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IBM Power9 servers seek market inroads to AI, cloud

IBM follows up its first Power9 server with a raft of systems designed to appeal to a wider array of markets -- most notably, AI and cloud deployments.

IBM has rolled out a handful of Power9 servers with a twofold goal: first to press into new markets, such as AI, machine learning and cloud, and second to blunt momentum of Intel's Xeon-based systems.

In doing so, Big Blue hopes to cash in on users' growing interest in both business and digital transformation projects that increasingly involve a variety of cloud environments to host AI and machine-learning-flavored applications.

Like most enterprises, IBM customers pursue whatever cloud deployment strategy makes sense for their business model, whether it's private, public, hybrid or some sort of multi-cloud plan, said Simon Porstendorfer, senior offering manager at IBM. These customized deployments allow user organizations to address their individual data challenges that involve data privacy and data sources.

To that end, the IBM Power9 servers are designed to accommodate a variety of on-premises cloud deployments. By building in Power VM virtualization to every server, users can build a cloud any way they want: private, hybrid or multi-cloud. They also are optimized for three different operating systems: AIX, Linux and IBM i.

For years, Intel, through better price performance, has eroded the superior performance of proprietary chipmakers such as IBM and Hewlett Packard Enterprise with more cost-effective offerings. But IBM hopes to recapture some of that lost market opportunity with the inclusion of cutting-edge technologies such as AI and machine learning. One observer believes Big Blue has a prime example in its own product about how to do just that.

These systems should put IBM in a better position to attract new enterprise users interested in things like AI and machine learning.
Patrick Moorheadpresident and principal analyst, Moor Insights & Strategy

"What they are trying to do is turn the Power9 [servers] into the next z [mainframes]," said one longtime IBM consultant. "They figured out how to make the z a moneymaker through better analytics, security and machine learning capabilities, and [IBM] is doing the same thing with the Power9 by bringing it into a more modern world."

The six new members to IBM's Power9 server family contain two or four processors with one or two sockets and 1 TB to 4 TB of memory, which is double the memory over the previous generation of Power systems. They also have significantly faster internal interconnects to better run data-intensive workloads, such as DB2, Oracle and SAP HANA.

"These systems should put IBM in a better position to attract new enterprise users interested in things like AI and machine learning," said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy in Austin, Texas. And with the Power9 accelerator and the PowerAI tools, the systems could also be considered for private clouds, he said.

The latest system comes on the heels of IBM's first Power9 server, the AC922, which was introduced in early December.

Ed Scannell is a senior executive editor with TechTarget. Contact him at [email protected]

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