IBM expanded its Power10 line of servers, adding four new models for midsize companies and remote branches of enterprises, along with an improved pay-as-you-go program and by-the-minute metering for software including Red Hat's OpenShift.
The new systems and updated licensing program are in response to the growing number of companies that need more affordable compute power to develop and bring to market cloud-based AI offerings faster, according to IBM.
"The pandemic brought on a dramatic shift emphasizing fast delivery of new services," said Steve Sibley, IBM's vice president overseeing Power product management. "This has put all of our users under pressure to deliver new services just to remain competitive. It's become the new norm."
On the performance side of the price-performance improvements, the new Power10 processor contains twice as many cores and twice the memory bandwidth of Power9-based systems. In addition to doubling the number of cores, IBM further improved Power10 system performance with a number of changes to the instruction set inside the cores, adding up to 30% more performance per core, the company claimed.
"This [added speed] is good for things like Oracle software licensing because they charge by the core, as do many middleware applications. It also helps reduce users' software costs," Sibley said.
Each Power10 processor core has four matrix math accelerators that boost the performance of AI models and lower latency by running inferencing on the same server, which permits access and analyzes data faster.
The math accelerators open up new market opportunities for the Power systems, including deep learning, because they improve AI inference by 20 times compared with the company's Power9 systems, according to one analyst.
"IBM has done something nobody else has, which is integrate the host processor and math matrix accelerators on a single chip," said Peter Rutten, an IDC research vice president. "Other companies have relied on putting in a GPU, FPGA [field-programmable gate array] or ASIC [application-specific integrated circuit] that runs alongside the host to get this level of performance."
On the pricing side of the price-performance improvements, most analysts agree that the improved pay-as-you-go plan is good both for users, who can keep costs down, and for IBM, which has an opportunity to expand its Power user base among smaller organizations.
Charles KingPresident and analyst, Pund-IT Research
"While the pay-as-you-go consumption offerings aren't new for IBM, they are becoming increasingly more flexible and granular," said Charles King, president and analyst at Pund-IT Research. "It allows companies of every size to shift from Capex purchasing to Opex budgeting."
One consultant sees IBM's pay-as-you-go plan as both an offensive and defensive weapon.
"The service model is good for them because users are hesitant to buy into a platform they don't necessarily have the software for," said Judith Hurwitz, an AI consultant. "They are trying to figure out a way to keep their existing installed base happy while trying to expand it."
The subscription plan covering hardware, software and technical support services, coupled with virtualization and security improvements, gives users a full stack on the platform, Sibley said.
This business model is similar to what some of IBM's competitors are implementing to better ensure a steadier stream of revenue over the coming years.
"This approach is the growth story of so many traditional IT services OEMs like HPE and Cisco that are looking at new economic models," said Dan Newman, analyst at Futurum Research and CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. "Users want the public cloud, but they don't necessarily want to purchase everything that goes with it. They just want to consume it."
The plan should appeal to users running SAP's software on Power systems that need to maximize the total cost of ownership in some of the pricier SAP environments, King added.
IBM also delivered a new four-socket E1050 server that can scale up to 16 TB and improve performance for users running Rise with SAP Hana on the IBM Cloud.
The company also expanded its premium supplier options for SAP users, providing them with additional compute power and the option to run workloads using IBM Power and Red Hat Enterprise Linux on IBM Private Cloud.
The new up-to-the-minute metering capability can be used across multiple environments, including IBM i series, AIX, Linux and OpenShift, and works with modern and legacy applications. It also works with infrastructure automation software, and for better visibility and more efficient management, Sibley said.
The new higher-end Power10 midrange E1050 delivers four-socket compute speed, while the Power S1014, S1022 and S1024 models are entry-level systems aimed at SMBs and remote office users needing Capacity Upgrade on Demand.
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.