IBM Counters Falling Hardware Sales By Open-Sourcing Power Server Line


IBM, which is experiencing plummeting hardware revenue, is looking to shore up at least a part of its hardware business with a unique strategy: Open-source it.

IBM, a major supporter of open-source communities, is now applying the open-source model, long a mainstay in the storage industry, to its flagship Power-based server family.

The move to take its Power server technology to the open-source community via the OpenPower Foundation comes in the wake of IBM's decision to sell its x86-based server business to China-based Lenovo, and at a time when IBM's server sales continue to fall.

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The most visible aspect of IBM's opening up of its Power server technology came in April when Google blogged about a prototype server based on the Power processor.

However, at least one other server motherboard manufacturer and nearly 30 other developers of server-focused technology and components have signed on to OpenPower.org, said Bradley McCredie, vice president and CTO for IBM's Systems and Technology Group, and an IBM Fellow.

Google's development of a dual-socket server based on IBM's Power platform is only a small part of IBM's push to build an open-source ecosystem around the technology. Motherboard makers Google and Tyan, three memory makers, graphics developer Nvidia, and several software companies all support the platform.

Taking its Power server platform into open-source comes at a critical time for IBM's server business. While IBM just this month released four new servers based on its new Power8 processors, the company is dealing with a rapidly falling market for servers built on RISC processors, which include the Power processors.

Research firm Gartner in December said total third-quarter 2013 shipments of RISC-based servers fell 4.5 percent, leading to a revenue decline of 31 percent. IBM was the only vendor to grow its RISC server shipments, with a year-over-year rise of 19 percent, but it still saw revenue for the line drop 29.8 percent during that time, Gartner said.

NEXT: IBM Channel Partners See Open-Source The Right Move For IBM Power