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China Businesses IBM Intel Hardware

IBM and OpenPower Could Mean a Fight With Intel For Chinese Server Market 85

itwbennett writes With AMD's fade out from the server market and the rapid decline of RISC systems, Intel has stood atop the server market all by itself. But now IBM, through its OpenPOWER Foundation, could give Intel and its server OEMs a real fight in China, which is a massive server market. As the investor group Motley Fool notes, OpenPOWER is a threat to Intel in the Chinese server market because the government has been actively pushing homegrown solutions over foreign technology, and many of the Foundation members, like Tyan, are from China.
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IBM and OpenPower Could Mean a Fight With Intel For Chinese Server Market

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Although I've had a long career, I've never had the chance to work with IBM's technology (I've mostly worked in Sun, HP and Linux shops).

    I'm sure that a lot of people here have worked with IBM's products before. I want you to tell me what they're like.

    What are POWER systems actually like to work with? Are they obviously better than the processors and hardware from other vendors?

    What is AIX like to work with?

    What is DB2 like to work with?

    What is Informix like to work with?

    What is Lotus like to work with?

    What

    • by belrick ( 31159 ) on Saturday March 28, 2015 @11:01AM (#49361023)

      I've been working with AIX since 1990. Prior to that a bit of SunOS. AIX is is different but generally well thought out. Most people who hate it simply aren't used to the differences. Lots of feature that we take for granted in today's Linux existed in AIX 25 years ago.

      Tivoli Storage Manager is a dream. I remember setting up a high-availability TSM (well, ADSM at the time) server and having a client backup running during fail over testing. Client connection failed, continued retrying until the server was back up on the other node, then the backup continued where is left off. Transaction backup with rollback and resumption after server fail over! Try that with NetBackup or Networker or Avamar or CommVault.

      B

      • I've been working with AIX since 1990. Prior to that a bit of SunOS. AIX is is different but generally well thought out. Most people who hate it simply aren't used to the differences. Lots of feature that we take for granted in today's Linux existed in AIX 25 years ago.

        Tivoli Storage Manager is a dream. I remember setting up a high-availability TSM (well, ADSM at the time) server and having a client backup running during fail over testing. Client connection failed, continued retrying until the server was back up on the other node, then the backup continued where is left off. Transaction backup with rollback and resumption after server fail over! Try that with NetBackup or Networker or Avamar or CommVault.

        B

        And I loved VSAM, which was OS2 and which was ported to AIX. That was done in late 1980s.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    OpenPOWER looks nice, but we had this OpenSPARC thing for ages and it hasn't really taken off. Somebody "liberate" Alpha, and while at it, PA-RISC, and let's build something new. We need more diversity in the datacentre and on the desktop.

    • Mill Architecture (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The Mill architecture [millcomputing.com] is around the corner now, and promises immense potential. It elegantly addresses many deficiencies of conventional architectures, and enables substantially increased efficiency while also simplifying system software and compilers. It is a fascinating and compelling design, which re-abstracts the hardware and software in a fundamentally superior way.

      While the Alpha is a nice RISC design, at heart it is more similar to an x86 than not. The paradigm introduced by the Mill architecture

      • by bdcrazy ( 817679 )

        While also simplifying system software and compilers.

        Every few years we hear about this. What makes this attempt any more likely than the previous attempt? We have to deal with the software we have now, not what we'd like it to be.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Saturday March 28, 2015 @09:21AM (#49360707)

    So, is IBM going to ditch making their own POWER pSeries, and totally go for the ARM model of just licensing the technology for OpenPOWER . . . ?

    Just like in the PC world, folks stopped buying IBM built PCs, when cheap clones were available. What would be the advantage of buying an IBM built OpenPOWER system, as opposed to a much cheaper Chinese built clone . . . ? Maybe the IBM system will have some kind of "secret sauce" . . . ? Like a MicroChannel (har, har).

    At any rate, somebody is going to have to invest a lot of money to make sure that Linux runs well on OpenPOWER, in order for this to succeed.

  • by nhtshot ( 198470 ) on Saturday March 28, 2015 @09:26AM (#49360719) Homepage

    I work on PPC systems every day. I also use several. I'd wager that you do as well.

    Have cable or satellite TV? 90% chance it's using a Power cpu. Drive a car with fuel injection? 65% chance your engine is run by Power, 90% chance something in the car is (ABS, nav, transmission).

    It's been around a long time (30+ years), been 64 bit much longer than x86 or ARM, has good OS support and good compilers.

    I work on and like ARM as well, but if IBM can make a value proposition in China with PPC, they actually have a chance at getting some market share outside embedded.

    • Have cable or satellite TV? 90% chance it's using a Power cpu.

      actually mine is has MIPS chip

    • if IBM can make a value proposition in China with PPC, they actually have a chance at getting some market share outside embedded.

      yes i agree

      from TFA summary: "because the government has been actively pushing homegrown solutions over foreign technology, "

      China is serious about this.

      They are wise to the level of embedded spyware and also the way companies will lock you into proprietary everything.

      Also, it's a wise move from an IT perspective. Especially for something as huge as China, pushing "homegrown solut

    • I work on PPC systems every day. I also use several. I'd wager that you do as well.

      Have cable or satellite TV? 90% chance it's using a Power cpu. Drive a car with fuel injection? 65% chance your engine is run by Power, 90% chance something in the car is (ABS, nav, transmission).

      It's been around a long time (30+ years), been 64 bit much longer than x86 or ARM, has good OS support and good compilers.

      I work on and like ARM as well, but if IBM can make a value proposition in China with PPC, they actually have a chance at getting some market share outside embedded.

      I'm a fan of Power, and even big-Endian. Why not come out with 96bit wide processors. 32gigs ram for home and small business computers is too small.

  • Sure, you can put out a chip, but without a software stack of common applications (and operating systems) that you actually run on that stack, it's just something that consumes electricity.

    So who is going to fund the porting effort of all the tools, libraries, etc? Anyone who thinks you just grab source code and recompile on a new platform has probably never tried it. It's a pile of work.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      It's been done for Windows (Windows RT and Windows 10), OS X (ran on PowerPC a while back now on Intel), Linux (which runs on almost all CPUs) and many Unix systems. Might be a lot of work but seems to me, just recompiling for OpenPower isn't going to be THAT hard.
    • A simple recompile won't do it . . . some programs, like your TCP/IP stack have dependencies on Endianess. IBM's POWER has been traditionally Big Endian. Linux is mostly Little Endian. There are C macros, ntoh() and hton() that do the required byte swapping for you . . . if you remember to use them! I have seen code that would run fine on a Big Endian machine . . . but would fall over and die on a Little Endian machine.

      Sorting out all these problems is painful grunt work. Although, at one point, IBM t

      • Future efforts are likely to concentrate on the ppc64le architecture variant, which is little endian. There are still some differences to x86_64 at the C level (chars are unsigned by default, but you can compile with -fsigned-char), but it is reportedly not too difficult to port over C/C++ application code.

        • AIX is full of "hacks" or "modifications" in the TCP/IP stack to greatly improve the performance on POWER architecture on MP systems. Have any of these made it into mainstream Linux? Are they even valid on Intel architecture?

          For instance, when running a benchmark on an AIX POWER system, try increasing the load, and see if your results go up. It can happen, that you increase the load, the CPU utilization climbs, but you benchmark remains the same. Well, you might be hanging in spin locks. AIX supports

      • by enjar ( 249223 )

        Yep. In my career, I've seen the rise and fall of RISC (on both Windows and *NIX), Apple's transition between several chip families, Sun's Sparc chips and even Intel trying to out-Intel with Itanium. You get hit with major roadblocks as well as death by a thousand cuts. It's extremely difficult to get it working in the first place, and then ongoing maintenance is no small feat, either.

        I wonder if the Chinese government is "strongly favoring home grown solutions" with an ongoing infusion of funding, to do th

      • Actually, POWER8 supports both big and little endian, and you can go out to Canonical's site and (as of 14.04) and get the LE version of Ubuntu for POWER8. You can read about that below. Quoting the article:

        Why is Linux on Power transitioning from big endian to little endian?

        The Power architecture is bi-endian in that it supports accessing data in both little endian and big endian modes. Although Power already has Linux distributions and supporting applications that run in big endian mode, the Linux applic

        • AIX was pretty cool way back when, when they introduced 64-bit support. The processor was 64-bit. However, you could run a 32-bit kernel or a 64-bit kernel. And you could run a 32-bit process or a 64-bit process on either of the kernels.

          So what does some poor chump (i.e. me) who is tasked with writing a device driver for AIX need to do? Well, first #ifdef the code, so you compile different stuff, depending on if you are building a 32-bit or 64-bit version of the device driver. Then you needed to add s

      • by Henriok ( 6762 )
        The endianess problem is a nonissue with OpenPOWER since it's little endian, just like x86. A _very_ large portion of all open source software _will_ just work with a recompile, even if the project hasn't touched Power Architecture before. So, the money is already forked out, and it's done.
        • Yeah, but Linux on POWER today runs on Big Endian. See another post in this thread about IBM intentions, but Red Hat has not announced support for Linux on Little Endian yet. That one hurts.

          Linux on OpenPOWER doesn't exist yet . . . or does it . . . ?

          • by Henriok ( 6762 )
            Little Endian Linux for OpenPOWER exists, and have for some time. SuSE (SLES 12), Debian (kernel v.3.13 and 94% of the software repository), Canonical (Ubuntu Server 14.04) and RedHat (RHEL 7 and RHEV) have distros ready to go. Canonical is a platinum level member of OpenPOWER Foundation and the poster child for compatibility, and Shuttleworth is traveling the world showcasing this.
      • A simple recompile won't do it . . . some programs, like your TCP/IP stack have dependencies on Endianess. IBM's POWER has been traditionally Big Endian. Linux is mostly Little Endian. There are C macros, ntoh() and hton() that do the required byte swapping for you . . . if you remember to use them!

        The TCP/IP stack you're using was probably originally written by people working on a little-endian machine - VAX (if it's the BSD stack or a derivative thereof) or x86 (if it's the Linux stack) - so that's not the code to worry about; it has the relevant ntoh[sl]()/hton[sl]() calls already.

        It's your own code you'd mainly have to worry about. I.e., Linux should pretty much Just Work (it runs on 32-bit and 64-bit PowerPC, and it sounds as if support for little-endian mode is being added), but it's the third

        • It's your own code you'd mainly have to worry about.

          But, alas, I always seem to get called in to debug code from other folks.

          • It's your own code you'd mainly have to worry about.

            But, alas, I always seem to get called in to debug code from other folks.

            You probably don't get called in to debug endianness issues in any TCP stacks in portable general-purpose non-hobby OSes; if so, I'd look a bit askance at the developer team for that OS.

            My point is that worrying about porting server OSes for PPC machines is not something worth worrying about, as they've either already been ported (Linux) or, if they ever get ported, are likely only to be ported to little-endian machines using compilers that aren't going to differ between platforms on the signedness of char

      • Any TCP/IP stack with a dependency on endianness is fundamentally broken. Seriously. Only a moron would forget to use ntohl and htonl, and only a moron product manager would allow such a stack to be sold. Every commercial vendor an embedded TCP/IP stack has ported to a variety of architectures. Even in the unlikely chance that there's a vendor of TCP/IP that has a endianness problem then you can always buy from someone else.

        But most likely the POWER users are going to use BSD or Linux anyway.

        • Only a moron would forget to use ntohl and htonl, and only a moron product manager would allow such a stack to be sold.

          Unfortunately, if there is one thing that the IT Industry does not lack today . . . is a shortage of morons.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    RISC-V is an open source architecture. It is royalty-free and very modern.

  • Don't get me wrong, they'll be as happy to sell into China as into the US, but if anything China seems likely to trust their hardware _less_.

    • by Henriok ( 6762 )
      That's why China has set up an own consortium based on OpenPOWER, the China Power Technology Alliance, CPTA. They are building a purely chinese OpenPOWER ecosystem, with all aspects of hardware and software.. like the CP1, a POWER8 clone with a Chinese crypto engine (since they didn't' want the american version, and wasn't allowed anyway).
  • AMD Fade Out? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Uh what?

    Last I heard AMD was going balls to the wall with an ARM server chip and 'Zen' server cores in Q1 2016.
    Come to think of it, outside of GPUs, server chips are the only thing I've heard of that AMD's working on down the road.

  • The elephant in the room, of course, is security.

    With NSA "upgrade factories" [arstechnica.com] - where spyware is installed by the NSA before delivery - China and everyone else is looking for alternatives to American products.

    (And note that the spyware can be implanted in the BIOS, and even the hard drive firmware [schneier.com], and will persist even if the system is wiped, or the BIOS is replaced.)

    The scope of economic damage this has done is astonishing. I've never believed in trickle-down economics, but once China starts making serve

  • It would be nice if Intel had some competition to keep them honest.

    AMD used to fill that slot, but they don't count for much any more. So far Arm is not much of a player outside of tablets/smartphones.

    I want meaningful choices.

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