A group of tech giants working to mount a serious challenge to Intel in the data center, has previewed an upcoming open standard for interconnecting components in a server it is positioning as an alternative to Intel’s proprietary technology.
The group includes Google, hardware vendors IBM, HP Enterprise, Dell EMC, as well as Intel’s more direct rivals AMD and NVIDIA, among others. IBM’s upcoming Power9 processors, expected to launch next year, will support the standard and so will IBM’s servers they will power.
Intel currently dominates the market for server chips, and hyperscale data center operators like Google, which spend enormous amounts of money on hardware every quarter, want a viable alternative. They have generally adopted a multi-vendor strategy for sourcing nearly all components of their infrastructure, but it’s difficult to extend that strategy to processors given the size of Intel’s lead in the market.
OpenCAPI and Power9 are aimed at the high end of the server market – computers used for data-intensive analytics workloads or machine learning. The group claims that the standard will be capable of boosting server performance tenfold.
That performance improvement comes as a result of two things: higher bandwidth on the links between CPUs and accelerators and cache coherency, which essentially means data needs to be shuffled less within the system as it is being processed, saving resources as a result.
Accelerators, or additional processors that take on a portion of the CPU’s workload to free up its resources, have been a mainstay in the world of supercomputers for years, but their role is now growing in importance in server architecture for cloud data centers and for the quickly emerging field of machine learning. “The compute model going forward is the marriage between a really good data-centric processor, like Power, and a really good set of acceleration technologies,” Doug Balog, general manager for IBM Power Systems, said in an interview with Data Center Knowledge.