IBM's OpenPower consortium with Nvidia, Google aims to advance datacenter

The alliance, called the OpenPower Consortium, is a move to break into Intel's server chip dominance and provide alternatives to x86-based datacenter gear.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

IBM, Google and a series of partners have formed an alliance to license Big Blue's server hardware and firmware.

The alliance, called the OpenPower Consortium, was formed to break into Intel's server chip prowess. The move could open up new designs and alternatives to the x86 architecture. The x86 architecture is under fire in the datacenter from ARM too. For instance, HP's Moonshot effort will offer a series of various special use processors. IBM's OpenPower Consortium appears to be aimed at HP, which could get traction with hyperscale servers. 

Intel didn't sound all that threatened by OpenPower. Mark Miller, an Intel spokesman, said in a statement:

Data centers around the world today run on Intel architecture, so companies clearly recognize the business value Intel brings. We don’t take these things lightly, but it’s important to remember that there is large and growing ecosystem around our technology. As we continue to innovate and offer custom alternatives, we believe it will be increasingly difficult for other architectures to compete.

With the OpenPower alliance, it's possible that more datacenter customers will develop their own hardware. If that use case---deployed by the likes of Google and Facebook---becomes the norm, IBM's intellectual property could garner a bigger footprint.

IBM will use its Power technology to push hardware designs with a series of partners.


Under the alliance, companies such as Google, IBM, Mellanox, Nvidia and Tyan will aim to build server, networking, storage and GPU acceleration technologies for hyperscale and cloud datacenters.

IBM's Power hardware and software previously was proprietary to Big Blue. The consortium will now offer open source Power firmware to control basic chip functions.

In a statement, Steve Mills, senior vice president of IBM Software and Systems, said the consortium aims to use a "collaborative development model" to advance datacenter hardware.

Initially, the OpenPower Consortium will focus on integrating Nvidia and Power processors.

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