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IBM POWER10: A State-of-the-Art Processor for Hybrid Cloud Computing

An important evolution in IBM’s roadmap for POWER, the POWER10 processor was created over five years with hundreds of new and pending patents. Designed to offer a platform to meet the unique needs of enterprise hybrid cloud computing, the IBM POWER10 processor uses a design focused on energy efficiency and performance in a 7nm form factor with an expected improvement of up to 3x greater processor energy efficiency, workload capacity, and container density than the IBM POWER9 processor.

Systems taking advantage of IBM POWER10 are expected to be available in the second half of 2021. Some of the new processor innovations include:

IBM’s First Commercialized 7nm Processor

IBM POWER10 is IBM’s first commercialized processor built using 7nm process technology. IBM Research has been partnering with Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. on research and development for more than a decade, including demonstration of the semiconductor industry’s first 7nm test chips through IBM’s Research Alliance.

With this updated technology and a focus on designing for performance and efficiency, IBM POWER10 is expected to deliver up to a 3x gain in processor energy efficiency per socket, increasing workload capacity in the same power envelope as IBM POWER9. This anticipated improvement in capacity is designed to allow IBM POWER10-based systems to support up to 3x increases in users, workloads, and OpenShift container density for hybrid cloud workloads as compared to IBM POWER9-based systems. 1

This can affect multiple data center attributes to drive greater efficiency and reduce costs, such as space and energy use, while also allowing hybrid cloud users to achieve more work in a smaller footprint.

Support for Multi-Petabyte Memory Clusters

IBM POWER has long been a leader in supporting a wide range of flexible deployments for hybrid cloud and on-premises workloads through a combination of hardware and software capabilities. The IBM POWER10 processor is designed to elevate this with the ability to pool or cluster physical memory across IBM POWER10-based systems, once available, in a variety of configurations. In a breakthrough new technology called Memory Inception, the IBM POWER10 processor is designed to allow any of the IBM POWER10 processor-based systems in a cluster to access and share each other’s memory, creating multi-Petabyte sized memory clusters.

For both cloud users and providers, Memory Inception offers the potential to drive cost and energy savings, as cloud providers can offer more capability using fewer servers, while cloud users can lease fewer resources to meet their IT needs. 

New Hardware-Enabled Security Capabilities

IBM POWER10 offers hardware memory encryption for end-to-end security and significantly faster cryptography performance, thanks to quadruple the number of AES encryption engines for both today’s leading encryption standards as well as anticipated future encryption protocols like quantum-safe cryptography and fully homomorphic encryption. It also brings new enhancements to container security.

Further, to address new security considerations associated with the higher density of containers, IBM POWER10 is designed to deliver new hardware-enforced container protection and isolation capabilities co-developed with the IBM POWER10 firmware. If a container were to be compromised, the POWER10 processor is designed to be able to prevent other containers in the same Virtual Machine (VM) from being affected by the same intrusion.

Cyberattacks are continuing to evolve, and newly discovered vulnerabilities can cause disruptions as organizations wait for fixes. To better enable clients to proactively defend against certain new application vulnerabilities in real-time, IBM POWER10 is designed to give users dynamic execution register control. This means users could design applications that are more resistant to attacks with minimal performance loss.

New Processor Core Architectures

The IBM POWER10 processor is designed to enhance in-core AI inferencing capability without requiring additional specialized hardware. With an embedded Matrix Math Accelerator, the IBM POWER10 processor is expected to achieve 10x, 15x, and 20x faster AI inference for FP32, BFloat16, and INT8 calculations respectively to improve performance for enterprise AI inference workloads as compared to IBM POWER9,2 helping enterprises take the AI models they trained and put them to work in the field. With IBM’s broad portfolio of AI software, IBM POWER10 is expected to help infuse AI workloads into typical enterprise applications to glean more impactful insights from data.

The IBM POWER10 is Indispensable to Both Enterprise Clients and SMBs

IBM Power Systems have been indispensable to both enterprise clients and small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), and the new generation IBM POWER10 processor is designed to be even more differentiated. This 7-nanometer chip is about the size of a postage stamp and houses 18 billion transistors. For enterprise clients in any industry from retail, telecom, financial services to healthcare, the POWER10’s goal is to be a state-of-the-art, enterprise-class enabler of their business processes that doesn’t have to live in a data center.

The IBM POWER10 processor was designed so enterprise clients can run IBM POWER10-equipped servers on-site for high-speed processing that’s reliable and secure. For example, today’s IBM Power Systems servers can be found in pharmacies that need immediate and secure tracking of patient prescriptions while complying with government privacy regulations. Telecom clients use IBM Power Systems for enterprise-class AI and hybrid cloud capabilities across a network of facilities. Additionally, automotive parts suppliers use them in the increasingly automated world of advanced manufacturing.

Among SMBs, IBM Power Systems are deployed to handle business-critical workloads in environments where bulletproof reliability and security are required, but they don’t have capacity for a larger system, such as a mainframe, to run their critical applications. A mid-sized customer with task-specific computing requirements may not be able to invest in a raised-floor, environmentally controlled data center, but may still demand an enterprise-grade server for sensitive and sophisticated operations.

IBM Power Systems provide an enterprise-class experience with as much customization as a client needs. And it does so anywhere it’s needed – reliably, securely, and with new standards for compactness, speed, and energy efficiency.

The Role of IBM Power Systems in Digital Transformation, AI, and Hybrid Cloud

Clients often want to stick with the systems they have—especially if they’ve enjoyed the kind of performance and flexibility they’ve had with IBM Power Systems over the years. At the same time, any debate about AI and hybrid cloud is over. The question is no longer “if,” but “when?” and “how fast?” In addition, the global pandemic has made it abundantly clear that companies who were thinking about AI and hybrid cloud need to make their moves now. IBM Power Systems can serve as the on ramps to digital transformation by bringing AI and hybrid cloud capabilities to new clients, and to the tens of thousands of established clients, without the disruption and expense of “rip and replace.”

AI has to be trained, and that training requires tremendous computing power. An enterprise client may not wish to dedicate mainframe capacity to such training, while an SMB client might not have access to a mainframe. But some members of the IBM Power Systems server family can run AI training modules at speeds up to 4 times faster than a larger enterprise system. Power also can run AI inside applications. And between IBM’s vast software library and ISV ecosystem, there are solutions available to help any size enterprise develop its own AI.

Hybrid cloud is being driven by all the things that drove public cloud in the beginning—flexibility, collaboration for innovation, and speed to market. This all gives the client the ability to be nimble, pivot to new market opportunities, or react to competitive threats. These attributes now have clients saying, “I need that throughout my entire enterprise—it can’t just sit outside my enterprise.” As the only player that leads in both cloud and on-premises systems—and with a commitment to open source hybrid cloud architecture based on Red Hat OpenShift—IBM is optimally positioned to migrate clients to hybrid cloud, and IBM POWER10 is designed to serve as the foundation of that cloud.

How the IBM POWER10 Stands Apart from the Rest of the Industry

Clients want to know that they have the highest level of cybersecurity—which the new IBM POWER10 can deliver on. With IBM POWER10, all of the memory is encrypted all of the time—without software cryptography—so that there is no performance degradation. Combine that with the fact that IBM POWER10 is designed with a memory architecture for bandwidth and resiliency. With IBM POWER10-based systems, you will have a secure memory environment which is incredibly important in this hybrid cloud world when you’re moving applications around.
The new Memory Inception technology built in IBM POWER10 is designed to allow clients to create memory pools across multiple IBM POWER10-based systems so they can scale to multiple petabytes of memory. The applications can run on a single system, but they can access the memory wherever it is just like it’s on the system it’s running on. Given the wide range of applications that are now memory intensive, such as CRM, ERP supply chain applications, this is expected to be a gamechanger for those environments.

IBM POWER10 is built for these large enterprises running very large applications that have high levels of resiliency security and scalability requirements.

Building the Enterprise Hybrid Cloud of the Future

With hardware co-optimized for Red Hat OpenShift, IBM POWER10-based servers will deliver the future of the hybrid cloud when they become available in the second half of 2021. Samsung Electronics will manufacture the IBM POWER10 processor, combining Samsung’s industry-leading semiconductor manufacturing technology with IBM’s CPU designs.

For more information about IBM Power Systems, contact Data Integrity, an IBM Gold Business Partner.

1 3X performance is based upon pre-silicon engineering analysis of Integer, Enterprise and Floating Point environments on a POWER10 dual socket server offering with 2×30-core modules vs POWER9 dual socket server offering with 2×12-core modules; both modules have the same energy level.

2 10-20X AI inferencing improvement is based upon pre-silicon engineering analysis of various workloads (Linpack. Resnet-50 FP32, Resnet-50 BFloat16, and Resnet-50 INT8) on a POWER10 dual socket server offering with 2×30-core modules vs POWER9 dual socket server offering with 2×12-core modules.