Competing Billion-Dollar Tech Companies Are Joining Forces. Here’s Why.


By MIT Technology Review Custom on December 9, 2015 | in partnership with IBM

The combination of open innovation and accelerated computing represents one of this decade’s most important technology trends. It’s transforming the concept of the closed-off supercomputer to a more diverse open architecture. As a result, companies that haven’t worked together before—and that may, in fact, be competitors—are collaborating together on groundbreaking projects.

Many of the world’s biggest technology companies are collaborating on a platform that can accelerate an entire workload through targeted optimization of each subsystem.

Today’s latest applications require advanced computing power to deliver true innovation. Technology industry leaders now recognize that there’s a limit to what a closed chip environment can deliver. Moore’s law—the classic observation that overall computer processing power doubles every two years—is becoming less relevant as industry demands evolve and modern workloads become more complex. Today, the industry needs an accelerated computing ecosystem that delivers the flexibility to support those changes and the larger, more complicated workloads.

Meanwhile, there’s currently no single set of computing demands at the forefront. Developers and engineers all have their own specific computing demands. They use central processing units (CPUs), graphics processing units (GPUs), and field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) to accelerate code in many unique ways, rather than just going in one direction at a faster and faster pace.

As a result, many of the world’s biggest technology companies have begun collaborating—specifically, working together on a platform that can accelerate an entire workload through targeted optimization of each subsystem to drive new levels of innovation.

That collaboration is known as the OpenPOWER Foundation, with the IBM POWER processor architecture underpinning the initiative. The organization brings together more than 170 technology companies, including Google, Mellanox Technologies, NVIDIA, Tyan, and Xilinx. Many smaller companies have joined the organization as well, adding to the diversity of ideas and experience. The OpenPOWER Foundation is enabling IT executives who are responsible for corporate data centers to rethink their approach to technology.