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TODAY, in an unprecedented first for the thought leadership series, The AI Summit played host to a major AI product announcement from IBM Systems: the new Power9 (P9) chip. Billed as the new cutting edge, the announcement claimed that the technology is for ‘the tech vanguard’: “It’s like a sports car, tied to a rocket, tied to another rocket.” The announcement has already received coverage in global publications such as Forbes and VentureBeat,

“One of the things that we’re very excited to announce today is the new POWER9 processor,” exclaimed Bob Picciano, Sr. Vice President of IBM Cognitive Systems. “This is a 14 nanometre chip with 17 layers of metal, about 8 billion transistors, it has 24 billion point sconnecting the devices on this chip. It can power I/O on this chip at rates of up to 9.8x of Intel’s best capability. This chip can basically lift the entire Library of Congress – from an information perspective – in about 5 seconds. This is a chip designed specifically for the intelligence and cognitive era.”

“In the four or five year time window as IBM started in cognitive computing, we decided we had to completely reinvent the space. Software is what the computer does, hardware is what the computer does. For us to be able to get those radical exponential growth capabilities, we need to reinvent the computer for the cognitive era. So we have some very exciting announcements from that standpoint.”

Picciano claimed that the chip is a necessary next step in the AI revolution; symptomatic of a wider need to transform computational architecture and infrastructure. “The way you need to think about your infrastructure is not just on the aspect of how it’ll help scale business processes but how it’s going to unleash actionable insights,” he said. “What’s important to recognise is that the last forty or fifty years of computing has been based on a fairly consistent architecture. However, the math and science associated with this new insight economy is changing dramatically.”

The chip is undeniably the product of exciting cross-industry partnerships, which are increasingly becoming the foundation of AI innovation. “Google is excited about IBM’s progress in the development of the latest POWER technology. The POWER9 OpenCAPI bus and large memory capabilities allow for further opportunities for innovation in Google Data Centers,” explained Bart Sano, Google’s VP of Platforms. Meanwhile, “NVIDIA have been a critical partner with us on this journey, and other innovators such as Google have also had an important impact on the design of the chip,” Picciano said.

“The essential task of information technology (IT), and how we measure its value, has reached an inflection point. It’s no longer just about process automation and codifying business logic. Instead, insight is the new currency, and the speed with which we can scale that insight and the knowledge it brings is the basis for value creation and the key to competitive advantage,” IBM claimed on their THINK blog. Billed as the first processor designed specifically for AI, IBM claim to be unveiling new systems built from the ground up to meet the unique demands of the AI era. We are introducing POWER9, the first processor designed specifically for AI, as well as the next-generation POWER9-based IBM Power System AC922.”

“These new Power Systems are powerful in their own right, but also are designed to exploit specialized silicon, such as graphical processing units (GPUs), which accelerate the type of math and information processing to power ne cognitive algorithms. The result is an AI superhighway for insights that can drive transformational outcomes for clients in every industry.”

IBM Engineer, Stefanie Chiras, with the IBM Power System AC922 - POWER9. (Photo: Jack Plunkett).
IBM Engineer, Stefanie Chiras, with the IBM Power System AC922. (Photo: Jack Plunkett).