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POWER9 Roadmap Drives Client Success

Steve Sibley
Steve Sibley, vice president, Power Systems Offering Management-Photo by Craig Washburn

Artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning are opening up opportunities for business. Over the next 10 years, IBM believes AI will have a far-reaching influence on how organizations gain insight and do business. Just as smartphones changed personal lives by bringing fresh ways to connect and interact, the insight era is affecting business operations, customer service and new product development in a similar manner. IBM POWER9* servers enable businesses to succeed in this exciting climate.

“The POWER9 processor brings capabilities to enable clients to significantly accelerate their machine and deep learning training times for AI workloads.”
—Steve Sibley, vice president, Power Systems Offering Management

IBM began its roll out of POWER9 servers in December 2017 with the IBM Power Systems* AC922, an accelerated computing system designed specifically for AI workloads. And now, POWER9 scale-out servers have arrived—and are ready to be shipped to your data center.

“IBM has developed POWER9 processor-based systems to advance two key themes with its clients—AI and cloud,” says Steve Sibley, vice president, Power Systems Offering Management. Today, every organization needs the ability to take advantage of AI. Organizations also need to automate on-premises IT infrastructure with cloud technology.

POWER9 Delivers Superior Performance

The POWER9 processor represents a major advancement in technology. It extends the open-system design philosophy introduced with POWER8* and fostered by the OpenPOWER Foundation. The POWER9 chip was designed for the data and AI market. These new systems have four leadership characteristics.

  1. The performance or throughput delivered by the POWER9 core. POWER9 systems have an estimated 2x the performance per core of Intel* chip-based systems for most data-oriented workloads. Better performance enables clients to build more efficient computing infrastructures, and improved performance often reduces software licensing costs. POWER9 has advanced the state-of-the-art performance optimization with built-in, autonomic frequency scaling. This optimization helps maximize the performance of the chip based on the workload characteristics.
  2. The superior memory management and throughput offered by POWER9 meet today’s insatiable demand for memory. The POWER9 processor provides 2x to 4x more memory capacity per system than its predecessor and continues to deliver the most memory bandwidth in the industry.
  3. POWER9 servers have an advanced I/O infrastructure that brings big benefits to clients. The POWER9 chip is the first with PCI-Express 4.0 (PCIe Gen4) I/O adapters and infrastructure, which deliver 2x the I/O bandwidth of PCIe Gen3.
  4. The POWER9 processor continues the journey toward hybrid system designs with its high speed, coherent processor interface, which supports NVLink 2.0, CAPI and OpenCAPI protocols. These protocols enable the delivery of advanced, high-performance acceleration for deep-learning and machine-learning applications using NVIDIA’s GPUs or Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs).

“IBM’s POWER9 innovations help clients process and drive throughput of data in more efficient ways. IBM does it better than anyone else,” Sibley says. Greater cache, memory and I/O bandwidths are industry leading innovations over x86 technologies. CAPI and GPU accelerators give the POWER9 processor the ability to handle advanced AI applications. “IBM delivers orders of magnitude better performance around those applications than you can get in a traditional computing system,” he notes.

Fostering AI Workloads

Traditional clients will appreciate the POWER9 processor’s generational advancements in terms of capability, efficiency, scalability and performance. Many clients are eager to take advantage of deep learning and machine learning for AI applications. Clients are rapidly seeing how these workloads can improve business operations and provide revenue opportunities.

Clients are using data to analyze, understand and build services for their customers. These services run the gamut. Financial services companies are using AI for advanced risk analytics and fraud detection. The healthcare industry uses machine learning to analyze images to diagnose different types of cancers quickly and accurately. AI is essential to training and operating autonomous vehicles. “The POWER9 processor brings capabilities to enable clients to significantly accelerate their machine and deep learning training times for AI workloads,” Sibley says.

The AC922 server unveiled in December 2017 targets AI, machine learning and deep learning applications. It supports up to six GPUs enabling the processing of deep learning frameworks quickly. This server is faster than its POWER8 processor-based counterpart and far quicker than any competing system, Sibley says.

The ability to train deep learning application models rapidly is crucial to businesses. Shortening the training time for these applications enables data scientists to be more productive. With POWER9, data scientists can test multiple iterations of application enhancements 5x to 10x faster than with other computing technologies, Sibley says.

When models are trained expeditiously, they go into production more quickly. For example, instead of taking two weeks to train a model, it might take two days. That two-week delay caused by slower training systems is significant. A financial services company that can deploy a fraud detection application in just hours might reduce millions of dollars of potential exposure.

The Insight Era

Today’s business environment requires speedy insights. “IBM believes business has entered the insight era,” Sibley says. Clients can run applications with advanced algorithms and glean knowledge swiftly. “The insight era allows IBM clients to dramatically expand the kinds of services they can deliver to their customers,” he notes.

The insight era is putting businesses on a trajectory that is similar to how smartphone technologies enriched personal lives. Businesses are using AI to gain knowledge and develop applications. “By using accelerators to process huge amounts of data, business productivity will skyrocket,” Sibley says.

Upgrade Advantages

Clients looking to upgrade to POWER9 can gain economic efficiency and advanced capabilities by making the move to current infrastructure.

Each POWER9 system integrates seamlessly into a cloud infrastructure. Clients can use an on-premises private cloud to keep up-to-date on technology. “Clients can move partitions or applications from one system to another and upgrade technology seamlessly with no downtime,” Sibley points out.

It’s also much less expensive to stay current than to upgrade older systems. Maintenance costs for older systems rise after five years. Further, the cost of upgrading old applications can be prohibitive and that may inhibit a client’s ability to stay current. “It’s more efficient to run on newer technology than old technology from a dollars and cents standpoint,” says Sibley.

The insight era is here. POWER9 will help any enterprise explore this exciting business shift.

Shirley S. Savage is a Maine-based freelance writer. Shirley can be reached at



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