Posts Tagged ‘OpenPOWER’

IBM Jumps into the Next Gen Server Party with POWER9

February 15, 2018

IBM re-introduced its POWER9 lineup of servers  this week starting with 2-socket and 4-socket systems and more variations coming in the months ahead as IBM, along with the rest of the IT vendor community grapples with how to address changing data center needs. The first, the AC922, arrived last fall. DancingDinosaur covered it here. More, the S922/S914/S924 and H922/H924/L922, are promised later this quarter.

The workloads organizations are running these days are changing, often dramatically and quickly. One processor, no matter how capable or flexible or efficient will be unlikely to do the job going forward. It will take an entire family of chips.  That’s as true for Intel and AMR and the other chip players as IBM.

In some ways, IBM’s challenge is even qwerkier. Its chips will not only need to support Linux and Windows, but also IBMi and AIX. IBM simply cannot abandon its IBMi and AIX customer bases. So chips supporting IBMi and AIX are being built into the POWER9 family.

For IBMi the company is promising POWER9 exploitation for:

  • Expanding the secure-ability of IBMi with TLS, secure APIs, and logs for SIEM solutions
  • Expanded Install options with an installation process using USB 3.0 media
  • Encryption and compression for cloud storage
  • Increasing the productivity of developers and administrators

This may sound trivial to those who have focused on the Linux world and work with x86 systems too, but it is not for a company still mired in productive yet aging IBMi systems.

IBM also is promising POWER9 goodies for AIX, its legacy Unix OS, including:

  • AIX Security: PowerSC and PowerSC MFA updates for malware intrusion prevention and strong authentication
  • New workload acceleration with shared memory communications over RDMA (SMC-R)
  • Improved availability: AIX Live Update enhancements; GDR 1.2; PowerHA 7.2
  • Improved Cloud Mgmt: IBM Cloud PowerVC Manager for SDI; Import/Export;
  • AIX 7.2 native support for POWER9 – e.g. enabling NVMe

Again, if you have been running Linux on z or LinuxONE this may sound antiquated, but AIX has not been considered state-of-the-art for years. NVMe alone gives is a big boost.

But despite all the nice things IBM is doing for IBMi and AIX, DancingDinosaur believes the company clearly is betting POWER9 will cut into Intel x86 sales. But that is not a given. Intel is rolling out its own family of advanced x86 Xeon machines under the Skylake code name. Different versions will be packaged and tuned to different workloads. They are rumored, at the fully configured high end, to be quite expensive. Just don’t expect POWER9 systems to be cheap either.

And the chip market is getting more crowded. As Timothy Prickett Morgan, analyst at The Next Platform noted, various ARM chips –especially ThunderX2 from Cavium and Centriq 2400 from Qualcomm –can boost non-X86 numbers and divert sales from IBM’s POWER9 family. Also, AMD’s Epyc X86 processors have a good chance of stealing some market share from Intel’s Skylake. So the POWER9 will have to fight for every sale IBM wants.

Morgan went on: IBM differentiated the hardware and the pricing with its NVLink versions, depending on the workload and the competition, with its most aggressive pricing and a leaner and cheaper microcode and hypervisor stack reserved for the Linux workloads that the company is chasing. IBM very much wants to sell its Power-Linux combo against Intel’s Xeon-Linux and also keep AMD’s Epyc-Linux at bay. Where the Power8 chip had the advantage over the Intel’s Haswell and Broadwell Xeon E5 processors when it came to memory capacity and memory bandwidth per socket, and could meet or beat the Xeons when it came to performance on some workloads that is not yet apparent with the POWER9.

With the POWER9, however, IBM will likely charge a little less for companies buying its Linux-only variants, observes Morgan, effectively enabling IBM to win Linux deals, particularly where data analytics and open source databases drive the customer’s use case. Similarly, some traditional simulation and modeling workloads in the HPC and machine learning areas are ripe for POWER9.

POWER9 is not one chip. Packed into the chip are next-generation NVIDIA NVLink and OpenCAPI to provide significantly faster performance for attached GPUs. The PCI-Express 4.0 interconnect will be twice the speed of PCI-Express 3.0. The open POWER9 architecture also allows companies to mix a wide range of accelerators to meet various needs. Meanwhile, OpenCAPI can unlock coherent FPGAs to support varied accelerated storage, compute, and networking workloads. IBM also is counting on the 300+ members of the OpenPOWER Foundation and OpenCAPI Consortium to launch innovations for POWER9. Much is happening: Stay tuned to DancingDinosaur

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his work at technologywriter.com and here.

z System-Power-Storage Still Live at IBM

January 5, 2017

A mid-December briefing by Tom Rosamilia, SVP, IBM Systems, reassured some that IBM wasn’t putting its systems and platforms on the backburner after racking up financial quarterly losses for years. Expect new IBM systems in 2017. A few days later IBM announced that Japan-based APLUS Co., Ltd., which operates credit card and settlement service businesses, selected IBM LinuxONE as its mission-critical system for credit card payment processing. Hooray!

linuxone-emperor-2

LinuxONE’s security and industry-leading performance will ensure APLUS achieves its operational objectives as online commerce heats up and companies rely on cloud applications to draw and retain customers. Especially in Japan, where online and mobile shopping has become increasingly popular, the use of credit cards has grown, with more than 66 percent of consumers choosing that method for conducting online transactions. And with 80 percent enterprise hybrid cloud adoption predicted by 2017, APLUS is well positioned to connect cloud transactions leveraging LinuxONE. Throw in IBM’s expansion of blockchain capabilities and the APLUS move looks even smarter.

With the growth of international visitors spending money, IBM notes, and the emergence of FinTech firms in Japan have led to a diversification of payment methods the local financial industry struggles to respond. APLUS, which issues well-known credit cards such as T Card Plus, plans to offer leading-edge financial services by merging groups to achieve lean operations and improved productivity and efficiency. Choosing to update its credit card payment system with LinuxONE infrastructure, APLUS will benefit from an advanced IT environment to support its business growth by helping provide near-constant uptime. In addition to updating its server architecture, APLUS has deployed IBM storage to manage mission-critical data, the IBM DS8880 mainframe-attached storage that delivers integration with IBM z Systems and LinuxONE environments.

LinuxONE, however, was one part of the IBM Systems story Rosamilia set out to tell.  There also is the z13s, for encrypted hybrid clouds and the z/OS platform for Apache Spark data analytics and even more secure cloud services via blockchain on LinuxONE, by way of Bluemix or on premises.

z/OS will get attention in 2017 too. “z/OS is the best damn OLTP system in the world,” declared Rosamilia. He went on to imply that enhancements and upgrades to key z systems were coming in 2017, especially CICS, IMS, and a new release of DB2. Watch for new announcements coming soon as IBM tries to push z platform performance and capacity for z/OS and OLTP.

Rosamilia also talked up the POWER story. Specifically, Google and Rackspace have been developing OpenPOWER systems for the Open Compute Project.  New POWER LC servers running POWER8 and the NVIDIA NVLink accelerator, more innovations through the OpenCAPI Consortium, and the team of IBM and Nvidia to deliver PowerAI, part of IBM’s cognitive efforts.

As much as Rosamilia may have wanted to talk about platforms and systems IBM continues to avoid using terms like systems and platforms. So Rosamilia’s real intent was to discuss z and Power in conjunction with IBM’s strategic initiatives.  Remember these: cloud, big data, mobile, analytics. Lately, it seems, those initiatives have been culled down to cloud, hybrid cloud, and cognitive systems.

IBM’s current message is that IT innovation no longer comes from just the processor. Instead, it comes through scaling performance by workload and sustaining leadership through ecosystem partnerships.  We’ve already seen some of the fruits of that innovation through the Power community. Would be nice to see some of that coming to the z too, maybe through the open mainframe project. But that isn’t about z/0S. Any boost in CICS, DB2, and IMS will have to come from the core z team. The open mainframe project is about Linux on z.

The first glimpse we had of this came last spring in a system dubbed Minsky, which was described back then by commentator Timothy Prickett Morgan. With the Minsky machine, IBM is using NVLink ports on the updated Power8 CPU, which was shown in April at the OpenPower Summit and is making its debut in systems actually manufactured by ODM Wistron and rebadged, sold, and supported by IBM. The NVLink ports are bundled up in a quad to deliver 80 GB/sec bandwidth between a pair of GPUs and between each GPU and the updated Power8 CPU.

The IBM version, Morgan describes, aims to create a very brawny node with very tight coupling of GPUs and CPUs so they can better share memory, have fewer overall GPUs, and more bandwidth between the compute elements. IBM is aiming Minsky at HPC workloads, according to Morgan, but there is no reason it cannot be used for deep learning or even accelerated databases.

Is this where today’s z data center managers want to go?  No one is likely to spurn more performance, especially if it is accompanied with a price/performance improvement.  Whether rank-and-file z data centers are queueing up for AI or cognitive workloads will have to be seen. The sheer volume and scale of expected activity, however, will require some form of automated intelligent assist.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here

OpenPOWER Starts Delivering the Goods

March 13, 2015

Are you leery of multi-vendor consortiums? DancingDinosaur as a rule is skeptical of the grand promises they make until they actually start delivering results. That was the case with OpenPOWER last spring when you read here that the OpenPOWER Foundation was introduced and almost immediately forgotten.

 power8 cpu blocks

IBM POWER8 processor, courtesy of IBM (click to enlarge)

But then last fall DancingDinosaur reported on NVIDIA and its new GPU accelerator integrated directly into the server here. This too was an OpenPOWER Foundation-based initiative. Suddenly, DancingDinosaur is thinking the OpenPOWER Foundation might actually produce results.

For example, IBM introduced a new range of systems capable of handling massive amounts of computational data faster at nearly 20 percent better price/performance than comparable Intel Xeon v3 Processor-based systems. The result:  a superior alternative to closed, commodity-based data center servers. Better performance and at a lower price. What’s not to like?

The first place you probably want to apply this improved price/performance is to big data, which generates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data across the planet every day. Even the miniscule portion of this amount that you actually generate will very quickly challenge your organization to build a sufficiently powerful technology infrastructures to gain actionable insights from this data fast enough and at a price you can afford.

The commodity x86 servers used today by most organizations are built on proprietary Intel processor technology and are increasingly stretched to their limits by workloads related to big data, cloud and mobile. By contrast, IBM is designing a new data centric approach to systems that leverages the building blocks of the OpenPOWER Foundation.

This is plausible given the success of NVIDIA with its GPU accelerator. And just this past week Altera demonstrated its OpenPOWER-based FPGA, now being used by several other Foundation members who are collaborating to develop high-performance compute solutions that integrate IBM POWER chips with Altera’s FPGA-based acceleration technologies.

Formed in late 2013, the OpenPOWER Foundation has grown quickly from 5 founders to over 100 today. All are collaborating in various ways to leverage the IBM POWER processor’s open architecture for broad industry innovation.

IBM is looking to offer the POWER8 core and other future cores under the OpenPOWER initiative but they are also making previous designs available for licensing. Partners are required to contribute intellectual property to the OpenPOWER Foundation to be able to gain high level status. The earliest successes have been around accelerators and such, some based on POWER8’s CAPI (Coherence Attach Processor Interface) expansion bus built specifically to integrate easily with external coprocessors like GPUs, ASICs and FPGAs. DancingDinosaur will know when the OpenPOWER Foundation is truly on the path to acceptance when a member introduces a non-IBM POWER8 server. Have been told that may happen in 2015.

In the meantime, IBM itself is capitalizing on the OpenPower Foundation. Its new IBM Power S824L servers are built on IBM’s POWER8 processor and tightly integrate other OpenPOWER technologies, including NVIDIA’s GPU accelerator. Built on the OpenPOWER stack, the Power S824L provides organizations the ability to run data-intensive tasks on the POWER8 processor while offloading other compute-intensive workloads to GPU accelerators, which are capable of running millions of data computations in parallel and are designed to significantly speed up compute-intensive applications.

Further leveraging the OpenPOWER Foundation at the start of March IBM announced that SoftLayer will offer OpenPOWER servers as part of its portfolio of cloud services. Organizations will then be able to select OpenPOWER bare metal servers when configuring their cloud-based IT infrastructure from SoftLayer, an IBM company. The servers were developed to help organizations better manage data-intensive workloads on public and private clouds, effectively extending their existing infrastructure inexpensively and quickly. This is possible because OpenPOWER servers leverage IBM’s licensable POWER processor technology and feature innovations resulting from open collaboration among OpenPOWER Foundation members.

Due in the second quarter, the SoftLayer bare metal servers run Linux applications and are based on the IBM POWER8 architecture. The offering, according to IBM, also will leverage the rapidly expanding community of developers contributing to the POWER ecosystem as well as independent software vendors that support Linux on Power and are migrating applications from x86 to the POWER architecture. Built on open technology standards that begin at the chip level, the new bare metal servers are built to assist a wide range of businesses interested in building custom hybrid, private, and public cloud solutions based on open technology.

BTW, it is time to register for IBM Edge2015 in Las Vegas May 10-15. Edge2015 combines all of IBM’s infrastructure products with both a technical track and an executive track.  You can be sure DancingDinosaur will be there. Watch for upcoming posts here that will highlight some of the more interesting sessions.DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT analyst and writer.

Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing on Technologywriter.com and here.


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