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New OpenCAPI Consortium to Boost Server Performance 10x

opencapiTechnology leaders AMD, Dell EMC, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Mellanox Technologies, Micron, NVIDIA and Xilinx today announced a new, open specification that can increase datacenter server performance by up to 10x, enabling corporate and cloud data centers to speed up big data, machine learning, analytics, and other emerging workloads. Servers and related products based on the new standard are expected in the second half of 2017.

The new standard, called OpenCAPI and released today by the newly formed OpenCAPI Consortium, provides an open, high-speed pathway for different types of technology – advanced memory, accelerators, networking and storage – to more tightly integrate their functions within servers. This data-centric approach to server design, which puts the compute power closer to the data, removes inefficiencies in traditional system architectures to help eliminate system bottlenecks and can significantly improve server performance.

“IBM first introduced CAPI technology to the industry in 2014 with our POWER8 processor and made it available to our OpenPOWER partners. Since then, the industry has embraced and validated its potential as a game-changing technology for the most important modern workloads including artificial intelligence, advanced data analytics and deep learning,” said Brad McCredie, IBM Fellow and Vice President of POWER Development. “As a result of this initial success, IBM has decided to double down on our commitment to open standards and enablement of industry innovation by opening up access to our CAPI technology to the entire industry. With the support of our OpenCAPI co-founders, we have created a new OpenCAPI specification that tremendously improves performance over our prior specification and IBM will be among the first to implement it with our POWER9 products expected in 2017.”

OpenCAPI sets a new standard for the industry, providing a high bandwidth, low latency open interface design specification built to minimize the complexity of high-performance accelerator design. Capable of 25Gbits per second data rate, OpenCAPI outperforms the current PCIe specification which offers a maximum data transfer rate of 16Gbits per second.

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. Through OpenCAPI, the technology industry is enabled to build datacenter solutions that are better equipped for the most demanding next generation workloads.

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The Merits of an Open Approach

United by a belief that an open development approach can speed up innovation, the Members of the OpenCAPI Consortium are providing a path forward for companies to bring differentiated products to market faster. Many technology companies have developed innovative solutions that today’s datacenter technology cannot effectively leverage due to limited legacy interfaces. New technologies such as 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.

Through OpenCAPI, industry leaders are helping ensure there is freedom of action across the industry for technology companies to more closely work together and to fully integrate new innovation at the compute, storage and networking levels of a modern datacenter.

OpenCAPI Enabled Products

After an extensive period of collaboration leading up to the release of the OpenCAPI specification, several technology companies have plans to introduce and deploy OpenCAPI enabled products, including:

  • IBM plans to introduce POWER9-based servers that leverage the OpenCAPI specification in the second half of 2017. Additionally, IBM will enable members of OpenPOWER Foundation to introduce OpenCAPI enabled products in the second half 2017.
  • Google and Rackspace’s new server under development, codenamed Zaius and announced at the OpenPOWER Summit in San Jose, will leverage POWER9 processor technology and plans to provide the OpenCAPI interface in its design.
  • Mellanox plans to enable the new specification capabilities in its future products.
  • Xilinx plans to support OpenCAPI enabled FPGAs.

The OpenCAPI consortium plans to make the OpenCAPI specification fully available to the public at no charge before the end of the year. Interested parties will be able to register and download the specification directly online. Companies with plans to develop products based on the specification may do so by either joining the Consortium or obtaining a license from the Consortium. Design enablement services provided by the Consortium include reference designs, further documentation and access to future work groups. Membership is open, with further details available at www.opencapi.org.

The OpenCAPI Consortium reflects a broader industry trend recognizing the importance of open standards. This week OpenCAPI is the third technology organization, joining the CCIX and Gen-Z consortiums, to make an announcement in support of new open standards to respond to the emerging needs of the datacenter. Backed by a total of more than 30 leading technology companies, the three organizations welcome each other’s announcements as part of a collaborative industry effort to create an open datacenter architecture for the future.

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