Scraps of IBM news on servers, chips
Here's a sort of round-up of IBM news tidbits. They are mostly about the chip and server struggles, but I end on a brighter note about the Power8 chips. No word on how all of this could directly impact Rochester, but I am pursuing a story what the Power consortium means for the Rochester campus.
• Here's the take from the IDG News Service in PC World on the latest server sales report.
The server business continued to slide in the second quarter with worldwide revenue and unit sales down, IDC said Tuesday.
Revenue was down 6.2 per cent to $11.9 billion in the second consecutive quarter of year-over-year decline, as demand for servers continued to soften in most geographic regions, the research firm said. Unit shipments were also down 1.2 percent to 2 million, after also falling in the previous two quarters.
The highest fall in revenue was in midrange systems, which dipped by about 22 percent year-over-year, while volume systems had a 2.4 percent revenue decline and revenue from high-end systems dipped 9.5 percent in the quarter ended June.
IBM held the number one position in the server market with a 27.9 percent share of revenue, but its share was down from over 29 percent last year. The company’s server revenue fell in the quarter by 10 percent year-over-year because of low demand for System x and Power Systems. IBM’s System z mainframe running z/OS, however, had a third consecutive quarter of growth, with revenue up by 9.9 percent year-over-year to $1.2 billion. The mainframe accounted for 9.8 percent of server revenue in the quarter.
• Here's some from a gloomy overall commentary from EE Times' Silicon Valley Bureau Chief Rick Merritt with the headline "IBM's Last Stand in CPUs?"
The Open Power Consortium could become IBM's last stand in microprocessors with huge implications for the future of Big Blue.• On a more upbeat note, IBM rolled out its new Power8 chips at the Hot Chips conference this week. Timothy Prickett Morgan covered it for The Register and IT Jungle.
Years ago, IBM took a shot at the mainstream PC market when it forged its PowerPC alliance with Motorola. Intel won, and the partners retrenched into the embedded market with the Power.org consortium. These days, their embedded partners -- LSI, Freescale, and others -- are all shifting to ARM cores.
Exacerbating IBM's woes, the company appears to have been designed out of at least two of the three next-generation game consoles where it once provided its Cell multicore processor, ASIC technology, and other goodies. Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's Playstation 4 both use AMD's cores. The muscular, custom console processors once were significant drivers of process technology and profits for Big Blue.
Now IBM is left to defend its main stronghold, the high-end server. This, too, is under siege.
These days the massive scale-out datacenters of web giants such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are increasingly driving server technology and volumes. The x86 rules here along with an emerging streamlined style of design that's in opposition to the muscular scale-up style IBM practices for its classic customers in banking, government, and scientific markets.
Even in the Top 500 Supercomputers, IBM's old turf, it is losing ground to scale out designs using Nvidia GPUs paired with racks of x86 systems. Now Intel is coming on strong here with its own multicore Xeon Phi, which some say is offering higher performance, lower cost, and easier development than Nvidia GPUs.
In the coldest cut of all, Amazon recently won a deal to supply computer services to the CIA, encroaching on the business of IBM's federal systems division, the bluest of Big Blue business units. Like everyone else, the government is under pressure to try out cloud computing services such as Amazon to reduce cost.
Big iron sales are still generating $6bn to $7bn a year for IBM - which is enough to justify designing its own Power processors and building its own wafer baker.
At the Hot Chips conference at Stanford University on Monday, some of the chief architects behind the Power8 electronics were on hand to show off the feeds and speeds of the next-generation motor for the company's Power Systems lineup.
Significantly, the Power8 chip is also the foundation for Big Blue's OpenPower consortium - an effort to make it easier to hook networking, accelerators and other features into Power processors by allowing third parties to license chunks of intellectual property in the style of ARM Holdings and its RISC cores.
IBM announced the OpenPower effort earlier this month, with GPU maker Nvidia, network chip maker Mellanox Technologies, motherboard maker Tyan, and advertising moneymaker Google all lending their support to the cause.
Whether or not the OpenPower effort gains traction remains to be seen; the Power8 is so clearly engineered for midrange and enterprise systems for running applications on a giant shared memory space, backed by lots of cores and threads. Power8 does not belong in a smartphone unless you want one the size of a shoebox that weighs 20 pounds. But it most certainly does belong in a badass server, and Power8 is by far one of the most elegant chips that Big Blue has ever created, based on the initial specs.