Thursday Oct 23, 2014

Game Changing Innovation with Power8?

On Monday, October 12, IBM announced their first Power8-based enterprise class systems and yet still did not deliver the full realization of its 12-core Power8 processor, previewed by IBM in August 2013. Potential customers should also really consider IBM's lack of deep-level optimization, as compared to Oracle and SPARC.

By opening Power to partner co-development, IBM has lost much of its ability to retain control of deep-level optimizations. Consider that IBM agreed to pay Globalfoundries Inc. $1.5 billion to take an unprofitable chip-manufacturing unit off its hands. It now makes much more sense as to why IBM is investing in partner add-on capabilities through CAPI (Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface), such as chips from NVIDIA, instead of investing in its own software in silicon enhancements like Oracle. And while Oracle was busy acquiring Sun, Pillar, Xsigo and more, IBM was divesting its networking, hard disk, x86 server business and most recently their chip manufacturing unit. 


From a product feature standpoint, consider that CAPI lacks the true software in silicon (as Oracle is doing with SPARC/Solaris) approach and co-engineered Hardware + Software solutions (such as Oracle ECI Solution for SPARC), from a workload optimization and total business solution standpoint. Customers increasingly state that they want and need optimized solutions for their data centers to reduce complexity and simplify data center management, as well as resource utilization. They need this to drive their time to value; Oracle delivers. With CAPI, who is going to test, support, and optimize for key customer workload environments – IBM? NVIDIA?

Why Invest with Oracle?  

  • Oracle has proven massive investments in its hardware and software portfolios
  • Oracle Servers, OS, and Storage's publicly committed forward-looking roadmap
  • Oracle's full stack, including industry-leading software solutions, enabling deep integration with software in silicon that customers can leverage
  • Oracle enables your business transformation

What do you think? Are these game changing innovations from IBM?

Sunday Sep 07, 2014

Two Ways IBM Has Over-promised and Under-delivered with POWER8 to Date

IBM launched its first POWER8 systems in April 2014. So now that the dust has settled and the first systems have started shipping, let’s take stock of what IBM actually delivered with POWER8.

POWER8 Is More Than a Year Late
IBM has shown on previous roadmaps that it has a 3-year release cycle for new POWER generations. Following that cadence, IBM clearly missed its POWER8 release by more than a year, given that POWER7 systems started shipping the Spring of 2010 and the first POWER8 systems started shipping June 2014. 

Where Is AIX8?
We give IBM marketing credit for trying to re-spin a patched AIX7.1 (TL3 released November 2013) as their next generation OS, but the fact of the matter is that all IBM has added to the latest patch is basic enablement for the new hardware and rejigger their feature packaging a bit (e.g., more is now included in the higher cost enterprise edition of the OS).  

Further, there are few if any incremental functional improvements and no major new features planned even for its next impending patch release (TL4), which according to IBM’s AIX release history is still not yet available as of July 2014. However, the really critical point for anyone considering POWER8 is that AIX8 isn’t even on IBM’s public roadmap yet. Where is AIX8 and what exactly will IBM deliver?


FACT: AIX 7 TL3 last November just released “WPAR alt-disk install and rollback”. Solaris has provided similar technology, called Live Upgrade, since Solaris 10 was released in 2005.

FACT: Apparently per IBM’s roadmaps, AIX does not yet support SR-IOV, as it is shown as a future still, while Solaris has supported SR-IOV since 2010.

FACT: Consider all of the advantages Oracle just released in Solaris 11.2. Click here to see what’s new in 11.2. Just to give some examples…

  • Centralized cloud management with Oracle's OpenStack distribution. Integrated at the core of Oracle Solaris 11.2, deploy a private cloud instance in minutes instead of weeks.
  • Secure and agile application provisioning in the cloud with Unified Archives, a new archive format that allows total portability between bare metal and virtualized systems. Instant cloning in the cloud when you need it, to scale out or for reliable disaster recovery in emergencies.
  • No compromise virtualization with Oracle Solaris Zones enhanced. Oracle Solaris 11.2 brings an even greater level of flexibility with independent and isolated Kernel Zones.
  • Maintain SLAs with application driven Software Defined Networking, extending the network virtualization capabilities of Oracle Solaris. Elastic Virtual Switching ensures dynamic networks across your cloud environment with unprecedented agility.
  • Lower the effort of meeting compliance with an integrated and automated checking and report generation tool, reducing the time needed for compliance review by as much as 10x.

Friday Apr 25, 2014

Is IBM POWER8 a Smart(er) Choice?


On Wednesday, April 23, IBM announced new POWER8 systems at the OpenPower Forum. But IBM customers might be disappointed, as it appears that IBM is shifting its strategic R&D focus to Linux on POWER. IBM recently stated that they will “significantly reposition POWER8” and that they are trying to displace x86 with POWER8 in hyperscale/scale-out data center deployments. IBM seems to be re-aligning POWER8 to cover lost ground since it decided to de-invest in x86 entirely, while Oracle has instead adopted the strategy of adding/building value for enterprise environments and adding functionality to enhance customer experience (our software in silicon with SPARC processors, Oracle Solaris enhancements and Engineered Systems as examples). Ultimately IBM's strategy may lower the starting price, but IBM may not be able to sustain the model nor add significant net-new value longer term with POWER or AIX.

This represents a major shift in strategy and potentially a reduced investment in POWER AIX for the enterprise.

IBM’s hardware business is in a state of major transition. Is hardware even strategic to IBM? 

"They used to be a leader. Now they sell one business after the next. That is not a way to grow," said Fred Hickey, editor of The High-Tech Strategist newsletter who has followed IBM for 30 years. There is clear evidence that IBM is reducing investment in  hardware:

  • IBM sold their PC and Workstation business to Lenovo in 2005
  • IBM just closed their deal to sell off its x86 server business to Lenovo
  • IBM has retained Goldman Sachs to find a buyer for their chip fabrication facilities
  • IBM delivered only two POWER updates in the last four years
  • IBM doesn’t have a public POWER roadmap beyond POWER8 and AIX8

On the other hand, Oracle is doubling down on integrated hardware and software investments to support a long-term innovation roadmap and increased customer value:

  • Oracle increased investment in SPARC and Oracle Solaris delivering five generations of SPARC processors in four years, and doubling performance with each release
  • Oracle plans to release Solaris 11.2 next week, the world’s first cloud operating system coupled with the benefits of advanced virtualization, software-defined networking, and OpenStack integration
  • The SPARC roadmap now shows three future generations of SPARC processors through 2019
  • Oracle continues to invest heavily in a broad portfolio of Engineered Systems to simplify IT

Lots of Unanswered Questions
IBM leaves a lot of unanswered questions on what is going to happen next and whether its new strategy will add any real value:

  • IBM’s POWER strategy is complex and unclear with its new focus in the entry/scale-out market vs. the enterprise. What do current AIX/POWER customers do?
  • Can IBM and the OpenPOWER consortium deliver value with a complex multi-year effort to build a new ecosystem around design, manufacturing and software for the x86/scale out segment?
  • IBM is offering customers new hardware for Linux. What are the bottom line costs and benefits for migrating Linux applications running on x86 to POWER8? What is the value for Linux on POWER over x86? 
  • How does IBM plan on implementing future hardware/software optimization, i.e., PureSystems and PureFLEX, while at the same time pursuing a purely OpenStack model for POWER8? For that matter, what is IBM’s current strategy for PureSystems, given that it did not announce POWER8 Flex nodes and did not mention PureSystems at its recent earnings?

Given this radical new strategy and all the surrounding uncertainty and potential risk, do customers really want to continue to invest in POWER8 and AIX?

Stay tuned for more analysis, as IBM reveals more details about POWER8.


The following is intended to outline our general product direction. It is intended for information purposes only, and may not be incorporated into any contract. It is not a commitment to deliver any material, code, or functionality, and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decisions. The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for Oracle’s products remains at the sole discretion of Oracle.

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Oracle engineers hardware and software to work together in the cloud and in your data center. For more information about Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL), visit www.oracle.com.

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