IBM is changing the server game

There was something I missed on the IBM strategy when they sold x86 branch to Lenovo. Since I read some articles about OpenPower and Google home made first power8 server, this strategy is making more sense.

Actually on the server arena, we have the big one : Intel and front of it we had ARM, but if ARM is a good low consumption solution, working really well on mobiles/tablet and objects, it is far away to support heavy I/O workload and is not in a direct competition with Intel until couple of years. On the other corner we had the Unix proprietary systems and one of the last of them, IBM is considering by Gartner as a technology to be replaced after the next 2-5 years. Solution that you never see in any cloud. The future was clear : x86 has to dominate the next decade.

In this context, understanding the IBM strategy to sell x86 servers to Lenovo was not really clear and looked like a kind of hara-kiri of the IBM hardware branch. From this last announced of Power8 and OpenPower, allowing other vendor to use Power IP to design its own hardware, the understanding of the strategy sounds differently. By selling x86 to Lenovo, IBM becomes a real competitor of Intel instead of being a large client of Intel expecting good chip price for its servers. Now IBM can (and have to) look for Intel market share in the datacenter and can (have to) enter in a direct fight.

This announce, only coming from IBM, would have been heard as the last tentative from a dieing entity trying to open its technology to make it survive. But coupled with the presentation by Google of its first prototype of Power8 server, it gives a real credibility of this direction in a period where large Internet companies (Facebook, Google, Amazon….) are looking to build their own hardware supporting openHardware initiatives.

In my point of view this announce is a really good thing, mostly if you consider (like me), that Intel based server are good and not expensive but not reliable enough and not really vertically scalable. Reliability is thing OP guy’s and business are really considering as important. The first coming question is about the software platform on top of it ? I do not consider AIX to be an answer, but Linux is. In this direction all the existing Linux ecosystem has to be recompiled / adapted for this new platform to take most advantage of it ; seeing Google going that way is a good news as they are an important actor of the datacenter Linux ecosystem.

Let’s wait, now, month pass to confirm if this was a bankable strategy for IBM or not.



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