OpenCAPI: Google & IBM lead tech consortium to speed data centre performance
Fri 14 Oct 2016
A ‘rock-star’ line-up of tech players have assembled to release new data centre specifications and frameworks promised to increase server performance by up to a factor of ten.
The initiative is called OpenCAPI, and constitutes an open interface design specification intended to radically simplify the architecture of high-performance accelerator frameworks, and will yield practical hardware across a range of major participating names in 2017. Contributing parties include IBM, Google, Nvidia, Mellanox, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Micron and Xilinx.
IBM’s release comments:
‘With its data-centric design and speed advantage, OpenCAPI addresses an immediate need from the global business community for greater levels of computing performance. Companies in finance, Internet services, retail, hospitality, medical, and automobile manufacturing are increasingly turning to data-intensive workloads such as machine learning, advanced analytics and other rapidly emerging technologies for competitive advantage.’
OpenCAPI can obtain a throughput of 25Gbits per second data rate, already a radical jump over the 16Gbits per second currently possible over the PCIe specification.
OpenCAPI, which has launched an institutional site which invites new members and will offer design standards to those wishing to adopt the framework, originated with IBM’s work on the POWER8 Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface (CAPI), which has generated significant industry interest and adoption since launch in 2014. The initial CAPI offering permits customers to develop their own configurations within the specifications, or to purchase pre-assembled solutions.
Explaining the origins of the collaboration, IBM asserts that the industry needs a hard push away from legacy architectures and approaches, and systems built over those older methodologies, stating ‘storage class memory and accelerators to support emerging workloads do not fit well on existing interfaces and a closed, proprietary approach does not allow for full industry participation nor innovation.’
OpenCAPI aims to shorten the journey between the data and memory, and IBM’s CAPI work on the Data Engine for NoSQL emphasises how much this new movement is driven by the promise of Big Data and the need to negotiate unstructured data more efficiently.
‘Google is committed to open standards and we are excited to contribute to the cross-industry use and development of OpenCAPI,’ said Chris Johnson, Principal Engineer, Google.
‘OpenCAPI can advance the future of server design by enabling higher performance for data-intensive workloads and the emerging accelerator ecosystem.’
IBM will release POWER9-based servers utilising OpenCAPI in the second half of 2017. Zaius, the server currently under development as a collaboration between Google and Rackspace, will adopt both the POWER9 processor hardware and the OpenCAPI spec. Mellanox and Xilinx also plan to release products around the new specification.
The project also receives the approbation and interest of two other tech consortia which have been in the news lately. Kurtis Bowman of the Gen-Z Consortium commented in the release that the data centre of the future will require open standards, and that the advent of Gen-Z, CCIX and OpenCAPI have sealed that judgement.
Gaurav Singh the chair of CCIX, said: “We welcome the efforts of and look forward to collaborating with the Gen-Z and OpenCAPI consortia which will further the development of key technologies that will define the datacenters of tomorrow.”
Tom Eby, vice president of Micron’s compute and networking business said:“While memory has always been an essential building block for computing, it is quickly becoming the critical technology to unlocking next-generation performance.”