First POWER10 machine announced

Date: 2021-09-08T10:27:00-07:00


IBM turns up the volume to 10 (and their server numbers to four digits) with the Power E1080 server, the launch system for POWER10. POWER10 is a 7nm chip fabbed by Samsung with up to 15 SMT-8 cores (a 16th core is disabled for yield) for up to 120 threads per chip. IBM bills POWER10 as having 2.5 times more performance per core than Intel Xeon Platinum (based on an HPE Superdome system running Xeon Platinum 8380H parts), 2.5 times the AES crypto performance per core of POWER9 (no doubt due to quadruple the crypto engines present), five times "AI inferencing per socket" (whatever that means) over Power E980 via the POWER10's matrix math and AI accelerators, and 33% less power usage than the E980 for the same workload. AIX, Linux and IBM i are all supported.

IBM targets its launch hardware at its big institutional customers, and true to form the E1080 can scale up to four nodes, each with four processors, for a capacity of 240 cores (that's 1,920 hardware threads for those of you keeping score at home). The datasheet lists 10, 12 and 15 core parts as available, with asymmetric 48/32K L1 and 2MB of L2 cache per core. Chips are divided into two hemispheres (the 15-core version has 7 and 8 core hemispheres) sharing a pool of 8MB L3 cache per core per side, so the largest 15 core part has 120MB of L3 cache split into shared 64MB and 56MB pools respectively. This is somewhat different from POWER9 which divvys up L3 per two-core slice (but recall that the lowest binned 4- and 8-core parts, like the ones in most Raptor systems, fuse off the other cores in a slice such that each active core gets the L3 all to itself). Compared with Telum's virtual L3 approach, POWER10's cache strategy seems like an interim step to what we suspect POWER11 might have.

I/O doesn't disappoint, as you would expect. Each node has 8 PCIe Gen5 slots on board and can add up to four expansion drawers, each adding an additional twelve slots. You do the math for a full four-node behemoth.

However, memory and especially OMI is what we've been watching most closely with POWER10 because OMI DIMMs have closed-source firmware. Unlike the DDIMMs announced at the 2019 OpenPOWER Summit, the E1080 datasheet specifies buffered DDR4 CDIMMs. This appears to be simply a different form factor; the datasheet intro blurb indicates they are also OMI-based. Each 4-processor node can hold 16TB of RAM for 64TB in the largest 16-socket configuration. IBM lists no directly-attached RAM option currently.

IBM is taking orders now and shipments are expected to begin before the end of September. Now that POWER10 is actually a physical product, let's hope there's news on the horizon about a truly open Open Memory Interface in the meantime. Just keep in mind that if you have to ask how much this machine costs you clearly can't afford it, and IBM doesn't do retail sales anyway.