IBM hints at POWER11, hopefully will fix POWER10’s firmware mess

Just as IBM was posting “future” processor compiler patches in 2019 for what ended up being early POWER10 enablement, they are once again repeating their same compiler enablement technique with sending out “PowerPC future” patches for what is likely to be POWER11.

The “PowerPC future” patches sent out today are just like before — complete with mentions like “This feature may or may not be present in any specific future PowerPC processor…Again, these are preliminary patches for a potential future machine. Things will likely change in terms of implementation and usage over time.

If this is indeed a sign that POWER11 is on its way, I really hope IBM learned from its mistake with POWER10. POWER9 was completely open, top to bottom, which made it possible for Raptor Computing Systems to build completely open source, auditable workstation where every bit of code was open source. POWER10, however, contained closed firmware for the off-chip OMI DRAM bridge and on-chip PPE I/O processor, which meant that the principled team at Raptor resolutely said no to building POWER10 workstations, even though they wanted to.

I firmly believe that if IBM tried even the littlest bit, there could be a niche, but fairly stable market for POWER-based workstations, by virtue of being pretty much the only fully open ISA (at least, as far as POWER9 goes). Of course, we’re not talking serious competition to x86 or ARM here, but I’ve seen more than enough interest to enable a select few OEMs to build and sell POWER workstations. Let’s hope POWER11 fixes the firmware mess that is POWER10, so that we can look forward to another line of fully open source workstations.

One Response

  1. 2023-10-23 5:27 am