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Linux Ecosystems Partnerships Benefit Clients

OpenPOWER technical partners, IBM software, ISVs and open-source communities all work to form the Linux on POWER ecosystem.

Penguins on illustration

The ecosystem supporting Linux* on the IBM Power Systems* platform continues to evolve. Its strategic focus has been to enable the data tier and offer superior price performance on scale-out servers while delivering exceptional reliability, availability, and serviceability and flexibility on IBM enterprise-class servers. Building on this data tier, the ecosystem has been broadened to allow clients to benefit from a modern data platform, new applications and open-source solutions that support artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud delivery, and proven partner technologies.

“We focus on areas that are strategic to clients, look at how to best optimize the infrastructure stack and leverage technical capabilities and partnerships. We then bring those into the ecosystem to make sure we’re getting the best solution out to clients,” says Gina King, director, Global Ecosystem and Alliances, IBM Cognitive Systems. “The ecosystem continues to expand, encompassing modern data and AI applications in the cloud and hybrid environments, to meet the end-to-end workflow requirements for clients.”

Essential Components

The ecosystem includes OpenPOWER technical partners, IBM software, ISVs and open-source communities, says Terri Virnig, vice president of Power Ecosystem and Strategy.

“Clients today want choice and flexibility,” she points out. “Showing a strong ecosystem at all levels ensures they have both. This also links to our focus on deployment options, including on-premises or a private, public or hybrid cloud.”

Kathy Bennett, vice president, IBM Systems, Global ISV Technical Enablement and Support, agrees, adding that the Power Systems ecosystem offers flexibility and agility to respond to current and changing workloads. “What we hear from clients is, ‘We love the flexibility that the IBM POWER* platform gives us by being able to add new SAP HANA workloads to our existing systems,’ ” she says.

Open source is playing an increasingly important role, King says, and ISV partners are critical in that process. Many open-source environments are Linux technology-based, which makes them easy to integrate into the POWER ecosystem.

“As clients move into new applications and use AI or deep learning libraries like Tensorflow, they’ll see those are all supported by Linux,” she says. “To support our clients as they make the journey into those new spaces, we need to make sure we’re building out the ecosystem for Linux running on the POWER platform.”

The Partner Connection

By working with more than 600 universities, IBM is helping ensure the next generation of developers and data scientists gain skills to leverage and optimize the Linux on POWER ecosystem. IBM also continues to build relationships with hardware and software partners.

For example, SAP HANA is an in-memory data platform, deployable in the cloud or on-premises, that accelerates business processes and enables new insights. Running it on POWER lets clients optimize HANA-based advanced analytics and business applications on a single, flexible POWER processor-based infrastructure (

“The POWER platform has a long history of running SAP workloads, and as clients make the transition to HANA, they want the ability to take an approach that is complimentary to what they already have in place versus starting over from scratch,” Virnig says.

As a Linux technology-based data platform, HANA aligns well with IBM’s overall strategy to enable the data tier and key applications that connect to it. “The reliability that Power Systems offers, with the lowest percentage annual server downtime, the ability to run up to eight SAP HANA production instances per server, and savings on operational costs from server consolidation are examples of the value the POWER platform brings to SAP workloads,” Bennett says.

More than 1,000 clients are now running SAP HANA on Power Systems, accelerating business processes and gaining more business insights on a platform built for the flexibility, resiliency and performance required in the digital era, Bennett says. “We have also worked with our ecosystem partners to allow our clients to manage HANA on the POWER platform with the same tools and management software they manage the rest of their SAP landscape.”

As new technologies or ISVs enter the marketplace, IBM evaluates if they would be a good fit in the ecosystem and if Linux on POWER is a good fit for them, King says. IBM can quickly implement and leverage solutions that are based on Linux.

“Clients today want choice and flexibility. Showing a strong ecosystem at all levels ensures they have both.”
—Terri Virnig, vice president of Power Ecosystem and Strategy

“We’ve built a solid infrastructure leveraging the Power Systems platform and our technical partners to extend acceleration and networking capability to the platform, with support by all the major Linux OSes that are enabled for cloud deployment,” she says. “By laying a solid foundation, as data and AI applications emerge, we can easily add more building blocks to the solution stack.”

A Better Solution

As IBM tunes and optimizes solutions that run on POWER, it finds that some technologies run faster on Power Systems than on Intel* x86-based systems. “With machine learning or deep learning models, we determine where we can help clients run their models faster,” King says. “For clients, that can make all the difference in the world when you’re talking about improving from days to hours or hours to minutes.”

With models becoming more complex and requiring more processing power for data crunching, businesses need better performing infrastructures. That’s where the POWER platform earns it stripes. IBM’s OpenPOWER LC servers deliver up to 2x the performance and 12x the workload density versus Intel x86-based services (

“When you want to add a new SAP application that runs on HANA, the advantage of the POWER platform is you don’t have to purchase a new server to run it on,” Bennett says. “In the x86 world, there are many more restrictions on what you can run virtualized. On POWER, you have much more flexibility to run applications on the same server with HANA. This simplifies IT and gives the business the ability to add more workloads. It can also lower operational costs by supporting server consolidation, resulting in smaller data center footprints and lower hardware acquisition costs.”

With ERP, a core element of clients’ businesses, they look for leadership capabilities in areas such as availability and virtualization, Virnig says. The Linux on POWER ecosystem delivers value across those spaces.

“Clients and partners are looking for an alternative to the Intel environment, and we represent that choice,” she says. “We’re driving toward an open paradigm, married with our strong differentiation architecturally for data-intensive workloads, which clients can integrate with traditional environments like ERP with SAP HANA, or build out new capabilities with big data, AI ISVs, and open-source solutions.”

What’s Next

The Linux on POWER ecosystem is expected to continue evolving to meet clients’ changing needs. “We will focus on the areas where we can make a significant difference, like data and AI,” King says. “We are always looking to optimize partnerships. We are very deliberate in our strategy for the ecosystem. We want to make sure we’re providing the end-to-end solution components for clients, including support for cloud deployment, especially private cloud.”

The POWER platform will continue to meet clients in spaces that are strategic to their business, including AI and other advanced analytics.

With AI still emerging for many business applications, IBM will continue working with clients and partners to strategically add new capabilities, she says. Ongoing assessments will determine how capabilities are progressing and what adjustments are needed to best meet the needs for machine learning, deep learning and other solutions.

“We will also continue to expand our focus in working with universities and education providers to better serve the data scientist and development communities that are rapidly building out in the industry,” Virnig says.

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