IBM Power8 Systems Ship, Aiming To Give Intel Xeon Systems A Run For Their Money


Watch out Intel, here comes IBM's Power8.

IBM Tuesday began shipping four flavors of it Power8-based Power System servers optimized for big data workloads and aimed squarely at giving Intel-class Xeon systems a run for their money.

Three of the Power8 systems can run either Linux, IBM AIX or the IBM i operating system. A fourth model, IBM said, is the Power S822L, which runs Linux exclusively. With its most recent version of Power8, IBM said it has spent $1 billion courting ISVs with no-charge tools to help them develop, test and port x86-based applications to the Power platform.   

“While the herd is rushing to low-cost Intel based systems, we see the value of Power8 over the competition,” said Greg Lefelar, senior vice president of sales at Jeskell Systems, an IBM Premier Business Partner based in Rockville, Md. “Priced per socket and per core, the Power8 dwarfs Intel options, delivering way more performance, infrastructure and real value.”

Related: IBM Pledges $1 Billion To Linux Effort To Boost Power System

Intel, Santa Clara, Calif., did not respond to a request for comment.

Dave Lasseter, vice president of Power System sales at Mainline Information Systems, Tallahassee, Fla., said when used for some workloads Power8 can enjoy performance gains up to 784 times over Intel Xeon processors. Lasseter said Mainline Information Systems is shipping 20 Power8 systems to customers that are hungry to run scale-out applications such as WebSphere and Cognos, which are ideal for the Power platform.

“One Power server can do the job of three to four Intel servers. That can reduce the amount of server sprawl within the enterprise and bring down power costs,” Lasseter said.

According to partners, IBM is incenting them to sell Power8 with “double-digit” guaranteed minimum margins on system sales and offering Processor Value Unit ratings that bring down the software licensing costs for IBM applications by as much as 20 percent to 30 percent.

In August 2013, IBM, Armonk, N.Y., said it would license designs of the Power microprocessor architecture to memory makers, graphics chip companies and server and component makers in an effort to expand the use of its Power platform. IBM formed what it called the OpenPower Foundation, in which members are able to build hardware that can be integrated with chips such as its 12-core Power8 chip design.

IBM’s Power8 designs are available for licensing under the OpenPower Foundation. As part of the Tuesday's rollout, IBM said it also will offer the latest release of Ubuntu Server, Ubuntu OpenStack, Canonical's Juju cloud orchestration tools, and a Power Systems-compatible version of the Linux-based virtualization platform KVM.

"Clients are choosing to run Linux on Power Systems because they are seeking a higher-value, open server solution to help them better handle and leverage growing volumes of data," said Doug Balog, general manager of Power Systems at IBM, in a statement.

Last week IBM said SAP was testing HANA in-memory database software running on Power. In April hyperscale data center leader Google, one of the world’s largest buyers of Intel server chips, showed off a prototype motherboard for its servers running Power8. About 26 companies have now joined the OpenPower Foundation.

“It remains to be seen if Power8 on Linux will take off like IBM hopes. But if you look at the economics this has the potential to take off,” Jeskell Systems' Lefelar said.  

PUBLISHED JUNE 10, 2014