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IBM Power9 servers seek market inroads to AI, cloud

IBM follows up its first Power9 server with a raft of systems designed to appeal to a wider array of markets -- most notably, AI and cloud deployments.

IBM has rolled out a handful of Power9 servers with a twofold goal: first to press into new markets, such as AI,...

machine learning and cloud, and second to blunt momentum of Intel's Xeon-based systems.

In doing so, Big Blue hopes to cash in on users' growing interest in both business and digital transformation projects that increasingly involve a variety of cloud environments to host AI and machine-learning-flavored applications.

Like most enterprises, IBM customers pursue whatever cloud deployment strategy makes sense for their business model, whether it's private, public, hybrid or some sort of multi-cloud plan, said Simon Porstendorfer, senior offering manager at IBM. These customized deployments allow user organizations to address their individual data challenges that involve data privacy and data sources.

To that end, the IBM Power9 servers are designed to accommodate a variety of on-premises cloud deployments. By building in Power VM virtualization to every server, users can build a cloud any way they want: private, hybrid or multi-cloud. They also are optimized for three different operating systems: AIX, Linux and IBM i.

For years, Intel, through better price performance, has eroded the superior performance of proprietary chipmakers such as IBM and Hewlett Packard Enterprise with more cost-effective offerings. But IBM hopes to recapture some of that lost market opportunity with the inclusion of cutting-edge technologies such as AI and machine learning. One observer believes Big Blue has a prime example in its own product about how to do just that.

These systems should put IBM in a better position to attract new enterprise users interested in things like AI and machine learning.
Patrick Moorheadpresident and principal analyst, Moor Insights & Strategy

"What they are trying to do is turn the Power9 [servers] into the next z [mainframes]," said one longtime IBM consultant. "They figured out how to make the z a moneymaker through better analytics, security and machine learning capabilities, and [IBM] is doing the same thing with the Power9 by bringing it into a more modern world."

The six new members to IBM's Power9 server family contain two or four processors with one or two sockets and 1 TB to 4 TB of memory, which is double the memory over the previous generation of Power systems. They also have significantly faster internal interconnects to better run data-intensive workloads, such as DB2, Oracle and SAP HANA.

"These systems should put IBM in a better position to attract new enterprise users interested in things like AI and machine learning," said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy in Austin, Texas. And with the Power9 accelerator and the PowerAI tools, the systems could also be considered for private clouds, he said.

The latest system comes on the heels of IBM's first Power9 server, the AC922, which was introduced in early December.

Ed Scannell is a senior executive editor with TechTarget. Contact him at escannell@techtarget.com

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Would AI- and cloud-enabled Power9 servers make you think twice about buying an Intel Xeon SP-based server? Why or why not?
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Absolutely they would be considered. To deliver the performance at a competitive price point to Intel servers with the required development tools. We don't need more of something, simply more out of it.
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I think IBM is a dead dog when it comes to the mainstream virtualization market. VMware doesn't run on it. If you have ever used PowerVM and VMware you know what I am talking about. And then there is the cost of IBM maintenance which is in another world when compared to Dell and HP x86 servers. Power9 for AI, maybe, but I think that Nvidia might be way ahead.
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if you notice, the IBM Power Ai is also a collaboration with NVIDIA, which is born from Open Power foundation program. So, that they have now with Power AI, is unique offering from both NVIDIA and IBM .. and that's what's more than Intel with NVIDIA. 

There's no way NVIDIA is doing their own right now, without intel / power chips as CPU. That's what i understand. 

however, it's interesting you have a concern about IBM maintenance over Dell and HP x86 servers. 
What i know is they are cost at the same / similar percentage, so should stay competitive.
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What hypervisor is used, has little bearing when used in a Pub/Hyb/Priv (PHP) cloud. Users use capacity - it gets provisioned and where it resides is transparent to the OS. If you said Power 9 did not run Microsofts Windows, that is one thing but my experience and research indicates this p9 server runs the same linux distro's as I see with the clients I work with.  You mention powervm but these servers can use kvm or on hypervisor. I'm sure there is a compatibility list detailing the limits on which systems which do this and which don't.

About maintenance - seriously, in my shop, we recently extended Cisco smartnet maintenance on our UCS for 2 years - damn, was it rich but the project got extended and stakeholders decided it was the easiest path to take. My company was looking at some p8 open servers - S822LC I believe, for a new hadoop project. They are waiting for the p9 of this system to be available and will likely go with it. We did a poc with hortonworks and our VAR on the S822 system vs a UCS cluster.  That p9 did a lot more with a lot less than the cisco system. Server cost of p9 to a UCS server was about the same so the fewer hw licenses and fewer servers - I don't know your background but you sound like the competition and not a user.
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What hypervisor is used, has little bearing when used in a Pub/Hyb/Priv (PHP) cloud. Users use capacity - it gets provisioned and where it resides is transparent to the OS. If you said Power 9 did not run Microsofts Windows, that is one thing but my experience and research indicates this p9 server runs the same linux distro's as I see with the clients I work with.  You mention powervm but these servers can use kvm or on hypervisor. I'm sure there is a compatibility list detailing the limits on which systems which do this and which don't.

About maintenance - seriously, in my shop, we recently extended Cisco smartnet maintenance on our UCS for 2 years - damn, was it rich but the project got extended and stakeholders decided it was the easiest path to take. My company was looking at some p8 open servers - S822LC I believe, for a new hadoop project. They are waiting for the p9 of this system to be available and will likely go with it. We did a poc with hortonworks and our VAR on the S822 system vs a UCS cluster.  That p9 did a lot more with a lot less than the cisco system. Server cost of p9 to a UCS server was about the same so the fewer hw licenses and fewer servers - I don't know your background but you sound like the competition and not a user.
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