SAN FRANCISCO — A veteran server analyst expressed skepticism that IBM will find new markets for its Power 8 processors and motherboards as open hardware products. With the exception of one Chinese company, it was not clear at an event here to launch the initiative who will license the IBM technology.
IBM announced 26 partners for its OpenPower Foundation (OPF) at the event. A Google engineering manager chairs the effort, signaling the search company's interest, but he made no specific commitment to using Power 8.
"Google gets in bed with everybody… they'll be in all these different activities, but it's never really a strategic thing for them," Nathan Brookwood, principal of the market watcher Insight64, told EE Times. IBM's open hardware move is "driven by desperation more than hope."
Despite its high performance, IBM's Power 8 lacks the volume to compete in a very expensive processor battle with the massively popular Intel and ARM architectures, Brookwood said. In addition, the open development model may not be successful in the server market, where a few players retain tight control.
"Adding open to Power doesn't make Power open, nor will it make Power more appealing to the vast majority of people who are deploying Intel servers today," he said. "Power is a very innovative architecture, but buyers tend to be very reluctant to buy into architecture they're not using if it looks like the architecture is on its way out."
Taking the opposite position, Suzhou PowerCore said it plans to license the Power architecture and chip design tools to develop and market processors for servers in China. Seeking more opportunities in Asia, IBM executives are travelling to China this week to hold another OPF event.
IBM's Tom Rosamilia (left) and Doug Balog (right) reveal
the company's Power 8 systems.
(Source: Monica Davey/IBM)
InformationWeek (a sister site) reports that Tyan, a Taiwanese motherboard maker, has developed a Power 8 reference design for unbranded server makers. The company is also a founding OPF member. Other OPF partners in Asia include Samsung, ZTE, SK Hynix, and Hitachi.
Brookwood said that much of China's Internet infrastructure is based on Intel's x86, which could be a high hurdle. Power 8 will get most of its customer base from Power 7 users, he said.
Kamran Khan, Rice University's vice provost for information technology and a Power 7 user, spoke at the event on behalf of the architecture. "Big data is processing… volumes of petabytes of data, and it's hard to do that on commodity servers," Khan said.