Challenging the Xeon

So what caused us to investigate the IBM POWER8 as a viable alternative to the mass market Xeon E5s and not simply the high-end quad (and higher) socket Xeon E7 parts? A lot. IBM sold its x86 server division to Lenovo. So there is only one true server processor left at IBM: the POWER family. But more importantly, the OpenPOWER fondation has a lot of momentum since its birth in 2013. IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation Partners like Google, NVIDIA, and Mellanox are all committed to innovating around the POWER processor-based systems from the chip level up through the whole platform. The foundation has delivered some tangible results:

  • Open Firmware which includes both the firmware to boot the hardware (similar to the BIOS) ...
  • ... as OPAL (OpenPOWER Abstraction Layer) to boot and launch a hypervisor kernel.
  • OpenBMC
  • Cheaper and available to third parties (!) POWER8 chips
  • CAPI over PCIe, to make it easier to link the POWER8 to GPUs (and other PCIe cards)
  • And much more third party hardware support (Mellanox IB etc.)
  • A much large software ecosystem (see further)

The impact of opening up firmware under the Apache v2 license and BMC (IBM calls it "field processor") code should not be underestimated. The big hyperscale companies - Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Rackspace - want as much control over their software stack as they can.

The resuls are that Google is supporting the efforts and Rackspace has even built their own OpenPOWER server called "Barreleye". While Google has been supportive and showing of proof of concepts, Rackspace is going all the way:

... and aim to put Barreleye in our datacenters for OpenStack services early next year.

The end result is that the complete POWER platform, once only available in expensive high end servers, can now be found inside affordable linux based servers, from IBM (S8xxL) and third parties like Tyan. The opinions of usual pundits range from "too little, too late" to "trouble for Intel". Should you check out a POWER8 based server before you order your next Xeon - Linux server? And why? We started with analyzing the available benchmarks carefully.

A Real Alternative? Reading the Benchmarks
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  • Mondozai - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    That's too bad. Over 90% of the world population exists outside of it and even if you look at the HPC market, the vast majority of that is, too.

    The world doesn't revolve around you. Get out of your bubble.
  • bji - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    He never claimed the world revolved around him, he just made a true statement that may be worth consideration. Your response is unnecessarily hostile and annoying.

    I would expand Jtaylor1986's statement: I believe that most if not all native English speaking populations use commas for thousands grouping in numbers. Since this site is written in English, it might be worthwhile to stick to conventions of native English speakers.

    It's possible that there are many more non-native English speakers reading this site who would prefer dots instead of commas, but I doubt it. Only the site maintainers would know though.
  • Jtaylor1986 - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    You read my mind :)
  • mapesdhs - Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - link

    Talking to numerous people around Europe about tech stuff, I can't think of any nation from which someone used the decimal point in their emails instead of a comma in this context. I'd assumed the comma was standard for thousands groupings. So which non-US countries do use the point instead? Anyone know?
  • lmcd - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    Cool on the rest of the world part, but the period vs comma as delimiters in the world numeric system ARE backward. In language (universal, or nearly), a comma is used to denote a pause or minor break, and a period is used to denote the end of a complete thought or section. Applied to numerics, and you end up with the American way of doing it.

    ^my take
  • JohanAnandtech - Saturday, November 7, 2015 - link

    Just for the record, this was not an attempt to nag the US people. Just the mighty force of habit.
  • ZeDestructor - Saturday, November 7, 2015 - link

    For future use: just use a space for thousands seperation (that's how I do it on anything that isn't limited to a 7seg-style display), and confuse readers by mixing commas and periods for decimals :P
  • tygrus - Sunday, November 8, 2015 - link

    I like to use a fullstop for the decimal point, an apostrophe for the thousands separator, a comma for separating items in the list, don't start a sentance with a digit.
    One list of numbers may be : 3'500'000, 45.08, 12'500.8, 9'500. Second list : 45'000, 15'000, 25'000. We use apostrophes when we contract words like don't so why not use it for contracting numbers where we would otherwise have the words thousand, millions, billions etc ?
  • mapesdhs - Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - link

    I have a headache in my eyeballs! :D
  • ws3 - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    North America is on the majority side on this issue. Asia, in particular, is almost completely on the side of using a dot as the decimal separator and a comma to put breaks in long numbers.

    Get with the program Europe. The world doesn't revolve around you!

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