In the cloud, users don't always know or care what the bare metal server is on which their workloads run. Some users do care and sometimes the actual bare metal server matters a great deal. That's why IBM is now pushing forward a new effort to offer OpenPower-based servers to its IBM SoftLayer cloud customers.
The plan is for the bare metal offering to leverage IBM's POWER8 architecture with new bare metal OpenPower systems. To date, IBM's SoftLayer has largely offered its users x86-based server deployments.
An IBM spokesperson told ServerWatch that information on system specifications and any comparisons to x86 systems will not be publicly shared until later this year then when the new servers becomes generally available.
IBM also did not have any comment on whether or not SoftLayer would be leveraging the OpenStack Ironic project to enable the bare metal OpenPower server offering. OpenStack Ironic is an open-source effort within the OpenStack Cloud platform to enable the provisioning of bare metal servers. Multiple OpenStack vendors including Rackspace use Ironic today to power bare metal cloud server delivery.
Rackspace's OnMetal OpenStack Ironic service has been in market since June of 2014 and enables Rackspace cloud users to provision Intel Xeon-powered bare metal servers. Somewhat ironically, Rackspace is also a member of the OpenPower Alliance, though Rackspace does not currently have any Power systems available as part of its OnMetal service.
Though Rackspace has been using Ironic for some time, Ironic is not yet technically part of the mainline integrated OpenStack release. The OpenStack Ironic project is however set to become part of the OpenStack Kilo integrated release, which will become available on April 30.
The other question that always needs to be answered when contemplating a non-x86 architecture is the issue of application and workload portability. That's a question that IBM is answering.
"By running Linux in Little Endian mode, in 95 percent of cases there are no code changes required," Steve Fields, IBM Director of Power System, told ServerWatch. "Code changes are only required when x86-specific architectural features have been used."
Fields added that interpreted languages like PHP and Java work without recompilation.