First IBM Power8 systems hit the market

IBM introduced its first Power Systems running the Power 8 processor on Wednesday and introduced a new foundation that will allow customers and even competitors to offer their input on how to improve the Power processor.

IBM is pretty much the last man standing in the RISC processor world. Intel has all but abandoned the Itanium and Sun's Sparc processor, now in the hands of Oracle, is losing market share with every passing quarter. To help promote Power, IBM last year created the OpenPOWER Foundation to open up and promote Power chip and system technology.

The Power 8 processor is designed for massive workloads, such as Big Data and other analytics and is a beast of a chip. We're talking 12 CPU cores capable of eight threads each for a total of 96 threads per CPU. Each core comes with 512KB of L2 SRAM and 8MB of L3 EDRAM, for a total of 6MB L2 and 96MB L3 cache respectively. Each chip can access up to 1TB of memory with throughput of 230GB/sec. IBM claims the Power 8 is two to three times faster than its predecessor, the Power 7 and also claimed it could analyze data up to 50 times faster than x86 processors.

IBM announced three new Power Systems optimized for Big Data and other analytics designed to examine and act upon data in real time. The new hardware comes with new analytics and Big Data-oriented software -- IBM Solution for BLU Acceleration, IBM Solution for Analytics and IBM Solution for Hadoop – all optimized for IBM’s new Power Systems to chew through both structured and unstructured data.

Big Blue has been big on Linux, embracing it as far back as 1999 for its x86, Power and mainframe servers. Last year the company committed $1 billion for Linux and other open source developments, and along with the Power 8 servers, IBM announced two new Linux products for Power 8 systems: Canonical’s Ubuntu Sever for Power 8 systems and Power KVM, a Power-compatible version of the popular KVM virtualization hypervisor.

The OpenPOWER Foundation is an intriguing idea. It has 25 members all taking part in helping to advance the Power architecture. They include Canonical, Micron, Google, Nvidia, Mellanox, and Tyan. This foundation essentially lets members have input into the development of the Power architecture up and down the architectural stack.

The OpenPOWER Software stack is basically a white box design that anyone can brand and add their own special sauce to sell. Next week at the IBM Impact 2014 Global Conference in Las Vegas, Nvidia will demonstrate servers running its GPUs along with Power 8 to provide GPU acceleration for Java and Big Data. IBM says Nvidia will showcase an 8-fold improvement in Hadoop analytics, while Mellanox will demonstrate a 10-fold improvement in throughput and latency improvement of Key Value Store applications.

The first Power 8 systems will ship in June.

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