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We spend most of our time on x86 and ARM-based CPUs around these parts, but an IBM announcement today aims to add a third name to that list: the company will soon begin offering licenses for its venerable Power architecture to other companies, allowing them to build their own Power chips for "servers, networking, and storage devices."

A few other companies will be helping IBM in these efforts: Google, Nvidia, Mellanox Technologies, and the Tyan Computer Corp will all apparently be promoting the technology as part of the OpenPower Consortium.
source
 

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They should have done this 10 years ago. Doing it now just seams like they are a bit late to the party.
 

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Originally Posted by Boinz View Post

Is there really a demand for powerpc's architecture nowadays?
It sill has a pretty good foot hold in supercomputing, flight computer the kind of stuff that has to be super reliable but other then that I don't think its used all that much.
 

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i guess they were holding out for another apple style contract to get them into the mainstream.
 

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Originally Posted by t00sl0w View Post

i guess they were holding out for another apple style contract to get them into the mainstream.
I think that ship has sailed a while ago since Apple went with Intel for their PCs.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boinz View Post

Is there really a demand for powerpc's architecture nowadays?
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Originally Posted by Bit_reaper View Post

Sits sill has a pretty good foot hold in supercomputing, flight computer the kind of stuff that has to be super reliable but other then that I don't think its used all that much.
That, and it has been used extensively in storage and networking controllers up until the latest generation stuff that is moving now towards ARM. Same situation probably in the other sectors with ARM's growing popularity + performance + lower price. Plus Apple moved out of PPC processors which hurt IBM, and even game consoles now moving away. It is not looking good for PowerPC and IBM needs to do something drastic to stay in the game.
 

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Since Google already makes their own server infrastructures, could that mean that they're also interested in making their own custom CPUs for their data centers?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
This offers something very appealing. Everyone seems to know how to make low-power processors, but scaling up is hard. There are already powerPC-based microcontrollers that compete with MIPS or ARM. Unlike ARM though, POWER8 can offer the worlds fastest processor (for those that doubt, the current POWER7+ is more powerful than what Intel and AMD offer). To a company such as Nvidia, this is the chance to get a jump on Intel in the high-performance market while still having low-power competitors (ARM64 is a while off and powerful ARM64 chips are a farther still).

PA Semi (the company bought by Apple), made amazing PowerPC chips back before Apple bought them and moved everything to ARM.
 

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Originally Posted by hajile View Post

This offers something very appealing. Everyone seems to know how to make low-power processors, but scaling up is hard. There are already powerPC-based microcontrollers that compete with MIPS or ARM. Unlike ARM though, POWER8 can offer the worlds fastest processor (for those that doubt, the current POWER7+ is more powerful than what Intel and AMD offer). To a company such as Nvidia, this is the chance to get a jump on Intel in the high-performance market while still having low-power competitors (ARM64 is a while off and powerful ARM64 chips are a farther still).

PA Semi (the company bought by Apple), made amazing PowerPC chips back before Apple bought them and moved everything to ARM.
Nice info. But the best and fastest PPC procs always cost a bomb. Better they are but cost they aren't. In the end it's down to software support ... If their arch always completely changes and in comes instruction set changes, devs will soon drop them off
 

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Originally Posted by zalbard View Post

Isn't PowerPC just another Itanium these days? I don't see this catching on... What's the point?
Funny you should mention Itanium. I think that's more forgotten than PowerPC's.
rolleyes.gif


EDIT: Oh this is hilarious. I looked up a bit more about Itaniums.

 

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Originally Posted by Bit_reaper View Post

They should have done this 10 years ago. Doing it now just seams like they are a bit late to the party.
They just realised they are in teh 21st Century..
 

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Discussion Starter #15
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Originally Posted by DaveLT View Post

Nice info. But the best and fastest PPC procs always cost a bomb. Better they are but cost they aren't. In the end it's down to software support ... If their arch always completely changes and in comes instruction set changes, devs will soon drop them off
Let's take a look at cost. Let's say that the cost to design your chip is $100,000,000 and the physical manufacturing cost is $100. If you make 100,000 chips (around what IBM probably makes), then each chip carries with it a cost $1100. Now, if you make 10,000,000 chips using that design, then your cost drops to only $110 per chip. This is why Intel and ARM have such an advantage in pricing, but IBM can eat a lot of development costs if they want to make the architecture popular again.

PowerPC is a very stable ISA and has changed less than ARM or x86 over the past 20+ years.

The largest argument is the software problem, but PowerPC is well supported by Linux. Additionally, ARM programs don't require many optimizations since the architectures have a lot of similarities (both being RISC).

The final point of interest here is that the POWER consortium already has a couple dozen big corporations on it's board. As much as I like the MIPS ISA, I think that POWER offers the best shot yet of providing a global, unified architecture on this basis alone.

edit: just a note, but POWER has been license-able for years. What's changed here is that IBM is licensing their proprietary chip design for use. Build your own is hard (ask Qualcomm, Nvidia, or Apple how much harder building is than buying from ARM). The ability to buy your way in is huge. You don't have the risk that you put millions into development and come up short. If you like the processor designs, you buy them and your only risk is that you can't market your final product (a risk that can't be eliminated anyway).
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by hajile View Post

This offers something very appealing. Everyone seems to know how to make low-power processors, but scaling up is hard. There are already powerPC-based microcontrollers that compete with MIPS or ARM. Unlike ARM though, POWER8 can offer the worlds fastest processor (for those that doubt, the current POWER7+ is more powerful than what Intel and AMD offer).
calling BS on that sorry lol. More powerful than AMD maybe but not Intel.
 

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They are worried about PPC and yet they let the deal apple laps [not cpus](why Rosetta is gone).
 

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Dudes, so many seem to be confusing POWER and PowerPC... those aren't the same ISAs and have been developed for different purposes. PPC nowadays is a subset of the POWER ISA, though.

tl;dr: PPC is a cut-down ISA of POWER server/mainframe chips

EDIT: The interesting thing about this is that there's an ultra-high performance RISC architecture now available to the "masses". Should be better to profit from decades of Big Blue's tinkering rather than trying to develop ARM into a mature, high performance architecture.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
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Originally Posted by Alienware69 View Post

calling BS on that sorry lol. More powerful than AMD maybe but not Intel.


http://www.anandtech.com/print/4285

btw, that benchmark was dated on the IBM side (and done on a 750 which uses a slower processor). My understanding is that the real numbers for that benchmark favor POWER7 by 25+%. In addition, POWER7 doesn't suffer from scaling issues like Xeon when you begin looking at systems with many more sockets. Also noteworthy that the POWER7 design is a much larger process and the design is a couple of years older.

A couple other interesting sources of performance data (benches of POWER compared to Intel are hard to find though the number of people in the industry who recognize that POWER7 is faster are not in similarly short supply)

http://rhaas.blogspot.com/2012/03/performance-and-scalability-on-ibm.html

http://eprints.dcs.warwick.ac.uk/637/1/PMBS.pdf (warning: pdf -- is a whitepaper comparing several server chips, only accounts for westmere and prior. Note also that it not only won in performance, but also in performance per watt)

Here's some specs on the original POWER7

567mm2 @ 45nm lithography
Transistors: 1.2 B

clockspeed: 4.2GHz
Eight processor cores
12 execution units per core -- 2 Fixed point, 2 Load/store, 4 DP floating point, 1 Vector, 1 Branch, 1 Condition Register , 1 Decimal

6-wide in-order dispatch

8-wide out-of-order issue

4 Way SMT per core
32 Threads per chip
256 KB L2 per core 32MB on chip eDRAM shared L3
Dual DDR3 Memory Controllers with 100 GB/s Memory bandwidth per chip
Scalability up to 32 Sockets
360 GB/s SMP bandwidth/chip
20,000 coherent operations in flight
Advanced pre-fetching Data and Instruction

energy-star rated

I don't have any SPARC benchmarks, but the new chips are even faster than the POWER7. It's telling that 25% of the fastest 100 supercomputers run POWER. Intel has to make the same design work for consumers and HPC while IBM only targets one market (and then there's the fact that IBM doesn't have old x86 baggage to deal with).

edit:

@crust_cheese

that's kind of true, but it's a little strange. I've read IBM's docs some and PowerPC isn't a strict subset. Sometimes the same instruction does slightly different things or they use different instructions to do the same thing.

@cdoublejj

IBM, Motorola, and Apple were the first companies to get together in the POWER consortium and worked jointly to create PowerPC as a more consumer-oriented (read: stripped down) POWER ISA. Motorola was supposed to make the G5 chip design for Apple. When they finished, the processor was blazing fast, but has a physical bug and the workaround blew the performance (like how the original Phenoms slowed way down when the TLB workaround was used). IBM's version of the G5 wasn't tuned for what Apple needed and Apple (probably Steve Jobs) thought IBM should be the company to pay for the R&D to which IBM said no as they wouldn't recover their money.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by hajile View Post

I don't have any SPARC benchmarks, but the new chips are even faster than the POWER7. It's telling that 25% of the fastest 100 supercomputers run POWER. Intel has to make the same design work for consumers and HPC while IBM only targets one market.
This. IBM doesn't even rely on their POWER brand. They have a lot of IP and earn billions through many other products and services.
 
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