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Rackspace Embraces OpenPOWER

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted December 16, 2014

IBM's efforts to expand and open the base of its Power server system architecture is growing today with the inclusion of cloud data center vendor Rackspace. Rackspace is now the 80th member company to join the OpenPOWER Foundation, which is now entering its second year of operations.

Calista Redmond, Director, OpenPOWER Global Alliances at IBM, explained to ServerWatch that IBM will continue to optimize its POWER8 systems while also IBM Power Servers enabling an open and collaborative model for those who want to build their own systems. POWER8 servers were first launched by IBM in April this year, with additional POWER8 servers announced in October.

"The OpenPOWER model allows for the design of truly custom systems that address unique needs driven by workloads and data center requirements," Redmond said.

While Rackspace is now officially joining the OpenPOWER Foundation, it's not because the company has a great deal of familiarity running Power servers in production.

"Rackspace is not using POWER-based systems in its datacenters or cloud today," Aaron Sullivan, Senior Director and Distinguished Engineer at Rackspace, told ServerWatch. "Rackspace has been investigating POWER in its labs since February 2012, and has had OpenPOWER-based platforms in test since May 2014."

While any vendor, including Rackspace, could simply just buy a POWER server system from IBM, that's not the plan for Rackspace's POWER efforts.

"Rackspace intends to collaborate with its partners in the community to build an Open Compute-based OpenPOWER platform," Sullivan said. "We anticipate the processors will come from IBM, but the rest of the platform will be provided from other parties."

Given that x86-based systems are cheap and pervasive today, the question that must be asked is why would Rackspace bother to move away from x86 in the first place.

Sullivan said that x86 is a great platform and Rackspace plans to continue to use it and develop with it within the Open Compute community and with its OEM and ODM partners. But "with OpenPOWER, we see significant performance and efficiency advantages for our applications, which improve our cost of capacity," Sullivan said.

Sullivan added that OpenPOWER’s advanced features enable applications to gain "order of magnitude" improvements over Rackspace's current systems. One such feature is CAPI (Coherence Attach Processor Interface), which was leveraged by the Redis open-source NoSQL database to enable a 24-to-1 resource consolidation versus x86-based deployments.

"We see other efforts to enable these same sorts of advanced features, for other platforms, but they’re not doing it within an open community, or feature many closed elements," Sullivan said.

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

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