On April 23, IBM rolled out the long-awaited POWER8 CPU, the successor to POWER7+, and given the extensive pre-announcement speculation, the hardware itself was no big surprise (the details are fascinating, but not suitable for this venue), offering an estimated 30 - 50% improvement in application performance over the latest POWER7+, with potential for order of magnitude improvements with selected big data and analytics workloads. While the technology is interesting, we are pretty numb to the “bigger, better, faster” messaging that inevitably accompanies new hardware announcements, and the real impact of this announcement lies in its utility for current AIX users and IBM’s increased focus on Linux and its support of the OpenPOWER initiative.
OK, so we’re numb, but it’s still interesting. POWER8 is an entirely new processor generation implemented in 22 nm CMOS (the same geometry as Intel’s high-end CPUs). The processor features up to 12 cores, each with up to 8 threads, and a focus on not only throughput but high performance per thread and per core for low-thread-count applications. Added to the mix is up to 1 TB of memory per socket, massive PCIe 3 I/O connectivity and Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface (CAPI), IBM’s technology to deliver memory-controller-based access for accelerators and flash memory in POWER systems. CAPI figures prominently in IBM’s positioning of POWER as the ultimate analytics engine, with the announcement profiling the performance of a configuration using 40 TB of CAPI-attached flash for huge in-memory analytics at a fraction of the cost of a non-CAPI configuration.[i]
A Slam-dunk for AIX users and a new play for Linux
Microsoft is officially launching the commercial operations of its cloud offerings in China today. It’s been only nine months since Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, made the announcement in Shanghai that Windows Azure — now renamed Microsoft Azure — would be available for preview in the Chinese market.
I call that Episode I of the China Cloud War. In the report that I published at the time, “PaaS Market Dynamics in China, 2012 To 2017”, I made three predictions — predictions that are now being fulfilled. More global players are joining the war; customers have gotten familiar with cloud concepts and are planning hybrid cloud implementations for their businesses; and traditional IT service providers have started to transform themselves into cloud service providers.
I talked with Microsoft and Citrix last week, and I strongly believe that Episode I has ended and Episode II has just begun. In the battle for partner ecosystems and real customer business, here are the three major plots that enterprise architects and CIOs in China should watch unfold:
The thrree kingdoms will fight with the gloves off. In my blog post last year, I described three kingdoms of global vendors in Chinese cloud market: Microsoft, Amazon, and vendors behind open source technology like OpenStack and CloudStack.
Microsoft is leading the market as the first company in China to provide unified solutions for public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud across infrastructure (IaaS) and middleware (PaaS). This builds on its deep understanding of enterprise requirements, its massive developer base, and the ease of use on the Windows platform.
The entire cloud ecosystem in China is undergoing significant change. End users are getting more serious about adopting cloud solutions and ISVs are working with telecom carriers and partners to deliver mission-critical business applications in the cloud. My latest report, “Brief: Major Players Are Targeting The Chinese Cloud Market For Core Business Apps,” summarizes the overall trends of cloud adoption in China, looks at each vendor’s solution, and provides high-level suggestions. Specifically, I discuss:
General trends in SaaS adoption in China. Timing is very critical for market penetration. The survey results I share in this report show a dramatic increase in decision-maker interest in cloud-based offerings. This is probably the last chance for companies that want significant market share, but do not yet have it, to enter the Chinese SaaS market.
All of the major multinational vendors are moving. Global players have been closely watching the cloud market in China for years, and in 2013 they have made strategic moves. SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, and Infor have adopted different strategies in China based on the strengths and capabilities of their core product and solution offerings, technology stack, and partners. The report will tell you how each of these companies is working to address the Chinese market.
Local market leader practices. Large multinational vendors are not the only ones with skin in the game. Major local players in enterprise management software, such as Yonyou and Kingdee, are also working hard and have achieved significant progress in this space. The report will tell you what advantages their global peers need to have and which shortcomings they need to improve upon.
Julianne Pepitone's review of the upcoming US Supreme Court case American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. versus Aereo nicely covers the case's implications on two big industries, old and new: television and cloud computing. (P.S. Thanks for the shout-out to me, Julianne!) The potential impact on the TV industry is pretty clear, but the cloud? I'm not a lawyer, but the issue is likely to turn on the difference between the copy being in the cloud or in your home.
In 1984, the Supreme Court upheld the right of individuals to make a recording of a television program for their private viewing in what has become known as the Betamax case. So far, lower courts have used this precedent, in combination with Aereo's clever technical design, to say Aereo is legal. For the Supreme Court to rule against Aereo, it will have to find that some aspect of their model is different from a VCR.
And there it is: The VCR sits in your living room, while Aereo is in the cloud. No doubt ABC and the broadcast industry will make the case that this is a crucial difference and since Aereo is the entity sitting on these copies of their programming, Aereo is infringing on their copyright. It will be fascinating to see the arguments in detail and see how the Court views them.
Julianne notes in her article:
If the court rules against Aereo, the startup and its supporters warn the ramifications could put other services that use remote, or cloud-based, storage -- Google Drive, Dropbox, remote DVRs and many more -- at risk. Any of those outcomes depend on the scope of the Supreme Court’s decision.
This week, IBM announced its new line of x86 servers, and included among the usual incremental product improvements is a performance game-changer called eXFlash. eXFlash is the first commercially available implantation of the MCS architecture announced last year by Diablo Technologies. The MCS architecture, and IBM’s eXFlash offering in particular, allows flash memory to be embedded on the system as close to the CPU as main memory, with latencies substantially lower than any other available flash options, offering better performance at a lower solution cost than other embedded flash solutions. Key aspects of the announcement include:
■ Flash DIMMs offer scalable high performance. Write latency (a critical metric) for IBM eXFlash will be in the 5 to 10 microsecond range, whereas best-of-breed competing mezzanine card and PCIe flash can only offer 15 to 20 microseconds (and external flash storage is slower still). Additionally, since the DIMMs are directly attached to the memory controller, flash I/O does not compete with other I/O on the system I/O hub and PCIe subsystem, improving overall system performance for heavily-loaded systems. Additional benefits include linear performance scalability as the number of DIMMs increase and optional built-in hardware mirroring of DIMM pairs.
■ eXFlash DIMMs are compatible with current software. Part of the magic of MCS flash is that it appears to the OS as a standard block-mode device, so all existing block-mode software will work, including applications, caching and tiering or general storage management software. For IBM users, compatibility with IBM’s storage management and FlashCache Storage Accelerator solutions is guaranteed. Other vendors will face zero to low effort in qualifying their solutions.
In November 2013, we published a report laying out what will be the key points of differentiation between Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 by 2016. At the core of this report is a simple message: The value of these cloud collaboration suites isn't inexpensive email; their value is in their role as an interaction point for your business ecosystem. And at the center of each of these interactions is content of some sort -- contracts, marketing collateral, product specifications, customer records, and more. As more of this content lands in Google Drive and SkyDrive Pro, the market will reward the vendor that makes it easiest for information workers to author content, share it with others, manage its use and distribution, and be aware of any changes to this content. We call this combination of capabilities content services.
As the new year looms, thoughts turn once again to our annual reading of the tea leaves, in this case focused on what I see coming in server land. We’ve just published the full report, Predictions for 2014: Servers & Data Centers, but as teaser, here are a few of the major highlights from the report:
1. Increasing choices in form factor and packaging – I&O pros will have to cope with a proliferation of new form factors, some optimized for dense low-power cloud workloads, some for general purpose legacy IT, and some for horizontal VM clusters (or internal cloud if you prefer). These will continue to appear in an increasing number of variants.
2. ARM – Make or break time is coming, depending on the success of coming 64-bit ARM CPU/SOC designs with full server feature sets including VM support.
3. The beat goes on – Major turn of the great wheel coming for server CPUs in early 2014.
4. Huge potential disruption in flash architecture – Introduction of flash in main memory DIMM slots has the potential to completely disrupt how flash is used in storage tiers, and potentially can break the current storage tiering model, initially physically with the potential to ripple through memory architectures.
I regularly hear CIOs and IT suppliers discussing the “four pillars” of cloud, social, mobile, and big data as if they’re an end in themselves, creating plenty of buzz around all four. But really, they’re just a means to an end: Cloud, social, mobile, and big data are the tools we use to reach the ultimate goal of providing a great customer experience. Most CIOs in Australia do understand that digital disruption and customer obsession are the factors that are changing their world, and that the only way to succeed is to embrace this change.
The classic work of Chinese historical fiction “Romance Of Three Kingdoms” describes the history of China after the Han dynasty. This work focuses on three power blocks that fought against each other in an attempt to be the dominant kingdom. After my discussions with many users and vendors at the OpenStack Summit 2013, I see an analogy between these three kingdoms and the evolution of the IaaS market in China as I described it in my report “PaaS Market Dynamics In China, 2012 To 2017” early this year.
Three categories of players are emerging in public cloud market in China, and similar to the Three Kingdoms, these players will fight against each other and collaborate at the same time, accelerating both the adoption and the maturing of cloud solutions in Chinese market.
State of Shu: Amazon Web Services. The king of Shu was the descendant of Han dynasty before the era of the Three Kingdoms; because of his “royal blood,” he had many supporters and followers to fight against the other two kingdoms.
Amazon.com is in a similar situation: It has very good reputation among architects and developers in China. However, Amazon’s promotion activities are lagging. Amazon is trying to expand its cloud territory into Chinese market by building a data center in Beijing and recruiting local personnel. However, its relationship with the government is not as good as Microsoft’s, and Amazon’s ambition to launch AWS in China has been slowed down due to local regulations.
State of Wu: Microsoft Windows Azure and its alliances. The state of Wu is competitive because it has the natural advantage of the Yangtze River, helping it defend against invasion and expand its territory.
Over the past few years, IBM has certainly copped its fair share of criticism in the Asian media, particularly in Australia. Whether this criticism is deserved or not is beside the point. Perception is reality — and it’s led some companies and governments to exclude IBM from project bids and longer-term sourcing deals. On top of this, the firm’s recent earnings in Asia Pacific have disappointed.
But I’ve had the chance to spend some quality time with IBM at analyst events across Asia Pacific over the past 12 months, and it’s clear that the company does some things well — in fact, IBM is sometimes years ahead of the pack. For this reason, I advise clients that it would be detrimental to exclude IBM from a deal that may play to one of these strengths.
IBM’s value lies in the innovation and global best practices it can bring to deals; the capabilities coming out of IBM Labs and the resulting products, services, and capabilities continue to lead the industry. IBM is one of the few IT vendors whose R&D has struck the right balance between shorter-term business returns and longer-term big bets.