Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for Linux Clusters and IBM G5 servers

A win in the nuclear submarine cluster market suggests that IBM's POWER architecture is joining the Linux HPC big leagues.
The new IBM eServer OpenPower 720

On September 13th, IBM introduced a new Power5 server tuned for Linux. Contrary to Harvard Research Group's belief that a transition will occur from RISC to Intel, IBM seems to be betting on RISC again. They may be right, the PowerPC could help them capture market share in the fastest growing sector of the technology market.

What About Apple?

On August 27th, O'Grady's Powerpage reported delays in Apple's ability to deliver its own Xserve, iMac, G5 server and desktop computers. The delays reported by Apple has revolved around IBM's inability to deliver the G5 chip.

If IBM has trouble meeting their deliveries to Apple, you might ask why they are heavily marketing their own new OpenPower series. The answer goes back last year's win by Lockheed Martin and the Navy's sonar solution. High Performance Linux server deployment has increased significantly. IBM has been on the hunt for wins in this space and has taken internal criticism for losing to what management considers inferior competitors.

If Lockheed Martin had to buy Apple Xserves and tear them out of their chassis to get to the IBM G4 chip, that indicates a preference for the chip not the Apple server. IBM can now offer hardware platforms that have a specific form-factor, high density processors and Linux.

That provides IBM with an edge in a market catering to more than nuclear submarines. As mentioned above, military aircraft also use sonar arrays. Department of Energy laboratories use large clusters as do places like Los Alamos. Emergency Response Network Systems such as those used to manage storms such as the three hurricanes in Florida.

In spite of the wins Apple has touted in the HPC space, their director of HPC resigned because he did not believe Apple was serious about the market. If Apple has more interest in equipping BMW's with iPods, perhaps IBM doesn't feel that bad about meeting their own needs first.

What About Linux in Government?

On their IBM eServer OpenPower 720 web page, IBM states that the 720 is available with SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server 9 (SLES9) only. It is not supported by any of the variants of Red Hat Linux.

In today's government environment, Red Hat has captured a commanding market share. Much of Red Hat's success exists because of partners like HP, Dell and Oracle. Large government contractors, including Lockheed Martin, consider themselves Red Hat shops.

If IBM intends to penetrate the government HPC sector, they will need to partner with Red Hat. But, will Red Hat choose to provide a version for the PowerPC? Much depends on the real commitment to the Linux Standards Base and time. Meanwhile, a small Linux distributor has picked up a significant amount of business because they ported to the PowerPC.

Tom Adelstein lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife, Yvonne, and works as a Linux and open-source software consultant locally and nationally. He's the co-author of the upcoming book Exploring the JDS Linux Desktop, published by O'Reilly and Associates. Tom has written numerous articles on Linux technical and marketing issues as a guest editor for a variety of publications. His latest venture has him working as the webmaster of JDSHelp.org

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Re: Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for

Anonymous's picture

Hmmm. Maybe you should take the same course. You can't spell. Your sentences lack referential indexes and you use incorrect grammar.

Did Tom push your buttons?

Or did LJ's copy editor do that?

Re: Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for

Anonymous's picture

This guy needs to take English 100. I don't care anthing about his speculation or analysis when he can't even structure basic sentences correctly. Further, the fact that he fades in and out of speaking to the run on G4s and the supply constraints present in the G5 indicates that he was, at least, heavily distracted when preparing this article. Also, who were his sources for the inuendo about IBM's attitude and Apple's HPC vice president? (We don't need names, but were they unnamed employees of said firms, or was this a conversation he had around the water cooler --perhaps with Alex "Sharky" over at CPU Magazine, who can also not spell or write his way out of a box.)

Re: Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for

Anonymous's picture

I work for the goverment of Canada... We where just about to finalize our migration from HPUX to Linux (redhat). But since redhat ain't cheep anymore we will be switching to Debian shortly.

The G4 is not an IBM chip.

Anonymous's picture

It is sold by Motorola/Freescale

Re: The G4 is not an IBM chip.

Anonymous's picture

Where has Rip Van Winke been?

Re: The G4 is not an IBM chip. (What?)

Anonymous's picture

When Apple reported its financial results yesterday, it zinged IBM yet again for not getting enough PowerPC 970 "G5" processors out the door from its 300 mm wafer chip plant in East Fishkill, New York. When questioned about this, Loughridge said that IBM had doubled the yield at the plant from the first to the second quarter, and was on its way to double the yield again in the third quarter. He said that the ramp curve at the chip plant was exactly what IBM had planned, albeit pushed out somewhere between one and two quarters.

http://www.itjungle.com/breaking/bn071504-story01.html

Re: The G4 is not an IBM chip. (What?)

Anonymous's picture

Sounds like IBM makes the G4 and G5.

Re: The G4 is not an IBM chip.

Anonymous's picture

Last February Sony invested $325mn in IBM's chip plant. That made Apple very happy at the time because they didn't know where they would get chips since IBM was losing $250mn a year.

Now, IBM is profitable in the Chip business. IBM makes makes G5s for Apple.

Re: The G4 is not an IBM chip.

Anonymous's picture

One version of it. But, IBM furnishes Apple's chip and their own. Motorola moved on to DSPs a long time ago.

Re: The G4 is not an IBM chip.

Anonymous's picture

The G4 is not an IBM chip, period!
IBM has G3 and G5, though.

Re: The G4 is not an IBM chip.

Anonymous's picture

The "G4", which is soley an Apple designation, is from the Motorola 7400-series of PowerPC processors. The "G3" processors are the 750-series, which IBM as well as Motorola produce (but I think Apple only shipped Motorola parts), and the "G5" is the IBM-only PowerPC 970 family.

Re: Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for

Anonymous's picture

This guy seems to have a Red Hat fixation...

Re: Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for

Anonymous's picture

Which guy? The author? Nah. O'Reilly just released his book called "Exploring the (Sun) JDS Linux Desktop". That would put him as either a Sun fixated person or SuSE fixated person. Of course, he might just be fixated on Linux. Hmmmm.

If you're talking about the first commentor, yeah, some fixation exists. Who would go to the trouble of looking up an obscure web page about an IBM PowerPC low end server that only accepts the highest end Red Hat distribution? That's a little obsessive compulsive.

I found it informative though. I mean that Yellow Dog Linux is in Navy airplanes and nuclear subs. Does that say something about "upstart" Linux or what?

hehe

Re: Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for

Anonymous's picture

Only Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) AS supports the Power PC and does not support Dynamic Processor Deallocation.

Re: Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for

Anonymous's picture

This page

http://www-1.ibm.com/servers/eserver/openpower/hardware/720_9124720e.html

shows 8 options for buying Red Hat Linux with the IBM 720, and one option for buying Suse.

How well researched was the rest of this article?

Re: Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for

Anonymous's picture

All you are seeing is a listing for different support options. If you know what you're doing and don't need to be sucked dry by IBM Global Services, you source the OS from either Red Hat or SuSE directly. After that it's pick-your-flavor. Personally I'd go with SuSE in this case, simply because I've found their corporate support of non-Intel platforms to be superior to that of Red Hat's. The recent IBM/Novell agreement has added weight to that argument IMHO.

Re: Linux in Government: Navy Sonar Opens New Opportunities for

Anonymous's picture

I hardly find it to be any /research/.
Geekspeak I would call it.

Red Hat wasn't ever big supporter of PPC, that's not secret. They enjoy growing Intel market share and try to be concentrated. YDL was always who delivered PPC Red Hat based systems.

One more important thing. It is only with PowerPC970 (aka G5/whatever) IBM have put low-end CPU into HPC. IBM is long time HPC veteran with its Power series CPUs.

PPC offers appeared less then year ago. And as we know HPC market is quite inertial: platform chosen once will be used for quite some time. And it is rather big reshape of HPC market is going to occur due to end-of-life of Alpha CPUs. Alpha systems are still on top500 list.

In my memory it was impressed that IBM started selling PowerPC/64bit based solutions right after HP announcement that development of Alpha line is stopped. And most of the customers wasn't impressed with Itanium performance-to-performance ratio to date.

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