"...propriety RISC Big Iron is a dying beast..."
I agree that x86 is catching up faster than anyone anticipated. For instance, the Intel Westmere-EX is only 14% slower than POWER7 in some benches:
But after Westmere, we have Sandybridge which is even faster than Westmere. And after Sandybridge there is Ivy Bridge which is still faster than Sandybridge. Thus, the Ivy Bridge should close the gap to POWER7, if not surpass. So, the Ivy Bridge Xeons should be close to POWER7 in performance. The Ivy Bridge is 40% faster than Sandybridge - using the same TDP. But Ivy Bridge uses less TDP, and still increases performance compared to Sandy Bridge.
If Intel's 130 watt Xeons were allowed to use much more TDP (in par with POWER7 at... 200(?)) then Xeons would be much faster than POWER7 and surpass POWER7 no doubt. Xeon is more efficient than POWER7 as we can see. If you have unlimited Watt budget you can theoretically reach any performance level you desire. The problem is to do that efficiently.
And where is the late POWER7+? It better be at least 50% faster than POWER7 to keep a healthy distance to x86. Or there will be no point in buying POWER7+ if Intel offers equal performance. Why spend 3x more money for 14% better performance? Why not buy three Intel servers instead of buying one POWER7 server?
Regarding this step by IBM: offering Linux on POWER. This only confirms the official statements from IBM, that AIX is going to be killed and replaced by Linux in the future:
IBM is slowly preparing for exit. We see that from 2010, IBM even offers Mainframes which are Linux only. Soon Linux everywhere, on every IBM hardware. It all aligns with the official statements from IBM. Everything adds up. This heavy betting on Linux from IBM. Better polish your Linux skills.