After a long time of being shoved aside by competing architectures like ARM and X86, IBM has decided to strike back by creating an alliance with companies like Google, Mellanox, Tyan and Nvidia to breathe new life into its Power architecture.
IBM’s own family architectures and instruction sets called Power were fairly common back in the days and was once considered a strong opponent to Intel’s X86 architecture. Power was base for many Apple Mac computers and was also found inside many of last generation video game consoles; Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii.
IBM has cooperated with other companies in the past to further develop and market its architecture, including Apple and Motorola. But after ARM got its big breakthrough on the mobile market Power has lost market shares and dropped almost 25 percent of the revenue in the last year. It is nowadays mostly used in servers.
A new alliance and more open marketing model
IBM has teamed up with several big names in the industry to form a new alliance, Openpower Consortium. The team consists of IBM, Mellanox, Tyan, Nvidia, and Google, and the goal is to give the Power circuits a bigger presence among servers, data centers and storage.
At the same time IBM takes a big step and has turned Power open for other to contribute in the development and available for licensing, after being locked down as a proprietary technology at IBM. Openpower Consotium welcomes other companies that want to contribute to the alliance.
The new marketing model reminds a lot of the one ARM uses, where companies can acquire licenses for complete products or design their own. For example Nvidia wants to combine Power with its own GPU technology and CUDA, which is also available for licensing today.
When the cooperation may result in new servers and other products is unclear, but it is very interesting how many previously proprietary technologies are transferred into new, open models.