A POWERFUL Birthday Gift to Moore’s Law


By Bradley McCredie

President, OpenPOWER Foundation

As we prepare to join the computing world in celebrating the 50th anniversary of Moore’s Law, we can’t help but notice how the aging process has slowed it down. In fact, in a recent interview with IEEE Spectrum, Moore said, “I guess I see Moore’s Law dying here in the next decade or so.”  But we have not come to bury Moore’s Law.  Quite the contrary, we need the economic advancements that are derived from the scaling Moore’s law describes to survive — and they will — if it adapts yet again to changing times.

It is clear, as the next generation of warehouse scale computing comes of age, sole reliance on the “tick tock” approach to microprocessor development is no longer viable.  As I told the participants at our first OpenPOWER Foundation summit last month in San Jose, the era of relying solely on the generation to generation improvements of the general-purpose processor is over.  The advancement of the general purpose processor is being outpaced by the disruptive and surging demands being placed on today’s infrastructure.  At the same time, the need for the cost/performance advancement and computational growth rates that Moore’s law used to deliver has never been greater.   OpenPOWER is a way to bridge that gap and keep Moore’s Law alive through customized processors, systems, accelerators, and software solutions.  At our San Jose summit, some of our more than 100 Foundation members, spanning 22 countries and six continents, unveiled the first of what we know will be a growing number of OpenPOWER solutions, developed collaboratively, and built upon the non-proprietary IBM POWER architecture. These solutions include:

Prototype of IBM’s first OpenPOWER high performance computing server on the path to exascale

  • First commercially available OpenPOWER server, the TYAN TN71-BP012
  • First GPU-accelerated OpenPOWER developer platform, the Cirrascale RM4950
  • Rackspace open server specification and motherboard mock-up combining OpenPOWER, Open Compute and OpenStack

Together, we are reimagining the data center, and our open innovation business model is leading historic transformation in our industry.

The OpenPOWER business model is built upon a foundation of a large ecosystem that drives innovations and shares the profits from those innovations. We are at a point in time where business model innovation is just as important to our industry as technology innovation.

You don’t have to look any further than OpenPOWER Chairman, Gordon MacKean’s company, Google to see an example of what I mean. While the technology that Google creates and uses is leading in our industry, Google would not be even be a shadow of the company it is today without it’s extremely innovative business model. Google gives away all of its advanced technology for free and monetizes it through other means.

In fact if you think about it, most all of the fastest growing “new companies” in our industry are built on innovative technology ideas, but the most successful ones are all leveraging business model innovations as well.

The early successes of the OpenPower approach confirm what we all know – to expedite innovation, we must move beyond a processor and technology-only design ecosystem to an ecosystem that takes into account system bottlenecks, system software, and most importantly, the benefits of an open, collaborative ecosystem.

This is about how organizations, companies and even countries can address disruptions and technology shifts to create a fundamentally new competitive approach.

No one company alone can spark the magnitude or diversity of the type of innovation we are going to need for the growing number of hyper-scale data centers. In short, we must collaborate not only to survive…we must collaborate to innovate, differentiate and thrive.

The OpenPOWER Foundation, our global team of rivals, is modeling what we IBMers like to call “co-opetition” – competing when it is in the best interest of our companies and cooperating with each other when it helps us all.  This combination of breakthrough technologies and unprecedented collaboration is putting us in the forefront of the next great wave of computing innovation.  Which takes us back to Moore’s Law.  In 1965, when Gordon Moore gave us a challenge and a roadmap to the future, there were no smartphones or laptops, and wide-scale enterprise computing was still a dream.  None of those technology breakthroughs would have been possible without the vision of one man who shared it with the world.  OpenPOWER is a bridge we share to a new era. Who knows what breakthroughs it will spawn in our increasingly technology-driven and connected world.  As Moore’s Law has shown us, the future is wide open.