Everyone And Their Brother But Intel Move To Change Server Market Dynamics      

It is not often a market moves against some of the dominant
players.  In a surprisingly secret and surprise
move many of the most powerful companies in technology have formed a consortium
to change the market dynamic for servers.
In an early morning announcement (as in I’m still asleep) they surprised
the market with a massive surprise move that likely shocked those that aren’t
part of this consortium.  Effectively
they are moving away from PCIe, the current industry standard, to something
that is both more open and vastly more powerful.

The Announcement

AMD, Dell/EMC, Google, HPE, IBM, Mellanox Technologies, Micron,
NVIDIA and Xilinx launch OpenCAPI Consortium
and release specifications enabling up to 10x faster server performance with
products expected to hit market in second half of 2017.  This appears to be a solid move away from
Intel by some of the largest players in the industry.  The announced Open Source initiative speaks
to a growing IT requirement that vendors open up their technologies and
collectively work to improve performance and provide choice.   The interface under development is designed
to provide and unique high-speed pathway for a variety fo technologies including
advanced memory, accelerators, networking and storage in an effort to vastly
improve and create both a competitive edge for the participating vendors and a
unique value proposition for IT buyers. 

While OpenCAPI sets a new standard for the industry it is
one that currently doesn’t include some of the current market leaders in key technology
areas.   The new standard, on paper, is
capable of 25Gbits per second data rate and significantly outperforms the current
PCIe specification which has a date transfer rate of 16Gbits per second according
to the Consortium members. 

Why Open

In addition to the vendor and participant advantages
showcased above the Open approach is designed so that participating companies
can bring to market higher performing products faster and buyers can qualify
and deploy them more quickly.  The participants argue that they have been
hampered by legacy technologies from the current standards owner that have aged
and haven’t advanced timely.   These closed
interfaces have hampered their ability to produce compelling products to drive new
revenues and so they appear to be revolting in order to gain a sustained market
advantage that can result when both vendors and buyers can participate in the
process of innovation. 

Initial Offerings

Products that are being announced include:

IBM POWER9-based servers that are tied to
advancing the OpenPOWER Foundation and are scheduled for release in the second
half of 2017.

Google and Rackspace servers under the code name
Zaius based on OpenPOWER9 and will be released to showcase the OpenCAPI
platform also in the second half of 2017. This product was first teased at the OpenPOWER
Summit in San Jose

Mellanox announced their intent to release
products but has not announced them or the timeframe.

Xilinx is expected to announce OpenCAPI enabled

Other consortium members are holding off product
announcements until close to their release dates but expect them in the second
half of 2017 as well.  (This was not
announced but can be assumed).

The overall specification will be released to the public by
year end 2016 and interested parties will be able to download it online.  Anyone can gain access to the technology by
either licensing it from the Consortium or joining it. 

Only A Part Of A Larger Strategy

OpenCAPI is only a part of a larger strategy that already
includes CCIX and Gen-Z Consortiums currently backed by powerful
technology companies working to lead the industry in a next generation
datacenter architecture positioned against the anticipated massive increase in
future needs. 

Wrapping Up:

Oh crap, it isn’t often you get this number of vendors to align
themselves in what is a massive effort to change leadership and control in a
major market.  The only way this would
even work is by making it open, not making membership exclusive, and moving in
mass.  I think we just saw history