Bringing OpenPOWER Outside of the Data Center

Published on Wednesday 30 November 2016


By Timothy Pearson, Raptor Engineering


Ever wish you could use something other than an insecure x86 or low-powered ARM machine to communicate with the OpenPOWER server sitting in your data center? Wish no longer! Meet the Talos™ workstation-class ATX mainboard, built on OpenPOWER and bringing the security and open systems advantages of POWER8 out of the data center and onto your desk. OpenPOWER-member Raptor Engineering is committed to making owner-controllable, Libre-friendly systems available for engineers, programmers, data analysts, as well as anyone else who needs serious computing power, security, and flexibility all in the same machine. The OpenPOWER Foundation provides access to the only modern, performant architecture and shipping CPU that meets these criteria—so OpenPOWER is a perfect fit for our Talos™ machines. Talos™ also shines in storage servers and network processing, where the large number of PCIe 3.0 slots combined with POWER8’s I/O performance provides both configuration flexibility and high performance.

Meet Talos

The Talos mainboard hosts a single socketed POWER8 processor and two Centaur DDR3 memory buffers on a standard ATX mainboard.  It includes significant I/O and memory expansion capabilities, including 8 DDR3 ECC memory slots and 7 PCIe slots (56 total PCIe 3.0-capable lanes!), along with the wide variety of on-board peripherals expected in a workstation class mainboard.  Unlike existing OpenPOWER machines, Raptor Engineering has gone one step further and is using reprogrammable logic devices (FPGAs) that have an open toolchain available, making Talos™ completely self-hosting! If you need to modify any aspect of the Talos™ firmware or reprogrammable logic, you can completely recompile and resynthesize the firmware using your Talos™ machine instead of having to fall back to an x86 or Microsoft® Windows® environment.  We have also been instrumental in securing the release of the SBE/Winkle engine code, and as a result the Talos™ mainboard is completely open down to the lowest level firmware and machine schematics, making it an ideal research and development platform to explore next-generation technologies such as CAPI.

talos Thanks to IBM’s support of Linux on OpenPOWER, Talos™ is ready to run using a variety of modern Linux distributions. We have tested and qualified a wide variety of hardware on our POWER8 SDV for use with Talos™, including GPUs, Mellanox Infiniband devices, and much more. Thanks to POWER8’s little endian support, most Linux drivers simply work, and those few that exhibit minor issues due to faulty x86-centric coding are usually trivial to fix. We also plan to work with BSD developers to port one or more of the BSDs to OpenPOWER in support of Talos™, opening the world beyond x86 even wider.

Learn More About Talos

Visit the Talos product page to watch videos, read white papers, and learn about how the new Talos workstation brings the data center to your desk!