two years.

What is so different about POWER10? At Hot Chips 2020, IBM communicated a clear focus on maximally supporting enterprise hybrid cloud, including compute and energy efficiency capabilities that should appeal to cloud platform owners looking to enhance system performance while reducing or stabilizing energy costs.

Plus, the new memory, security and AI capabilities that POWER10 supports could enable cloud owners to implement services and features that provide them with a competitive advantage. Finally, IBM’s plan to co-optimize its own POWER10-based Power Systems for Red Hat Open Shift should make those solutions highly intriguing and attractive options for public, private and hybrid cloud owners.

Final Analysis

Why are these important points? First, because they highlight why IBM believes the future of innovative enterprise computing resides in hybrid cloud environments that blend the benefits of on-premises data center infrastructures and public cloud services. In addition, IBM not only believes it has a singular role to play in that future, it is demonstrating that it has the insights, innovations and research capabilities to deliver the solutions and services that enterprises require for success.

In other words, with POWER10, IBM has its head fully in the hybrid cloud. For the company’s tens of thousands of global enterprise customers and partners, that’s a very good thing. But it is also excellent news for the health, welfare and future prospects of IBM.

Charles King is a principal analyst at PUND-IT and a regular contributor to eWEEK. © 2019 Pund-IT, Inc. All rights reserved.