Big Blue POWER Surge

by Clint Boulton

IBM offers a glimpse of POWER5 and reveals plans to expand the processor's reach.

At an event appropriately named "POWER Everywhere," IBM Wednesday revealed the destination for the next generation of its RISC-based chip: Everywhere. The next step in its on-demand strategy is to make the POWER architecture available in everything from consumer electronics to supercomputers, IBM officials said.

During the news conference here, IBM executives outlined the changes in store for POWER. Most notably, Big Blue will open up the design process for developers to make the chips more pervasive in the heavily competitive computing industry. "Integration will eclipse gigahertz," Bernard Meyerson, IBM fellow and chief technologist, said.

The company also demonstrated its pending POWER5 architecture in an eServer box. The next generation of the chip will allow virtualization at the processor level, thus enabling multiple operating systems to run off of one chip (or multiple) chips. Commercial products based on the next-generation architecture are expected to be unveiled in the second half of 2004, most likely starting with a pSeries offering, company officials said.

POWER chips are already found in anything from Apple G3 and G5 computers to IBM's own blade servers, but Big Blue is deepening its strategy by announcing new endorsements. Sony is the largest new addition to this pool. The electronics giant pledged to license POWER for its next-generation of digital consumer electronics products, which includes its popular PlayStation gaming console. IBM also inked new technology and development contracts with L-3 Communications and China's Global Brands Manufacture Group.

IBM will also power up its BladeCenter product.A POWER-based eServer BladeCenter JS20 will begin shipping globally in April. The JS20 uses the PowerPC 970 processor used in current iSeries and pSeries servers to enable 64-bit computing via blades. It can run and interoperate in the same rack as the HS20, a 2-way Intel Blade, and the HS40, a 4-way Intel-based blade server, Brian Connors, IBM vice president of Linux on pSeries, told ServerWatch. The JS20 runs SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 and Turbolinux Enterprise Server 8 and is considered part of the pSeries; the HS blades are Intel-based and considered part of the xSeries. They support Windows as well as Red Hat and SUSE Linux. An AIX-based blade is expected to join the arsenal later this year, Conners said.

>> Empowered With POWER

Empowered With POWER

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, vice president of technology and strategy, and Bill Zeitler, senior vice president, IBM systems group outlined Big Blue's plans to enable POWER chips to be used anywhere to deliver unprecedented scalability based on its architecture.

"What drives our industry is the new application of technology," Zeitler told the crowd. "Fundamentally, that's what on-demand is about. It's about companies from every kind of industry asking themselves the question: 'If every kind of device were connected, from automobiles to appliances and you had access to unlimited scales of computing, would things be different?' And resoundingly around the world, we're saying yes."

IBM's vision for spreading the influence of POWER takes two tracts: "Pervasive" and "Deep." Pervasive describes a wide range of wired and wireless devices POWER chips will power; Deep describes IBM's high performance technical computing products, which will eventually consist of Blue Gene. Wladawsky-Berger said Blue Gene will be the largest supercomputer in the world when it is finished.

"On the Pervasive side and on the Deep side, there is no question that in this connected on-demand world, we're going to see the growth of new applications," Zeitler said.

Perhaps one of the biggest questions going into the show was whether IBM's POWER architecture, with its 64-bit to 32-bit backward compatibility, would try to compete with Intel's Itanium chip.

Nick Donofrio, senior vice president of technology and manufacturing at IBM, said plainly, "we do not compete with Intel. We are a systems player. It is not about microprocessors; it is about enabling enterprises faster. It's about innovation. That's the value in the 21st century."

It is also, he noted, about using flexible chip architectures to help facilitate on-demand computing on systems.

For example, virtualization capabilities in the pending POWER5 chip provide the necessary functionality for computations to occur on-demand. By provisioning tasks automatically in multiple operating systems through one physical machine, organizations cut down on data center clutter and the need for personnel to babysit complex computing jobs, thus alleviating costs.

Connors discussed how the POWER5 will elevate the ability to drive IBM's on-demand strategy from the current POWER4 and POWER4+ architectures, which offer some virtualization and logical partitioning that spark on-demand computing.

"You're going to see that capability on a virtual scale-out because POWER5 will take that to the next level," Connors said. "The capabilities that we continue to bring down from our mainframe technology into our Power architecture will drive that. You'll start to see multiple workloads driving utilization and securing them in between different partitions. We'll dynamically partition them, similar to Power4, but on the fly with Power5."

Meanwhile, IBM executives said the company will set up Power Architecture centers around the world to help companies design software and systems based on the evolving architecture. IBM will guide the architecture, Conners said, "empowering the creation around it," and thus, "enabling, not cannibalizing."

IBM also unveiled a new chip package software to help those currently developing products on POWER. The software pack, free to current ASIC customers, pares development costs by half.

This article was originally published on Saturday Apr 3rd 2004
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