A Letter to Our Clients About the OpenPOWER Initiative

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To Our Clients:

IBM has long viewed open and collaborative innovation as a way to deliver breakthrough enterprise technologies that help our clients compete and succeed. More than a decade ago, we began actively supporting the Linux open source initiative. Today, Linux has become a mission-critical operating system on servers, mainframes and high-performance computers around the world.

We believe global communities of experts who benefit from each other’s ingenuity can produce groundbreaking innovations.

Building on that belief, IBM and multiple partners launched the OpenPOWER initiative in 2013. Its purpose: to encourage groups of companies and developers to design and build their own computing platforms based on IBM’s POWER technology architecture.

Leading technology companies, recognizing sizable market demand for alternatives to systems built on Intel’s proprietary x86 architecture, quickly took an interest in the project.

In December 2013, that interest gave rise to the official chartering of the OpenPOWER Foundation. What began as a partnership between Google, IBM, Mellanox, NVIDIA and Tyan, has since grown into a global innovation ecosystem.

OpenPOWER is a new way for IBM to deliver higher-value solutions to our clients. We therefore want to ensure its details are properly understood.

A few important facts:

  • The OpenPOWER Foundation makes certain basic intellectual property related to IBM’s POWER technology architecture – such as server reference designs and open interfaces – available to a worldwide community of companies, developers and entrepreneurs.
  • The OpenPOWER Foundation is truly a global movement. It currently counts more than 150 members representing over 20 countries.
  • All OpenPOWER Foundation members receive the same level of access to the same basic intellectual property assets.
  • OpenPOWER has gained significant traction. In addition to the Foundation’s rapid growth in membership, innovations delivered through OpenPOWER are playing a central role in high-performance computing programs in several countries, including the United Kingdom, France and the United States.

We understand open innovation ecosystems can, at first glance, seem counterintuitive. Why would any business build an open system rather than a proprietary one? For IBM, the answer is simple. We see open collaboration as a growth engine for POWER.

We are at a point in time where business model innovation is just as important to our industry as technology innovation. OpenPOWER broadens the adoption of IBM’s POWER technology, and creates new opportunities to expand POWER’s presence in global markets. It also gives clients access to a broader range of data center technology choices, and more flexibility to customize systems based on unique business and performance requirements.

Any complex global initiative involving the sharing of technology is seen as threatening to competitors that have chosen to build closed systems. And by promoting innovation on a global scale, OpenPOWER may worry some whose approach is more limited in scope.

It is, therefore, important for clients and other stakeholders to understand that OpenPOWER is:

  • A Proven Approach – establishing responsible technology partnerships to broaden market access is a time-tested business strategy not just for IBM, but for the information technology industry as a whole. A search of recent headlines will return multiple examples of U.S. tech companies establishing partnerships to foster open, collaborative innovation, or to open new markets for their products and services.
  • Truly Global – some external discussion of OpenPOWER has positioned it as a market strategy focused almost entirely on China. This is incorrect – OpenPOWER is truly global, not unique to any one country. Of the more than 150 current OpenPOWER Foundation members, 16 are based in China; other countries represented include Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, to name a few. Access to basic technology is identical for all Foundation members around the world.
  • Fully Compliant with U.S. Policy – all technology provided through the OpenPOWER Foundation is commercially available, general purpose, and does not require a U.S. export license. In addition, all IBM sales and technology licensing agreements comply with U.S. export regulations, and require that partners in any country do so as well.
  • One Element of a Broader Innovation Strategy – IBM has been the leading recipient of U.S. patents for 22 consecutive years. We continue aggressively innovating the POWER architecture independent of OpenPOWER. We also are investing heavily in domestic and global research and development efforts, and last year committed $3 billion over five years to advance the next generation of semiconductor technology.
  • Transparent – IBM has actively briefed key public sector stakeholders, including senior government officials from multiple countries, on its plans to expand the worldwide OpenPOWER community. We routinely update these officials on key milestones and respond immediately to any questions.

Clients turn to IBM for innovations that help them compete in an increasingly data-driven world. OpenPOWER is just one of many ways we are meeting that need, and one we feel will be every bit as impactful to the future of data centers as Linux has been to operating systems.

IBM welcomes the opportunity to discuss OpenPOWER with any client interested in the benefits of open, collaborative innovation.

Thomas Rosamilia, Senior Vice President, IBM Systems
Michelle H. Browdy, Senior Vice President, Legal and Regulatory Affairs, and General Counsel, IBM






Senior Vice President, Legal and Regulatory Affairs, and General Counsel, IBM

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