Five years. That is how much time has passed since we have seen an affordable server processor that could keep up with or even beat Intel's best Xeons. These days no less than 95% of the server CPUs shipped are Intel Xeons. A few years ago, it looked like ARM servers were going to shake up the market this year, but to cut a long story short, it looks like the IBM POWER8 chip is probably the only viable alternative for the time being.

That was also noticeable in our Xeon E7 review, which was much more popular than we ever hoped. One of the reasons was the inclusion of a few IBM POWER8 benchmarks. We admit that the article was however incomplete: the POWER8 development machine we tested was a virtual machine with only 1 core, 8 threads and 2 GB of RAM, which is not enough to do any thorough server testing.

After seeing the reader interest in POWER8 in that previous article, we decided to investigate the matter further. To that end we met with Franz Bourlet, an enthusiastic technical sales engineer at IBM and he made sure we got access to an IBM S822L server. Thanks to Franz and the good people of Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions, Arrow was able to lend us an IBM S822L server for our testing.

A Real Alternative?

Some of you may argue that the POWER based servers have been around for years now. But the slide below illustrates what we typically associated IBM's POWER range with:

Proudly, the IBM sales team states that you can save 1.5 million dollars after you have paid them 2 million dollars for your high-end 780 system. There is definitely a market for such hugely expensive and robust server systems as high end RISC machines are good for about 50,000 clients. But frankly for most of us, those systems are nothing more than an expensive curiosity.

Availability can be handled by software and most of us are looking/forced to reduce our capital expenses rather than increase them. We want fast, "reliable enough" servers at low costs that are easy to service. And that is exactly the reason why the single and dual sockets Xeon servers have been so popular the past decade. Can an IBM POWER server be a real alternative to the typical Xeon E5 server? The short but vague answer: a lot has changed in the past years and months. So yes, maybe.

Challenging the Xeon
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  • Mondozai - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    That's too bad. Over 90% of the world population exists outside of it and even if you look at the HPC market, the vast majority of that is, too.

    The world doesn't revolve around you. Get out of your bubble.
  • bji - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    He never claimed the world revolved around him, he just made a true statement that may be worth consideration. Your response is unnecessarily hostile and annoying.

    I would expand Jtaylor1986's statement: I believe that most if not all native English speaking populations use commas for thousands grouping in numbers. Since this site is written in English, it might be worthwhile to stick to conventions of native English speakers.

    It's possible that there are many more non-native English speakers reading this site who would prefer dots instead of commas, but I doubt it. Only the site maintainers would know though.
  • Jtaylor1986 - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    You read my mind :)
  • mapesdhs - Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - link

    Talking to numerous people around Europe about tech stuff, I can't think of any nation from which someone used the decimal point in their emails instead of a comma in this context. I'd assumed the comma was standard for thousands groupings. So which non-US countries do use the point instead? Anyone know?
  • lmcd - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    Cool on the rest of the world part, but the period vs comma as delimiters in the world numeric system ARE backward. In language (universal, or nearly), a comma is used to denote a pause or minor break, and a period is used to denote the end of a complete thought or section. Applied to numerics, and you end up with the American way of doing it.

    ^my take
  • JohanAnandtech - Saturday, November 7, 2015 - link

    Just for the record, this was not an attempt to nag the US people. Just the mighty force of habit.
  • ZeDestructor - Saturday, November 7, 2015 - link

    For future use: just use a space for thousands seperation (that's how I do it on anything that isn't limited to a 7seg-style display), and confuse readers by mixing commas and periods for decimals :P
  • tygrus - Sunday, November 8, 2015 - link

    I like to use a fullstop for the decimal point, an apostrophe for the thousands separator, a comma for separating items in the list, don't start a sentance with a digit.
    One list of numbers may be : 3'500'000, 45.08, 12'500.8, 9'500. Second list : 45'000, 15'000, 25'000. We use apostrophes when we contract words like don't so why not use it for contracting numbers where we would otherwise have the words thousand, millions, billions etc ?
  • mapesdhs - Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - link

    I have a headache in my eyeballs! :D
  • ws3 - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    North America is on the majority side on this issue. Asia, in particular, is almost completely on the side of using a dot as the decimal separator and a comma to put breaks in long numbers.

    Get with the program Europe. The world doesn't revolve around you!

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