IBM Doubles Down On Power8 With New Scale-Out Server Blitz

IBM is doubling down on Linux and its mid- to high-end Power servers, announcing a bevy of new Big Iron computers targeting specific Big Data and analytic workloads just days after selling off its x86 server business to Lenovo.

Systems range from a beefy 8-socket Power E880, which IBM touts as the "world's most powerful computer," to the 2-socket Power S824L server, aimed to compete in the Linux x86 market. The servers are all developed within the 59-member OpenPOWER Foundation with a mission to create an open development platform for IBM's Power8 processors.

"This is a very important announcement for IBM coming the same week that they announced their divestiture of their x86 server business to Lenovo," said Matt Eastwood, group vice president and general manager at IDC's Enterprise Platforms group.

[Related: Lenovo's Channel Chief Q&A: What's Next After IBM's Server Buy]

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IBM has had to walk a fine line with its Power systems in the past, being careful not to irk Intel, which it relied on for its System x systems, Eastwood said.

"IBM is no longer beholden to Intel and is free to make the Power the platform for as many applications as it can," he said.

IBM is gunning to secure the mid-to-high range $7 billion RISC server market, which it dominates over Hewlett-Packard's Integrity servers and Oracle's Sparc servers, Eastwood said.

"Power isn't a single workload platform. For solution providers, Power is part of a total solution. Something that helps partners and IBM deliver not just the hardware, but also services and software," said Brett Murphy, director of enterprise architecture, at Lexington, Ky.-based IBM partner SIS.

As an IBM partner, he said, Power becomes a critical component for opening up pipelines to new business that include storage and catering to markets such as Big Data, cloud and mobile.

A key component to IBM's Power8 server blitz Friday includes a first ever partnership with chipmaker and OpenPOWER member NVIDIA to build a "hybrid" server.

The server, Power S824L, leverages NVIDIA’s GPU accelerator technology to boost performance and optimize workloads for "banks to better analyze risk, energy companies to more precisely locate oil reserves and scientists to more quickly identify cures for diseases," IBM said in a release.

"What it comes down to with Power8 and OpenPOWER is allowing partners to innovate," said Brad McCredie, IBM Fellow, VP in IBM's Systems and Technology Group and CTO of IBM STG.

Intel, McCredie said, was proprietary architecture that left little room for the type of innovation afforded by the OpenPOWER platform.

"The key differentiator between IBM and Intel is we are allowing our partners to change the chip, build on what's there, tailor your own solutions," McCredie said. Some of those OpenPOWER partners, such as Redis Labs, Canonical and Altera, are part of a Power8 server (S822L) optimized for large NoSQL stores. IBM claims its S822L Power8 server can be used instead of 24 Intel servers for "a well-sized NoSQL store."

IBM said its IBM Power8 systems will become available Oct. 30.