IBM’s POWER Architecture Gaining Speed

In the latest indication of just how serious IBM is about rallying support for its POWER brand, the company has scheduled an event dedicated to the microprocessor architecture in New York City for the end of the month.


The IBM invitation for the March 31 event calls it “a unique look at the
microprocessor that is revolutionizing computing and emerging as a new
platform for innovation around the globe.”


An IBM spokesperson declined to provide additional detail other than to
say
there will be a slew of news announcement surrounding POWER
architecture.


The event suggests the IT world could be seeing more of the company’s vaunted POWER5 architecture, which promises significantly
enhanced
capabilities for virtualization on a
microprocessor.


But analysts aren’t so sure IBM is ready to unleash its most ambitious
foray
into chip construction yet. Redmonk Senior Analyst James Governor said
he
thinks the event could be IBM “opening its kimono to its POWERPC
strategy”
for bringing its architecture to bear in Microsoft’s
Xbox, Sony’s PlayStation and Nintendo’s GameCube. IBM already has a healthy does of its chips in Apple G3 and G5 machines.


Within a year, he predicted, IBM will eventually partner with a large
OEM to
create a POWER-based PC running Linux. HP beat IBM on that score, signing
a deal to offer Linux PCs in Asia with TurboLinux.


“I think it could well be that IBM pulls together its strategic strands
for
a wide range of POWERPC prospects, partners and customers,” Governor
told
internetnews.com. “This will be IBM putting the nuts to Intel,”
in
touting the strengths and advantages of POWER architecture over
Itanium. “I
think this will be a volume story, with IBM showing that it has built a
strong set of partners around POWER.”


POWER is a big part of IBM’s plans for improving its enterprise
products,
partly because, unlike Intel Itanium, IBM’s scale between 32-bit and
64-bit addressable computing architecture.


Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff said he didn’t think the announcements
will
center around the new architecture, but noted the insistence of IBM to
push
its POWER message further into the mainstream.


The event marks the second major POWER news from Big
Blue
this year. At LinuxWorld, IBM displayed
Linux on POWER as a major strategy for luring customers away from Intel
systems.


According to the Microprocessor Forum, POWER5 is expected to be
dual
chip, but should feature multithreading features as well, which allow a
processor to run two or more parts of a program at once.


This means it will appear to the operating system as four processors
even
though it is one chip. This is similar to Intel’s Hyperthreading
technology
in its Pentium 4 and Xeon chips.

Governor said virtualization, which allows IT departments to provision
multiple instances of operating systems across a single server and
manage
them through one console, is a compelling feature of the new POWER5,
noting
that it is IBM’s way of bringing mainframe capabilities to the POWER
platform.


The concept is having a profound change on the way CIOs and IT
administrators consider cost-cutting in their data centers. The call
for
virtualization has led EMC to acquire leading Intel system
virtualization
provider VMware earlier this year.


VMware, whose technology has long been used by IBM and HP, recently
struck a
deal to provide its technology in Dell PowerEdge servers and storage.


One possible addition to the mix is the unveiling of new POWER-based
blade
servers. This would make sense because not only does IBM view
virtualization
as a key part of its forthcoming POWER chips, but it is prized for
helping
multiple blade servers, which pack computing into thin blades to
conserve
space and energy, work together as a cluster to perform major tasks.


IBM earlier this year unleashed the JS20 blade server, which uses two PowerPC 970 processors and runs
Linux. Moreover, IBM is expected to announce blade systems for
telecommunications systems.

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