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Just because IBM has sold off its low-end server business doesn’t mean it wants out of the server market entirely.

Today Big Blue announced new servers built around its Power8 architecture that it designed for big data and cloud computing data centers — key areas of opportunity for the company.

And the tech giant wants to be open about these servers. It’s releasing specs for the servers to the OpenPower Consortium it launched last year alongside Mellanox, Nvidia, and Tyan. Google has jumped aboard that initiative, just as it has shown interest in ARM-based chips for servers.

By making these moves, IBM is showing it doesn’t want to be left out as cloud computing takes hold and companies move toward scaling out big data number-crunching projects across lots and lots of servers, increasingly in the cloud.


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The chips inside these new servers from IBM, and the company’s campaign toward openness, could shake up the chip market.

“IBM typically claims that new POWER chips offer superior performance than Intel Xeon, the industry leader, and this chip is no exception. POWER8 will be well received by IBM’s traditional scale-up AIX installed base,” technology analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy wrote in a white paper on the news.

But it’s unclear how much IBM will be able to catch up to the excitement around ARM-based chips in data centers, when big companies like Facebook have been curious.

“OpenPOWER success will be critical if IBM is to transition from Big Unix Iron to the Big Linux Datacenter,” Moorhead wrote. “We applaud IBM’s strategy and efforts, but it will take significant investments and time to approach the level ARM enjoys today as an open architecture.”

And the fact that IBM ditched its indistinct x86 server lines might node bode well. Other manufacturers might be able to provide more streamlined solutions going forward.

IBM will need to find ways to work with original-design manufacturers (ODMs) like Quanta, which already collaborate with cloud providers and web companies.

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