As you would expect, the release of the Power9 has generated a lot of excitement in the market. We’re certainly excited to get our hands on it and see what it can do. In this video, we’re going to look at the new Power9 in a bit more detail, outline its potential, and give the top 5 things we’re excited about.
Power Systems have been around for a long time; for a while it was the de facto compute engine for all of business. IBM even dabbled in the consumer market for a time, with Power chips showing up in gaming consoles and even Apple Macs. But, it has always remained, at its core, a product for business transactions and processing.
On a chip-per-chip basis, IBM Power Systems have almost always had a performance and price-performance lead on other comparable chips. But, now that Power8 has been around for three years, the time for an update has come.
Let’s get the nitty-gritty out of the way first. Power9 chips come in two flavors, SU -- for “scale up” -- and SO -- for “scale out.” Each flavor has a version with 24 cores and a version with 12, meaning there’s essentially four products here. As of now, the SU are available in the first quarter of 2018, with the rest of the release schedule subject to change.
As you can imagine, IBM is putting a lot of its energy in the Power Linux space, in order to build ecosystems, drive workloads, build more adoption, and advance technologies in high-end, scalable databases like SAP HANA, and in scale-out databases like MongoDB and Redis. These are, after all where Power Systems shines.
High performance computing, or HPC, is another key area for Power9. Applications solving problems and running scientific models that need thousands of compute nodes, cranking constantly, are a real sweet spot. Power9 is reportedly 30 percent faster than previous generations. In high performance computing, that may mean you can buy 7,000 units instead of 10,000 -- that’s real cost savings, and presents far fewer points of failure.
Of course, no Power9 discussion would be complete without mentioning artificial intelligence and cognitive. IBM is doing a lot of work to make Power9 and Power Linux the platform of choice for AI and cognitive workloads. This is for good reason; just like HPC, they are also typically very compute intensive, so it’s a good fit.
AI and cognitive users commonly use GPUs to complement CPUs to do those very iterative machine learning sets of tasks. As we’ve mentioned, these are areas where Power Systems technology shines, has great background, and provides lots of point of failure advantages.
This GPU versus CPU concept is a big one. It was nowhere on the radar a few years ago. But as video stock has exploded, the adoption of GPU tech for mainstream compute workloads has become very much a reality in the marketplace, and far sooner than anyone expected.
Power9 is ready for these workloads, though. With its NV Link, the throughput between the GPU and the rest of the components in the system is 80 gigabytes per second, compared to 16 gigabytes per second on PCIe. For AI, machine learning, and anything along those lines that uses GPUs to process data, it's a huge performance difference.
Now that we’ve looked at some use cases, let’s get to the fun -- OK and a little nerdy -- stuff: five new things we’re particularly excited about.
Up first, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Power9 sees a die shrink to 14 manometers. This means better, raw chip core performance, end of story. If you have a single set of applications, data will process faster just because things are closer and the clock is a little faster.
Second, the bandwidth between the chip and the memory is dramatically expanded compared to Intel and previous generations. And that memory bandwidth is a big deal. It’s DDR4 now instead of DDR3, and the combination of those things will improve performance and improve price-performance.
It’s hard to believe that we got to number three before mentioning the Open Power Foundation. It started with IBM allowing 3rd party board makers to build a board that would work with the Power8 chip. The company has pushed it a bit further for Power9...
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