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How IBM's Potential Sale of its x86 Business Could Impact the HPC Market

Over at The Register, Timothy Prickett Morgan writes that IBM may be selling its x86 server business to Lenovo.

If IBM actually has a plan that gets it into hyperscale data centers – possibly with ARM, Atom, and Power microservers, possibly deploying some of the Power AS and torus interconnect in the BlueGene/Q supercomputers – and if IBM will use at least some of the funds from a Lenovo deal to do the engineering to make modern servers, then dumping System x might be worth it. It would be quite interesting, in fact, to see IBM become an ARM licensee and offer both ARM and Power alternatives. But IBM is probably more inclined to think it can push Power into an x86-dominated data center, and do so despite all the hype and real engineering with ARM processors for servers.

As to what such a deal means to the HPC market, I think this vendor chart from the November 2012 TOP500 is very telling. IBM clearly has the largest share of the TOP500, and even though this represents a mix of Blue Gene, Power, and x86 systems, a sale to Lenovo could result in a Chinese multinational becoming the number one vendor on the TOP500.

Ouch!

As you’ll recall, IBM sold off its unprofitable PC business to Lenovo back in December 2004. According to reports, IBM will not be selling its new FlexSystems in this deal.

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