August 20, 2013, 2:28 AM — Intel and Unisys are set to introduce on September 9 a new kind of secure computing platform designed to as a replacement platform for RISC systems running mission-critical cloud and big data workloads. Unisys is taking the lead on this and it will be shown at its Universe client-centered event taking place in Chicago.
The new platform will combine Unisys’s advanced secure partitioning technology, or sPar, with Xeon-based servers. Unisys has made sPar available for Xeon-based servers for some time but plans to announce new ones at the event.
We know some details of the new servers already. Unisys will adopt Intel's Integrated I/O to increase input/output speed using PCI Express 3.0, and it will incorporate Intel's Turbo Boost Technology 2.0, which manages cores to shut down those not being used to save power and give a boost in performance to individual cores that need it. And it will incorporate Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (AES NI) for faster, more efficient high-volume encryption.
sPar differs from hypervisors because it is optimized for maximum hardware isolation. With operating environment isolation, performance, scalability and processes can be more accurately predicted, thus providing a more accurate, scalable, secure, mission-critical operating environment than a virtualized one, where performance might vary from one state or one day to the next.
The new Unisys platform will support Linux, Windows and migrated Unix application workloads on the same platform and provision them across all delivery models – from high-availability mission-critical environments to public clouds – with levels of security and performance required for each workload.
Not said yet is whether or not these will be custom chips from Intel. Late in July, Intel announced it was going into the custom chip business, a big change from its long-time off-the-rack MO. Intel now offers a custom chip for major customers, assuming you are big enough, of course.
Its first customers are eBay and Facebook. They will get customized versions of low-power Xeon E3 System-on-Chips (SoCs) design using the 14 nanometer Broadwell architecture coming out next year. Broadwell is a shrink of the Haswell architecture, out now, but manufactured in a 22nm process.
Now those are low-power CPU models and it doesn't sound like Unisys is going for low-end computing; quite the opposite, in fact. It's systems tend to be very high end and very industry-specific.
But there's nothing to stop Intel from doing custom high-end server chips, either. Unisys would be an interesting launch partner, given it's not a huge hardware player like HP, but that might be why Intel is working with them as well.
It sounds funny to hear Intel talk about RISC migration since it is in the RISC business with the Itanium, but at this point, what's left? HP was the driving force behind Itanium and it's in chaos right now. IBM has a healthy RISC business, so the target is obviously what's left of the Sun installed base.
As a recent story from our sister publication Network World showed, the Unix world is in a state of decline. That's not really a surprise, as the trend has been going on for a while. Xeons have adopted more RAS features from RISC chips, while Linux and Windows have improved in their mission-critical capabilities.
Unisys is primarily a services and consulting company with just a small amount of revenue coming from hardware. Kind of like what IBM has become, really, but on a much smaller scale. That's why they don't show up on the top server vendors lists. But if they are on to something new, it could give them a competitive advantage at a time when the big guns are a mess