Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Where can I learn more about the technical details and general improvements of the POWER9 processor?
 
A: While POWER9 generally remains protected by a temporary embargo in advance of its general availability (GA) release, IBM has posted a presentation on the POWER9 processor on their DeveloperWorks website. This presentation provides a basic overview of the POWER9 processor and how it stacks up against the older POWER8 devices. In particular, for those desiring performance information, a chart comparing POWER8 and POWER9 is available on page 11.
 
Q: I want more computing horsepower than the 4-core CPU can provide. Can I upgrade my Talos™ II system with a higher-core-count CPU?
 
A: Yes! While we are initially promoting the power-saving 4-core CPU for our developer-friendly, low-cost bundles, the Talos™ II mainboard is able to accept any Sforza-series "scale out" POWER9 CPUs up to and including the 22-core, high-end CPUs that are available now.
 
Q: Why POWER9? Why not just package a cheap ARM SoC or x86 processor on a libre-friendly mainboard?
 
A: As you may be aware, both of the main x86 manufacturers have decided to require non-free, unreplaceable, highly privileged firmware "black boxes" (blobs) in order for their CPUs to function. These blobs are cryptographically signed and verified by the CPU hardware; as such, there is no way to replace them or remove them. Because of their tight integration with basic system operation, even a complete mainboard redesign will not remove them. Worse, public hacks into this system management firmware have already been demonstrated on at least one occasion--and are unpatchable without full vendor cooperation. As a result, some developers have turned to ARM, only to find that ARM does not have the computing power required for many development tasks. ARM-based machines also tend to lack upgradability and expandability, and, unfortunately, ARM is going through its own gradual lockdown regarding higher-performance devices. POWER9 does not have any of these concerns, and brings a wide array of modern technologies to the table without requiring you to give up any of your freedom.

When you look at the complete price of a comparable build-it-yourself x86 bundle--even though POWER9 has state-of-the-art technologies, like PCIe 4 and CAPI 2, that no x86 machine offers-- the Talos™ II bundles are similar in cost. Why lock yourself into the proprietary, insecure x86 ecosystem with hacks on the rise and GDPR-related data breach penalties on the horizon? Make the smart decision and invest in a truly open platform, even if it means relying on open-source applications -- your lower TCO and provable compliance will justify the initial investment.

 
Q: Wait, so even coreboot won't help me? Why haven't I heard about this?
 
A: The management firmware in question--the "Management Engine" (ME) on Intel and the "Platform Security Processor" (PSP) on AMD--is a somewhat poorly kept secret, but only a small percentage of users, executives, and organizations are aware of its existence, let alone the danger that the associated centralized control actually poses. Coreboot is unable to boot modern x86 without at least two blobs involved, one of which is mandatory per the hardware-enforced signature checks; while coreboot may be a step in the right direction, it is far from a fully auditable solution on x86. Unfortunately, this situation is permanent, given the current hardware available; it is one of the main reasons for our switch from x86 to OpenPOWER.
 
Q: Why Raptor Computing Systems? Shouldn't I just wait for another, larger manufacturer?
 
A: Raptor Computing Systems was the first vendor to come to market with POWER9, and will be the only source for POWER9 machines in this market segment for the forseeable future. We are the only vendor to offer a full lineup of whitebox-type parts and accessories for POWER9, and are the only vendor to offer a fully libre firmware and hardware solution. Furthermore, we are not just shipping a stock reference design, like other vendors did with POWER8; rather, Talos™ II contains numerous unique features that increase usability, promote openness, and boost system security. Talos™ II is truly one of a kind and is additionally protected against unauthorized hardware clones by patents and/or patents pending, so if you want the benefits of a truly open POWER9 system, be sure to get your Talos™ II today!
 
Q: Will other products become available beyond the listed systems?
 
A: Yes! While we have encouraged individuals to build their own whitebox machines with our readily available mainboards, CPUs, and related parts, we recognize that there also is a need for large quantities of preassembled and certified systems--for example, to service datacenter operators, computing labs, and other commercial and academic applications. We continue to expand our Talos™ II and OpenPOWER product lines to meet evolving market needs, and remain committed to fully open systems.
 
Q: Do you accept Bitcoin?
 
A: Of course! Simply select the Bitcoin option during checkout, and enjoy the extra peace of mind your new, secure Talos™ II system will bring.
 
Q: Overseas and/or volume shipping fees seem high. Can you do anything about this?
 
A: If you are purchasing more than one system, please contact us at sales@raptorcs.com. We can normally bring the shipping costs down into a reasonable range with a custom shipping quote geared toward your particular business needs.
 
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