John Furrier and Dave Vellante, theCUBE co-hosts, traveled to Las Vegas to cover IBM Pulse 2014 and the hot topics regarding the optimization of the world’s business infrastructure. As part of their quest to interview the thought leaders in the industry, they managed to get hold of Doug Balog, GM of Power Systems with IBM Systems & Technology Group, persuading him to elaborate on the recent IBM announcements and also focus on some of the organization’s initiatives.
Referring to the tremendous changes occurring in the industry, Balog commented: “As a 30-year veteran, one of the most profound set of changes occurring at a single point in time that I’ve seen in my 30 years. We’ve gone through plenty of single cycle changes and economics ups and downs, but this is pretty profound. The whole role around Big Data and how clients are drowning in data looking for solutions, trying to get business insights from their data, the role of mobile feeding that data, the social aspect of how that plays in and the on-premise / off-premise aspects of hybrid cloud – it’s just moving at lightning speed right now,” signaled Balog. “The winners will be those who respond to it.”
As he managed a lot of businesses from the mainframe, Balog was asked by Furrier to comment on the state of the systems these days.
State of today’s industry – evolving from the mainframe
“We still see there is a strong client need for highly-innovative systems to solve real-purpose built issues; the issues around data and different types of data are not to be addressed by simply taking the commodities off the shelf and strapping them together. It takes good innovation, good systems design, a strong processor design, focused on Big Data, and how you build the system around it. The other thing is openness,” explained Balog. “It’s foolish for any company to think they can figure it all out.”
He added: “From a system design standpoint, it is critical in my view not only to do a lot of the great design yourself, but to open it all up to a set of ecosystem partners that can add extra value and take to a whole new level.”
“What’s your experience with the ecosystem?” asked Furrier.
“In the past we would approach the ecosystem one vendor at a time, but that just doesn’t scale in the end. You have to find new ways to attract the ecosystem,” said Balog. “The approach we’re taking is the open approach. We’re attracting the open ecosystem through a couple of things, such as the OpenPower – we believe it changes the game for Power architecture. It creates a consortium-based approach, described by some as an ARM-like model for the data center. It creates a whole new access point for technology.”
Opening up the IP, building out an ecosystem
“You’re essentially saying you are opening up the IP and people can build derivative products,” noted Vellante. “Who else other than Mellanox is involved?”
“The first five founding members announced in August last year were IBM, Google, Mellanox, Nvidia and Tyan. They saw a common need in the market for openness around servers, each brought in a different perspective from the server ecosystem, they got together and by december the official formation of the company was announced,” explained Balog. “Since then we’ve opened the gates to anyone who wants to join, and now we have 12 members. Recently we had Samsung announced at IBM PartnerWorld. Samsung is very interested from a memory perspective. We have 70 other companies going through the paperwork and applying to become part of OpenPower Foundation. It’s a rich ecosystem right now.”
“Where do you see the ecosystem applying Power?” inquired Vellante.
“We had other Power based ecosystems in the past, focused at the time on the embedded or PC space, but OpenPower is focused on the server space,” clarified Balog. “We are not trying to be mobile and put Power in your pocket, this is about solving problems for the data center. Around the ecosystem, there’s three ways we capture value from it:
- we sell our intellectual property, just like an ARM model, to those who want to take it and use it within their market. It’s a licence model.
- We’ll sell Power chips to those buying motherboards from Tyan, and deploy within their internet center. That’s a chip sale from IBM.
- The amount of innovation these partnerships are driving allows IBM to bring phenomenal innovation to their clients.”
Further explaining the business mode, Balog added: “A lot of the cloud deployments are looking for ways to do rapid pace innovation in the cloud, but they are also trying to connect the core business system out their clients’ own infrastructure. His whole notion of a dynamic, hybrid cloud I see it playing out in the Power business.”
As for the matter of “how Power differentiates in the market,” Balog clarified: “we look at the history of Power, which was born to do data. That was the data we knew 20 years ago, structured, relational database based deployment. The data of today coming to market (noSQL, key value store, Hadoop-based deployments) is different, but the value proposition of Power for the data centric applications remains key. It’s changing the dialogue from speeds and feeds to addressing clients’ problems, on-premise and off-premise.”