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IBM Launches Power 8 Servers with a Strong Linux Focus

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted April 23, 2014


IBM today formally announced its Power8 silicon and server lineup in a bid to help improve Big Blue's hardware fortunes. A key part of the Power8 launch is a renewed focus on Linux for data center workloads.

The Power8 silicon is being offered in a number of configurations, including a 3.02 GHz chip with 12 or 24 cores, a 3.52 GHz 24-core processor and a 4.15 GHz processor with 8 or 16 cores.

In terms of server configurations, IBM is announcing five new Power8 servers, two of which are Linux-only systems.

The Power S822 is a 2U server that can be configured with up to 1,024 GB of RAM, and it can be equipped with a 3.89 GHz Power8 chip with either 6 or 12 cores or a 3.42 GHz processor with 10 or 20 cores enabled.

The Linux version of that server is the Power S822L, and it can be outfitted with either a 20-core 3.42 GHz chip or a 24-core 3.02 GHz processor. The other Linux-only server is the Power S812L, which is also a 2U server, and it provides up to 512 GB or RAM, with 10-core 3.42 GHz and 12-core 3.02 GHz processor options.

Jim Wasko, director of the Linux Technology Center at IBM, explained to ServerWatch that a major new feature with the Power8 system is full KVM virtualization support for the Linux-only versions of the Power8 servers. Power servers have long featured the PowerVM virtualization technology on which Linux, AIX and SystemI can run.

"There was never KVM running on top of PowerVM; there was a Red Hat or a SUSE Linux guest that could run on PowerVM," Wasko said.

Wasko added that PowerVM has many data-center level features and is designed for long-running workloads. He explained that PowerVM is a proprietary stack that required a certain skillset within an enterprise.

By embracing KVM, IBM is now removing one potential inhibitor to Power server adoption since it is adding the same virtualization layer that x86 server admins are familiar with using already.

Though KVM is the same, developers might still need to deal with some porting issues to get apps originally built on x86 systems to run on Power8. Wasko said that IBM is continuing to build out its Software Development Kit (SDK) to make it easier for developers to get applications running on Power.

Ubuntu Linux

With the Power8 server launch, IBM is now adding support for Ubuntu Linux. Historically IBM has only supported Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) on Power systems.

Wasko said that Ubuntu has become one of the most-used Linux distributions in the cloud today powered by x86 servers. He added that Ubuntu is different in many ways than RHEL or SLES, with a different toolset and a different cloud deployment model.

"It's a different set of application developers than we would normally see in our traditional enterprise Linux distributions," Wasko said. "We are looking for more applications to be able to slide over to run on Power."


Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at ServerWatch and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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