The Open Secret Behind the Success of OpenPOWER


By Brad McCredie, President

The release this week of Intel’s new 18-core Haswell-EX chip, gives us an opportunity to gauge how OpenPOWER technology and our “co-opetition” business model are stacking up. It’s an open secret. In just little over a year, with more than 10 new collaboratively built hardware solutions and growing, the OpenPOWER Foundation is reimagining the data center and leading our industry into a new era, dominated by hyperscale clouds and analytics on huge datasets.

When we were founded in 2013, some in the industry were skeptical of our approach – even comparing us to OpenSPARC, a technology that is generally acknowledged to have underperformed. But where OpenSPARC gave away old technology and never really focused on building a strong ecosystem, OpenPOWER shares new technology, has an industry-led ecosystem of more than 100 members, and is built around the first system developed for the most modern, workloads and deployment models. It should also be noted that while OpenSPARC and Intel’s proprietary product line were among the many options back when Moore’s Law appeared to be perpetually sustainable, OpenPOWER is emerging as Moore’s Law approaches its limit, and the industry is eager for alternative choices. As a study by a leading industry analyst put it last year, POWER8, the IBM architecture that is the basic building block of OpenPOWER, “offers a viable alternative to Intel’s market-leading products…and is energizing the OpenPOWER Foundation.” Those who make the point that the OpenPOWER approach has been tried before are right. But while OpenPOWER has dared to go where others have attempted to go before, it is the first model to get it right. In short, OpenPOWER is the wave of the future, and there’s no turning back. The industry is voting with its feet and its dollars.

Power Systems lead the global Big Data and analytics market worldwide and are the top choice for scalable systems. Globally, nine of the top 10 banks, and 8 of the top 10 retailers run Power systems.

OpenPOWER’s success is not due solely to its innovative business model. We have been able to marry business model innovation with technology innovation to deliver choice, freedom and superior performance demanded by clients around the world. So, how do our specs stack up?

By any measure, POWER8 processors offer more memory, more threads, more bandwidth and more cache than Intel. Built for Big Data, Power Systems offer virtualization without limits and security without doubt. They are optimized to run core, mission-critical applications alongside emerging business applications, and they offer efficient, cost-effective and simple-to-manage clouds.

Finally, as an independent analyst recently noted, “pricing is no contest,” with Power chips averaging about half the cost of Intel chips.

While the single company led, closed, proprietary microprocessor model is fighting to maintain its foothold in the industry; it is no longer the only game in town. OpenPOWER is a bold, unprecedented move that is industry led, community driven and gaining momentum. Congratulations to Intel for the introduction of its new chip, but as baseball great, Satchel Paige once famously declared, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.”