OpenPOWER’s Open Horizons

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  April 6, 2016

I’m in San Jose, California this week attending NVIDIA’s annual Graphics Technology Conference (GTC 2016) but the primary reason I’m here is for the OpenPOWER Summit that runs in parallel to the primary event. I plan to cover the full Summit in next week’s Review but below are a few thoughts on the announcements made this morning.

If you’re not familiar with it, the OpenPOWER Foundation was organized in 2013 when IBM open sourced its POWER Architecture. That allows Foundation members to license POWER intellectual property (IP) to develop their own customized Power-based processors, server, networking and storage hardware, and take advantage of the 2,300+ ISVs that support Linux on POWER applications.

At launch, the Foundation (then called the Consortium) consisted of five companies; Google, IBM, NVIDIA, Mellanox and Tyan, but the group has grown healthily since then. During the first Summit held during GTC 2015, the Foundation announced that it had expanded to over 130 participating companies, organizations (including universities and research labs) and individuals. This year, membership has topped 200, an impressive number by most any measure.

Commercial continuity

More importantly, Foundation members haven’t been idle. At last year’s Summit, Foundation members showcased 30 OpenPOWER-based solutions that were slated for commercial release by the end of 2015. This year, members continued that proactive trend, unveiling more than 50 new infrastructure and software innovations, spanning the entire data center stack, including systems, boards, cards and accelerators, including:

  • Rackspace announced that the “Barreleye” cloud systems it developed in collaboration with Avago, IBM, Ingrasys, Mellanox, PMC and Samsung have moved from the lab to the data center. Solutions leveraging the platform will become available through the rest of the year, including applications on the Rackspace Public Cloud powered by OpenStack.
  • Tyan said that its new TYAN GT75-BP012, a 1U, POWER8-based server solution designed for in-memory computing tasks will be available for purchase in April.
  • Over a dozen Foundation members, including Bittware, IBM, Mellanox and Xilinx showcased new accelerator solutions based on the Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface (CAPI) which is used to connect auxiliary specialized processors, such as GPUs, ASICs and FPGAs to primary systems.
  • Supermicro is developing two new POWER-based servers for IBM leveraging IBM’s “Ultra” architecture. IBM also said that it is collaborating with NVIDIA and Wistron on a second generation OpenPOWER HPC system for release in Q4 2016.
  • Finally, Google said it is developing a next-generation OpenPOWER and Open Compute Project form factor server. Google is working with Rackspace to co-develop an open server specification based on the new POWER9 architecture, and the companies will submit a candidate server design to the Open Compute Project.

Final analysis

The growing rosters of OpenPOWER members and commercial solutions demonstrate that the Foundation is a stable, increasingly potent force in commercial data centers. The new and upcoming solutions developed individually and collaboratively by Foundation members speak to the evolving value of IBM’s POWER Architecture. But they also highlight the desire for new, alternative computing innovations among global data center vendors and the customers they serve.

Overall, these announcements qualify as an impressive start to what should be a fascinating conference. More on that in next week’s Review.

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