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Google to Choose IBM’s Power8 Architecture Over Intel for Future Servers?

April 29, 2014 - Written By Tom Dawson

You might be thinking what a server motherboard has to do with Android, but the fact is that without such servers Android wouldn’t even exist. Google’s infrastructure, powered by servers in data centers all over the world is what gives us all the apps and games found in the Play Store, it powers your GMail inbox and who can forget, YouTube. So, when it looks like Google is changing direction when it comes to server hardware, it’s a pretty big deal. Especially if a change in architecture could deliver faster services and better power efficiency.

As CNet is reporting, Gordon MacKean, a Senior Director at Google has shown off the above image of a Google server motherboard designed to run on IBM’s Power8 architecture. That might not sound too important, after all IBM is well-known for their prowess in servers, but Google has traditionally worked with Intel for their servers, and we’re pretty confident that Google contributes a sizable sum to Intel’s bottom line. Speaking of the new server motherboard, MacKean said in his Google+ post, “We’re always looking to deliver the highest quality of service for our users, and so we built this server to port our software stack to Power.” Another important move for Google here is that Power8 is the processor design behind the OpenPower platform, an open server ecosystem.

Despite criticism that Google has faced over the years, the search giant still genuinely values open source and open platforms. OpenPower is an opportunity for Google to pursue this with their own servers. More than that though, OpenPower could give Google the opportunity to create their own server processors based on the Power8 core design from IBM, similar to how Qualcomm create their Snapdragon processors – using the core design from ARM. This is unlikely to happen any time soon however, as producing processors is a lot easier said than done and we’re sure Google doesn’t want to rock the boat with their buddy Intel too much.

This is an exciting prospect for sure, as a big change in Google’s infrastructure could have a profound impact on how we use Google services, how quickly we can download apps and games from the Play Store, improve Google Now and more. This sort of change isn’t going to happen overnight, and there isn’t even official word that this is where Google is headed, but all signs point to Google possibly looking elsewhere for their server processors.