IBM-licensed servers take aim at Intel's server CPU dominance

|By:, SA News Editor

3rd-party servers based on IBM's Power architecture will hit the market in early 2015, says IBM exec Ken King. He adds the first Power systems will be aimed at cloud and high-end applications. They'll run on Big Blue's Power8 CPUs.

3rd-party Power CPUs are also expected in time. IBM first announced plans to license Power to third parties a year ago. The company's own Power server sales have been plunging amid a broader decline in UNIX and non-x86 server demand; they fell 28% Y/Y in Q2.

Early supporters for IBM's effort include Nvidia, Samsung, Micron, and most notably Google, which (like other Web giants) buys huge quantities of Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) CPUs to power its servers. Power8's proponents claim big performance gains relative to Intel's x86 Xeon CPUs; individual Power8 chips can feature 12 cores and support up to 96 threads.

King says Google, known for its obsession with performance and power efficiency, could be intrigued by the fact Power can support more virtual machines than x86. As with the budding ARM server CPU market, software support will take some time.

Intel, whose server CPU unit towers over the market and is coming off a strong Q2, is trying to counter the Power/ARM threats both by rolling out new low-power Atom server CPUs, and by expanding its custom chip work for Internet clients. Upcoming products will offer more customization by placing an FPGA and a Xeon CPU in the same package.