IBM Launches POWER8 Systems, OpenPOWER Roadmap

IBM aims its new scale-out POWER8 Systems at big data workloads. And the POWER-based OpenPOWER Foundation shows first OEM systems.

IBM launched new Power Systems servers, based on its POWER8 chips, which enable data centers to tackle big data in high-performance environments with an open-server platform.

With the OpenPOWER Foundation, IBM is bucking the trend of other chip and server manufacturers' proprietary business models and has released detailed technical specifications for its POWER8 processor, inviting collaborators and competitors alike to innovate on the processor and server platform, providing a catalyst for new innovation.

IBM unveiled the new POWER8 Systems at an Open Innovation Summit Big Blue held with the OpenPOWER Foundation in San Francisco on April 23. Built on IBM’s POWER8 technology and designed for an era of big data, the new scale-out IBM Power Systems servers culminate a $2.4 billion investment, three-plus years of development.

The systems are built from the ground up to harness big data with the new IBM POWER8 processor, a sliver of silicon that measures just one square inch, which is embedded with more than 4 billion microscopic transistors and more than 11 miles of high-speed copper wiring.

“This is the first truly disruptive advancement in high-end server technology in decades, with radical technology changes and the full support of an open server ecosystem that will seamlessly lead our clients into this world of massive data volumes and complexity," said Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president of IBM’s Systems and Technology Group, in a statement. “There no longer is a one-size-fits-all approach to scale out a data center. With our membership in the OpenPOWER Foundation, IBM’s POWER8 processor will become a catalyst for emerging applications and an open innovation platform.”

IBM’s POWER architecture is the cornerstone of innovation for the OpenPOWER Foundation, creating a computing platform available to all. The Foundation – representing 25 global technology providers and growing – was founded by IBM, Google, NVIDIA, Mellanox and Tyan. The group announced an innovation roadmap detailing planned contributions from several of its members, with IBM's Power Systems as the first servers to exploit OpenPOWER technology.

The first POWER8-based systems to debut are five Power Systems S-Class servers designed for large, scale-out computing environments. The new line-up helps to reduce floor space, power and cooling costs. IBM has designed these systems to perform at a sustained 65 percent utilization -- a rate higher than common x86 utilization levels, IBM said. With twice the data throughput compared to an x86-based server, the new Power Systems can help cut data center footprints in half, the company claims

With availability beginning June 10, the new scale-out S Class servers include two systems that run Linux exclusively – the Power Systems S812L and S822L servers. The three additional offerings, the Power Systems S814, S822 and S824 servers, provide users the choice of running multiple operating systems including Linux, AIX and IBM i. Available in 1 and 2 socket and 2U and 4U configurations, the starting price of the new servers is $7,973.

FIS, a provider of payment processing and banking solutions that manages financial data for thousands of companies around the world, expressed its anticipation over the combination of IBM POWER8 and IBM FlashSystem technology.

“We expect higher utilization and performance capabilities along with the flexible computing resources needed to meet our client’s application processing and business delivery requirements,” the company said in a statement. “POWER8’s secure-key cryptographic accelerator and cryptographic coprocessor functions combined with FlashSystems’ enterprise ready extreme performance and application latency reductions capability provides an infrastructure that is critical to the success of today’s core banking application environments."

IBM also announced three new Power Systems solutions optimized for big data and analytics solutions. The new technologies, IBM Solution for BLU Acceleration, IBM Solution for Analytics and IBM Solution for Hadoop, are optimized for IBM’s new Power Systems to deliver quick insights on both structured and unstructured data. For example, the new IBM Solution for Analytics provides speed of insight for today's data driven analytical, computational and cognitive workloads through integration with Cognos, SPSS and DB2 with BLU Acceleration, IBM said

According to IBM test results, the IBM Power Systems are capable of analyzing data 50 times faster than the latest x86-based systems. Certain companies have reported analytics queries running more than 1,000 times faster, reducing run times from several hours to just seconds, IBM said.

IBM also announced two Linux developments that fortify rapid cloud innovation on POWER8 systems. One is the availability of Ubuntu Server 14.04 LTS, Ubuntu OpenStack and Juju service orchestration tools, on all POWER8 systems; and the introduction of PowerKVM, a Power Systems-compatible version of the popular Linux-based virtualization platform KVM, on all POWER8 systems that run Linux exclusively.