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Google data centres to shift to ARM, IBM servers

Posted: 11 Apr 2016     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Google  CPU  IBM  ARM  data centre 

Google is holding out for the prospect shifting its massive data centres from Intel x86 to IBM Power servers. It also is preparing for the possibility it may shift to ARM servers, but it's not quite as far along on that path. It has now ported to the Power8 server it developed two years ago many Google apps and most of Google's infrastructure software.

"For good software developers enabling Power is just modifying a flag in a config file and off they go," said Maire Mahony, an engineering manager in Google's platform group that is responsible for its data centre hardware and a director of the Open Power Foundation.

Now Google is collaborating with Rackspace, a smaller data centre services provider, to design a Power9 server. The so-called Zaius server will use two Power9 chips, 32 DDR4 DIMM slots and sockets supporting PCI Express Gen 4 as well as IBM's CAPI and Nvidia's NVLink interconnects. It will be a 48V server designed for a 48V rack.

IBM Power9 server

Figure 1: Google and Rackspace said they will co-develop a dual-socket IBM Power9 server. (All images: IBM or EE Times)

At the event, IBM showed a road map describing its Power9 for the first time. The processor will sport 24 newly designed cores, upgraded CAPI and NVLink interconnects and a whole new 25Gbit/s interconnect IBM has yet to announce.

Power9 will come in two flavours, one using direct-attached memory for scale-out clusters in big data centres and the other using buffered memory for scale-up systems in large enterprises. It will tape out soon with availability in late 2017 and is made in a Globalfoundries 14nm process.

Google did not build a Power8 server and port much of its software to it only to improve its position when negotiate pricing with Intel, said Gordon MacKean, a senior director in Google's platform group. "It's about looking at all the technology available to use and positioning ourselves to deploy whatever has the best performance per dollar, to be ready to deploy the best platform," he said.

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