Dan's Take

IBM Partners with SUSE and MariaDB to Expand Choice

Increasing compatibility and making upgrades less painful are keys to the strategy.

The folks at SUSE and MariaDB Corp. dropped by to talk about what they're doing with IBM Power8-based systems. IBM is working with a number of companies to offer OSes, such as SUSE Enterprise Linux; tools, such as MariaDB; and applications that work on its Power8-based systems. The goal is offering x86 users more choice.

Before you can examine what SUSE and MariaDB are doing, you need to take a look at the work IBM has done with the Power architecture and Power8 microprocessors.

IBM Is Making Power8 More Attractive
Why would IBM go to the trouble of building more x86 compatibility into its Power8 microprocessors? IBM hopes this move will make migration of workloads more feasible, and also to make coexistence of x86 and Power-based systems in the same datacenter much easier. The company hopes customers who believe that they need levels of performance and scalability beyond what's currently available using x86-based systems will find Power8-based systems a good solution.

To that end, IBM increased the processing power of Power8 when compared to both its Power7 and Power7+ microprocessors. The company claims that each core can do much more work than previous cores could accomplish. It also added to the number of cores available on high-end versions of the chip. So, at the same or similar price, systems based on these microprocessors can accomplish a great deal more work. The company is offering benchmark data that demonstrates, they say, the stronger levels of performance and higher levels of scalability their Power8-based systems offer when compared to competing x86-based systems. The company is hoping the higher level of performance, larger memory capacity and greater single-machine scalability will attract organizations doing Big Data analysis, extreme transaction processing and technical computing.

IBM also added the capability to process data in little endian formats, along with the previous capability to process data in big endian formats. Big endian and little endian, by the way, refers to which end of a machine register or memory location stores the exponent and which end stores the mantissa, or decimal portion, of a piece of floating-point data. x86-based systems use little endian formats, while IBM mainframes and midrange systems use big endian formats. Now Power8-based systems can process data using either format. This vastly simplifies data interchange among systems.

What Is SUSE Doing with IBM?
SUSE has long been a partner of IBM, and has offered SUSE Linux Enterprise on the supplier's x86, Power and Mainframe systems. The company has been working with IBM to offer an enhanced version of its OS, SUSE Linux Enterprise 12, and tools on the new IBM Power8 architecture systems.

SUSE is taking advantage of the ability of Power8 to work with both big endian and little endian data to enhance compatibility with x86-based solutions. The result is that moving applications to the IBM platform can become as easy as copying programs written in interpreted languages and their data to the new systems and executing them.

What Is MariaDB?
SkySQL has recently renamed itself MariaDB after its well-known fork of the MySQL open source project. MariaDB is working with both SUSE and IBM to bring the popular database to the Power8 platform and offer highly compatible solutions to its customers.

Dan's Take: A Compelling Story
One of the key reasons companies have relied on x86-based systems to the exclusion of some other platforms has been the availability of systems, software, memory, storage, networking and other components from many suppliers. Companies have chosen x86-based solutions over solutions built upon other system architectures because of compatibility fears. They've made this choice even though others have offered systems with higher performance, more scalability, lower power consumption and even lower overall cost of ownership.

IBM is trying to offer products and an ecosystem composed of popular suppliers of systems software, such as SUSE; database software, such as MariaDB; development tools and the like that can take on the x86 world and beat it at its own game.

By making coexistence, interoperability and workload migration easier, IBM is hoping to convince customers to move Big Data, extreme transaction processing and analytical workloads onto its systems.

SUSE and MariaDB are saying, "We can help you take advantage of IBM systems and microprocessor technology without feeling a great deal of pain." Should you listen to their song? It might be wise to check them out and see if they can actually improve your workload performance, lower your overall costs and support your workloads.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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