The Rise of Linux on Power

Whilst I cannot profess to be particularly trendy (especially in the eyes of my kids) not being a millennial and all, fashion for me is a realm of the utilitarian. Suits for work and jeans for pretty much everything else, occasionally though it’s nice to be able to be on trend with something, and with Linux on power I get that opportunity.

Linux has always seemed to be “the trendy surfer” of the range of OS options that we come across. Recently though, it seems to be, like me, coming of age. Stepping from the cool fringes firmly into the mainstream. The rise of Linux-based applications that now appear at the core of business critical infrastructure is testament to the relevance of the OS – especially in the realm of HPC and web based applications.

So what does this mean for an IBM Power-focused Business Partner like us at Maple Computing? Well, with the advancement in IBM’s Power 8 chipset and platform, and the incredible benchmark figures in CPU cycles and application multithreading, making Power an ideal platform. Especially for businesses running such HPC and web based applications with their inherent low-latency and high-performance nature.

We are finding that businesses that demand decent transaction performance seem to be addressing the problem by throwing large numbers of X86 based servers at the issue in an effort to provide the muscle required. Examples of such businesses could include a web facing transactional business, or a service business, which requires high transactional throughput. With this approach you require a steady stream of servers to keep up with the demand as well as the integration skills, the space and the funds to do so.

Stop, think and take a fresh approach to HPC and web based applications:

Such Linux solutions are increasingly ones that IBM have already certified for Linux on Power. They have been developed to utilise the unique advantages of Power 8, the high performance chipset and, perhaps more importantly, the multithreading capabilities it brings through SMT8. Customers can typically consolidate 30 plus cores of x86 workload onto just a handful of Power 8 cores, saving money, power, and rack space whilst lowering licensing costs. Perhaps just as important is the ability to deliver better performance in a scalable architecture that can grow in line with the business demand incrementally rather than requiring regular large-scale purchases.

Having grown up with IBM UNIX, as well as with AS/400 in all its previous incarnations, we already understand the incredible reliability, scalability and performance that these platforms offer. IBM’s PowerLinux solutions are tuned to extend the performance of POWER to key emerging workloads running on industry-standard Linux, which will give us the tools to compete not just at the high-end for HPC analytics etc., but also right into the congested heart of the data centre. Featuring Power technology in dense, rack-optimised form factors, these servers run industry standard Red Hat, SUSE and Ubuntu Linux distributions, and are priced to provide more competitive, reliable and scalable alternatives to commodity x86 scale-out options, and we even have the open virtualisation capability scale-out solutions!

IBM has also embraced the idea of open distribution and standards by opening up its chip architecture via The OpenPOWER Foundation. This is a collaboration around Power Architecture products initiated by IBM and announced as the “OpenPOWER Consortium” on August 6, 2013. The plan is for IBM to open up the technology surrounding its Power Architecture offerings – including the processor specifications, firmware and software – and to offer this on a liberal license using a collaborative development model with its partners.

In my opinion this is a very clever move – opening up its IP to enable the server vendor ecosystem to build its own customised server, networking, and storage hardware on OpenPOWER for the data centres of the future and for cloud computing whilst promoting the IBM chip technology.

With Google reportedly taking up the platform for provision in its own data centres, this could prove prolific and I would guess that IBM can rest safe in the knowledge that most businesses would be reluctant to run mission critical apps on freeware, without paid support of some description. This means a secure future for IBM and its POWER-focused Business Partners and a compelling, competitive, scalable and reliable platform for their clients.

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