Unchaining the data center with OpenPOWER: Reengineering a server ecosystem


By Michael Gschwind, STSM & Senior Manager, System Architecture, IBM 33601413

Later today at HOT CHIPS a leading semiconductor conference, I will be providing an update on IBM’s POWER8 processor and how, through the OpenPOWER Foundation, we are making great strides opening the processor up not just from a hardware perspective, but also at the software level.

It was at this same show last year that my colleague IBM POWER hardware architect Jeff Stuecheli first revealed how POWER8 would be made open for development.  This move has been met with great excitement over the past twelve months and has been seen as an important milestone because, with the advent of Big Data, companies are demanding more from their data centers — more than what commodity servers built on decades old PC-era technology can deliver. POWER technology is designed specifically to meet these demands and, because it is open, it frees technology providers to innovate together and accelerate industry advancement.

Other than being a significant technical and open development milestone, POWER8 is also the basis for the OpenPOWER Foundation, an open technical organization formed by data center industry leaders that enables data center operators to rethink their approach to technology. In a world where there’s constant tension between the need for standardization and the need for innovation, OpenPOWER was created to foster an open ecosystem, using the POWER architecture to share expertise, investment, and server-class intellectual property to serve the evolving needs of customers.

OpenPOWER is about choice in large-scale data centers:

  • The choice to differentiate — Through the Foundation, members can build workload optimized solutions customized for servers and use best-of-breed-components from an open ecosystem, instead of settling for “one size fits all.” This will in turn increase value.
  • The choice to innovate — The OpenPOWER Foundation offers a collaborative environment where members can jointly create a vibrant open ecosystem for data centers.
  • The choice to grow — Each member of the Foundation can implement new capabilities instead of relying on technology scaling of a stagnant PC architecture that has run out of headroom to grow.

After all that has been accomplished through the OpenPOWER Foundation on the hardware side, today I want to share some new advances on the software side. First of all, I am happy to announce that The New OpenPOWER Application Binary Interface (ABI) has been published. The ABI is a collection of rules for the OpenPOWER Foundation with the scope of standardizing the inter-operation of application components. This is significant because, when programs are optimized by compilers, we can all be more efficient.

Second, the OpenPOWER Vector SIMD Programming Model has been implemented. This program transcends traditional hardware-centric SIMD programming models with the scope of creating intuitive programming models and facilitating application portability while enabling compilers to optimize OpenPOWER workloads even better.

These advancement were made possible through consultation with OpenPOWER members, and they will grant more room for bringing in innovation at all levels of the hardware and software stacks.

The OpenPOWER Foundation’s collaborative innovation is already changing the industry and major data center stakeholders are joining OpenPOWER. If you want to learn more about the OpenPOWER Foundation visit http://openpowerfoundation.org/