SAN JOSE, Calif. – Google is preparing for the possibility it may shift its massive data centers from Intel x86 to IBM Power servers. It also is preparing for the possibility it may shift to ARM servers, but it’s not quite as far along on that path.
The search giant gave a peak at just how prepared it is to move to IBM Power servers at the annual Open Power Summit here. It has now ported to the Power8 server it developed two years ago many Google apps and most of Google’s infrastructure software.
“For good software developers enabling Power is just modifying a flag in a config file and off they go,” said Maire Mahony, an engineering manager in Google’s platform group that is responsible for its data center hardware and a director of the Open Power Foundation.
Now Google is collaborating with Rackspace, a smaller data center services provider, to design a Power9 server. The so-called Zaius server (below) will use two Power9 chips, 32 DDR4 DIMM slots and sockets supporting PCI Express Gen 4 as well as IBM’s CAPI and Nvidia’s NVLink interconnects. It will be a 48V server designed for a 48V rack.
Google and Rackspace said they will co-develop a dual-socket IBM Power9 server. (All images: IBM or EE Times)
At the event, IBM showed a road map describing its Power9 for the first time. The processor will sport 24 newly designed cores, upgraded CAPI and NVLink interconnects and a whole new 25 Gbit/s interconnect IBM has yet to announce (see diagram at bottom).
Power9 will come in two flavors, one using direct-attached memory for scale-out clusters in big data centers and the other using buffered memory for scale-up systems in large enterprises. It will tape out soon with availability in late 2017 and is made in a Globalfoundries 14nm process.
Google did not build a Power8 server and port much of its software to it only to improve its position when negotiate pricing with Intel, Gordon MacKean, a senior director in Google’s platform group, told EE Times. “It’s about looking at all the technology available to use and positioning ourselves to deploy whatever has the best performance per dollar, to be ready to deploy the best platform,” he said.
Google also has ARM hardware in its labs to which it is porting its software now. However, “I think we are lagging a little bit with ARM, we are farther ahead with Power,” MacKean said, declining to detail what ARM hardware it is using for the ports.
“We’ll continue to watch the full landscape…You have to be ready to pull the trigger [on deployment] at any point in time,” he said.
“Each platform will leapfrog each other like back in the AMD/Intel days…now the competition is across instruction set architectures, so it’s more complex for us but we are up to the task…and there’s a lot more now with Open Compute to leverage,” he added, citing the Facebook-led open source hardware group Google joined earlier this year.
Next page: A look at Power and Open Power road maps