Should Intel Xeon-based system manufacturers be worried? IBM just started shipping the next generation of Power Systems services with its Power8 processor. The processor can be licensed and is open for development through the OpenPower Foundation -- and Big Blue is making some big claims.

This is indeed a big launch for IBM. The company invested more than three years and $2.4 billion to develop the Power8-based systems, which also leverage innovation from hundreds of IBM patents. Power8 showcases IBM’s commitment to offering open technologies to its customers, according to the company.

"Big data workloads require systems that scale to manage massive amounts of data," said Doug Balog, General Manager of IBM Power Systems. "Clients are choosing to run Linux on Power Systems because they are seeking a higher value, open server solution to help them better handle and leverage growing volumes of data."

How Does Power8 Stack Up?

Designed to meet the needs of the big data era, Big Blue’s tests report IBM Power Systems running BLU Acceleration on Power can analyze data 82 times faster than a comparably configured x86-based system. Three out of four of the new Power Systems servers can run various combinations of Linux, IBM AIX or IBM i operating systems. Power S822L runs Linux exclusively.

IBM has designed the new Power Systems to operate at levels of efficiency the firm calls “industry-leading” and guarantees the system will perform as warranted while at a sustained 65 percent utilization. IBM claims this is a rate higher than common x86 utilization levels. With twice the data throughput compared to an x86-based server, the new Power Systems can help cut data center footprints in half, according to the company.

We caught up with Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, to get his take on the new systems and how they compare to x86 systems based on Intel Xeon and AMD Opteron. He told us Power has long supported more threads per CPU than Xeon and Power8 pushes that advantage even further, along with adding memory and networking (I/O) enhancements.

“In addition, IBM's efforts in supporting Linux on Power Systems effectively opens the platform to new customers who prefer open-source operating environments to traditional Unix,” King said. “Those are all positive elements that should work in IBM's favor but the fact is that at this point many big data and analytics applications are closely associated with X86 silicon, including SAP's HANA and solutions based on Hadoop and associated technologies.”

Of course, King said, that doesn’t mean IBM won’t do well in the space. He expects Power8-based systems will be heartily embraced by existing IBM customers, but added that breaking out of some peoples' preconceptions and into analytics markets where x86 platforms predominate will take IBM time and effort.

More IBM Cloud News

In other IBM cloud news, the company said it is working on an open integration model with Docker and the open-source Docker project community. As the Docker open-source community continues advancing its position toward open governance, Big Blue is moving to integrate more tightly with Docker.

And IBM’s SoftLayer just took the covers off Direct Link, a service that lets customers establish a dedicated network connection from their own IT infrastructures to the SoftLayer private network and cloud services. According to IBM, the innovation offers opportunities to create hybrid-computing solutions that merge private infrastructures with the SoftLayer platform.

Finally, Big Blue rolled out IBM Cloud Services data centers. Designed for the enterprise, the new data centers provide SoftLayer cloud infrastructure-as-a-service built to meet US Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program and Federal Information Security Management Act requirements.