IBM this week rolled out its first Power10-based server, containing several new security tools designed for hybrid cloud environments.
The E1080 server represents a doubling down on the company's goal of delivering a frictionless hybrid cloud computing model that extends across the infrastructure of enterprises. The new system is a direct response to corporate users who saw their computing requirements and working conditions change significantly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"When we designed the [E1080] system, we had to be aware how the pandemic was changing not only consumer behavior but also our users' behavior, and their corresponding IT infrastructure needs," said Dylan Boday, vice president of IBM's product management for AI and hybrid cloud, in a press briefing. "This is the first system we've designed that is tailor-built to be the foundation of our vision of a frictionless hybrid cloud."
At the top of the list of users' technical requirements is the need for greater security, according to company executives, which IBM paid particular attention to with the E1080 at multiple levels of the system.
"We are introducing transparent memory corruption," said Steve Sibley, vice president of product management for IBM Power Systems. "What's important about this from a user perspective is it encrypts information transparently without any performance overhead because it's done through the hardware. We can now scale encryption to very large in-memory databases like SAP HANA."
By adding memory encryption, IBM said it now has a security stack with offerings at every level of the system, from chips to the operating system, hypervisor and applications.
'Security has become extremely important'
To ensure that systems maintain protection against the ever-changing nature of threats, IBM has introduced its tiered Power Expert Care service, which also ensures hardware and software coherence systems availability.
IBM's strong emphasis on security for hybrid clouds may prove to be well-timed. Some analysts believe the products coming to market that tie on-premises applications and cloud services more tightly together, such as Microsoft's Azure Stack and AWS Outposts, are driving more interest in hybrid environments and more robust security.
Judith HurwitzPresident and CEO, Hurwitz & Associates
"Security has become extremely important, no matter what enterprise platform you are talking about. It's what IT shops are craving," said Judith Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz & Associates in Cambridge, Mass. "IBM can turn this new security into an advantage if they can get the message across [to users] about what they have, versus what Microsoft and AWS have."
While IBM's Z series mainframes have a similar encryption scheme at the chip level, another analyst said the implementation of that technology has been accomplished more efficiently on the Power10.
"IBM was the first to accomplish encryption at the chip level, but when they did it on the mainframe it was in piecemeal fashion," said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communication Networks Architects Inc. "But [with the Power10], they are doing it better by consolidating everything down to a single chip. It's an advantage they need to sell users on."
What's new in Power10
The new Power10 processor, IBM's first 7-nanometer chip, has a 30% faster per core and 50% higher capacity at both the socket and system levels compared with its predecessor, the Power9 E980, according to the company. This results in 33% lower energy consumption when running the same workload on the E1080 compared with the Power9 E890, IBM said. This provides users with the option to consolidate workloads, thereby reducing both hardware and software costs.
Also new to the Power server is the E1080's ability to scale with the Power Private Cloud for Dynamic Capacity. This permits users to scale up and down with unused CPU capacity depending on their workloads demands, and pay for only what they use. The benefit to users is the new capability can help avoid server sprawl and long procurement processes by introducing a cloud-based payment model to the data center.
Another capability announced with the E1080 is by-the-minute metering of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and OpenShift software, which could reduce user costs across environments, IBM said.
IBM hopes the arrival of the new system will spur further acceptance of Red Hat's core products on the Power platform. The company currently has more than 50,000 subscriptions for Red Hat products, including 200 OpenShift accounts running on Power servers.
The new system is the first on-premises server to support metering by the minute, which extends the capabilities available on the IBM Power Virtual Server. This capability also gives administrators more control over when and how their applications are deployed.
Recognizing hybrid cloud technologies now walk hand-in-hand with AI, IBM has also introduced four Matrix Math Accelerator (MMA) engines per core, resulting in a tenfold increase for AI inference over that of the E890. The new hardware-based improvement increases performance but also supports bring-your-own-model capabilities with IBM Auto AI and no-code tools.
When used with the Open Neural Network Exchange, AI models leveraging frameworks like TensorFlow can be deployed on the E1080 from x86-based servers with no code changes needed.
As Editor At Large with TechTarget's news group, Ed Scannell is responsible for writing and reporting breaking news, news analysis and features focused on technology issues and trends affecting corporate IT professionals. He worked for 26 years at Infoworld and Computerworld covering enterprise class products and technologies from larger IT companies including IBM and Microsoft, as well as serving as Editor of Redmond for three years overseeing that magazine's editorial content.