Samsung Joins The OpenPower Consortium Party
February 17, 2014 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The momentum behind the OpenPower Consortium that Big Blue started up last summer to breathe some new life into the Power chip continues to build, now that Samsung Electronics has joined up.
So let’s see. We have IBM as a Power8 chip maker and Suzhou PowerCore of China as one that is working on its own designs. We have Tyan as a motherboard maker, who presumably is working on motherboards or already has them done. Or, perhaps more comically, Tyan is already a contractor that is making motherboards for Power8 systems that IBM is planning to use. We have Mellanox Technologies for Ethernet and InfiniBand adapter cards, which will be tightly integrated with the on-chip PCI-Express 3.0 controllers on the Power8 chip. And we have Nvidia, which is working with IBM on a shared virtual memory architecture, called the Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface or CAPI, that will ride overtop the PCI-Express bus. Now, with Samsung, we have one of the dominant makers of system memory, and efficient memory modules at that.
Samsung was quiet as a mouse in a house full of cats about its reasons for joining the OpenPower effort, and Doug Balog, general manager of the Power Systems Division at Big Blue, was not able to publicly shed any light on the company’s plans. An obvious first step is to tune up server memory to be fast and efficient for the Power8 chips. And further down the road, IBM could work with Samsung to try to get memory and processor modules a bit closer to each other, cutting down latencies and keeping those hungry Power cores fed with data.
Balog says that IBM has just under 10 companies that have joined the OpenPower Consortium thus far and done all of the paperwork and paid their dues. Another 70 firms are interested, and that is up from 40 firms just before Suzhou PowerCore joined up three weeks ago. Some members want to be anonymous at the moment, which seems odd. What I can tell you is that Facebook is interested, but had not been asked as of three weeks ago. Other companies building custom servers that run Linux are obvious candidates, and Amazon seems very unlikely. Apple has an operating system that can run on Power chips, but the company seems fine with using X86 iron in its own datacenters. It is far more likely that existing Power Systems resellers, such as Bull and Hitachi are interested. I think some networking companies might also be interested, as well as some military contractors, but that is just a guess.
The big news, is that Gordon MacKean, engineering director at the platforms group at Google, has been named chairman of the OpenPower Foundation that runs the consortium. As I reported over at my other work life at EnterpriseTech, Google has built custom Power8 machines and has been hacking on the open source firmware IBM has made available to licensees through the OpenPower consortium.
It seems unlikely that The Chocolate Factory is interested in running IBM i on its Googleplex. But that sure would be an interesting development. . . .