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IBM 'POWERs' Up to Propel On-demand

NEW YORK -- Looking to expand the sphere of its company-wide on-demand strategy even further, IBM's POWER architecture will be found in anything from consumer electronics to supercomputers, IBM officials said Wednesday.

During a news conference here, IBM executives said they will open up the deisgn process for developers to make the chips more pervasive in the heavily competitive computing industry.

The company also demonstrated its pending POWER5 architecture, which, as promised, runs multiple operating systems in virtual partitions off one chip in order to help enterprises consolidate IT infrastructure. However, commercial products based on the next-generation architecture aren't expected until the second half of 2004, company officials said.

POWER chips are already found in anything from Apple G3 and G5 computers to its own blade servers, but Big Blue is deepening its strategy by announcing new endorsements.

In one new example, IBM said Sony has pledged to license POWER for its next-generation of digital consumer electronics products, which includes its popular PlayStation gaming console. IBM has also inked new technology and development contracts with L-3 Communications and China's The Global Brands Manufacture Group.

In another, the Armonk, N.Y. concern announced that its POWER-based eServer BladeCenter JS20 will be shipping globally in April. The JS20 uses the PowerPC 970 used in current iSeries and pSeries servers to enable 64-bit computing via blades.

The message, as delivered by IBM Irving Wladawsky-Berger, vice president of technology and strategy, Bill Zeitler, senior vice president, IBM systems group and others, was that POWER chips can be used anywhere to deliver unprecedented scalability based on chip architecture.

"What drives our industry is the new application of technology," Zeitler told the crowd. "Fundamentally, that's what on-demand is about. It's about companies from every kind of industry asking themselves the question: "If every kind of device were connected, from automobiles to appliances and you had access to unlimited scales of computing, would things be different?' And resoundingly around the world, we're saying yes."

IBM's vision for spreading the influence of POWER is split in two groups: "Pervasive" and "Deep." IBM uses Pervasive to describe a wide range wired and wireless devices powered by POWER chips. Deep computing describes IBM's high performance technical computing products, which will eventually consist of Blue Gene. Wladawsky-Berger said Blue Gene will be the largest supercomputer in the world when it is finished.

"On the Pervasive side and on the Deep side, there is no question that in this connected on-demand world, we're going to see the growth of new applications," Zeitler said.

Perhaps one of the biggest questions going into the show was whether IBM's POWER architecture, with its 64-bit to 32-bit backwards compatibility, would be trying to compete with Intel's Itanium chip.

Nick Donofrio, senior vice president of technology and manufacturing at IBM, urged the crowd to take away one important message: that the POWER strategy isn't about offering a competing microprocessor technology, but about using flexible chip architectures to help facilitate on-demand computing on systems.

For example, virtualization capabilities in the pending POWER5 chip provide the necessary functionality for computations to occur on-demand. By provisioning tasks automatically in multiple operating systems through one physical machine, users cut down on data center clutter and the need for personnel to baby-sit complex computing jobs, both of which alleviate costs.

Brian Connors, IBM vice president of Linux on POWER, discussed how the POWER5 will elevate the ability to drive the company's on-demand strategy from the current POWER4 and POWER4+ architectures, which offer some virtualization and logical partitioning that spark on-demand computing.

"You're going to see that capability on a virtual scale-out because POWER5 will take that to the next level," Connors told internetnews.com. "The capabilities that we continue to bring down from our mainframe technology into our Power architecture will drive that. You'll start to see multiple workloads driving utilization and securing them in between different partitions. We'll dynamically partition them, similar to Power4, but on the fly with Power5."

Meanwhile, the executives said the company will set up Power Architecture centers around the world to help companies design software and systems based on the evolving architecture.

IBM also unveiled a new chip package software to help those currently developing products on POWER. The software pack, free to current ASIC customers, pares development costs by half.