Will HPC Shops Accept Lenovo as Their System Supplier?

By Timothy Prickett Morgan

January 23, 2014

The rumors are confirmed at long last and Chinese PC and server maker Lenovo Group is buying IBM’s x86 server business for $2.3 billion. What does this mean for the HPC community?

IBM sells x86 clusters into the broad HPC community and also peddles BlueGene/Q massively parallel systems based on its PowerPC processors as well as clusters based on its enterprise-grade Power Systems machines. Big Blue accounts for about a third of the machines on the TOP500 list ranking of supercomputers, and many of them are based on its System x rack servers, iDataPlex hyperscale machines, or BladeCenter blade servers. Many customers in the HPC space were no doubt looking at the NextScale “vanity-free” designs that came out last September from IBM, which has higher density and lower costs than the iDataPlex machines.

Now, all of these product lines are being sold off to Lenovo, which will continue to sell and support them. In fact, the arrangement between the two parties calls for IBM to support the products with its existing teams “for an extended period of time,” according to Adalio Sanchez, general manager of the System x Division, who spoke on a conference call with journalists to go over the deal. (We have gone through the terms of the complex deal over at EnterpriseTech, if you want all of the nitty gritty details.)

IBM System x General Manager Adalio Sanchez speaking at an IBM event in Beijing on January 16, 2014, to debut the company’s latest x86-based servers. (Feature Photo Service for IBM)

With so many government agencies using IBM’s x86 servers in their various incarnations, there are possible national security implications to the sale of the System x Division to Lenovo. Moreover, some HPC centers that have a long tradition of buying systems from IBM may give pause. The same holds true for IBM’s largest enterprise customers, where IBM tends to sell lots of x86 iron to wrap around its Power Systems and System z machines.

Rumors about a deal between IBM and Lenovo have been circulating since last April, so it is no surprise to any academic supercomputing center or national lab that this was possible. But today, it has happened, and now people are forced to think through the ramifications.

“First of all, we are committed to a seamless transition with our clients,” Sanchez said on the call when asked by HPCwire what affect the deal would have on HPC and enterprise customers. “I have had the opportunity to speak to a number of clients this morning in the spaces you describe, and once they understand what we are trying to do, I think they are very, very excited about the opportunities here. To your point, there may be some concerns about sensitivities here. Having said that, you know that the bulk of today’s x86 servers in the marketplace all originate from China. And so I think the pragmatics of the situation will overcome any of these concerns.”

Under the terms of the deal, Lenovo is licensing and reselling IBM’s Global Parallel File System as well as the Platform Computing grid and cluster management software, which are key ingredients to HPC clusters sold by IBM whether they are based on x86 or Power processors. The deal also gives IBM the right to resell the x86 server line from Lenovo, and thus Big Blue will be able to build clusters just like it always has.

“At the end of the day, I see a lot of great alignment here, quite frankly,” said Peter Hortensius, who is president of the Think Business Group at Lenovo and a senior vice president in the overall organization. This is the part of Lenovo that already sells x86 servers and storage arrays. “Today, when IBM sells those solutions, it’s the IBM hardware coupled with the IBM software. In the future, regardless of who ends up selling it, it is the IBM software and this business’ x86 hardware. So there is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to make these very complementary and continue exactly, in terms of value to the customer, as we are today.”

It remains to be seen how HPC shops large and small who use IBM systems will feel about the company selling off the x86 server business. What can be said is that if this transition is not seamless and painless, then Cray, SGI, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and others will be quick to exploit the situation to their own advantage.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

DARPA Continues Investment in Post-Moore’s Technologies

July 24, 2017

The U.S. military long ago ceded dominance in electronics innovation to Silicon Valley, the DoD-backed powerhouse that has driven microelectronic generation for decades. With Moore's Law clearly running out of steam, the Read more…

By George Leopold

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in 2017 with scale-up production for enterprise datacenters and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Trinity Supercomputer’s Haswell and KNL Partitions Are Merged

July 19, 2017

Trinity supercomputer’s two partitions – one based on Intel Xeon Haswell processors and the other on Xeon Phi Knights Landing – have been fully integrated are now available for use on classified work in the Nationa Read more…

By HPCwire Staff

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Servers Deliver High Performance Remote Visualization

Whether generating seismic simulations, locating new productive oil reservoirs, or constructing complex models of the earth’s subsurface, energy, oil, and gas (EO&G) is a highly data-driven industry. Read more…

Fujitsu Continues HPC, AI Push

July 19, 2017

Summer is well under way, but the so-called summertime slowdown, linked with hot temperatures and longer vacations, does not seem to have impacted Fujitsu's output. The Japanese multinational has made a raft of HPC and A Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fujitsu Continues HPC, AI Push

July 19, 2017

Summer is well under way, but the so-called summertime slowdown, linked with hot temperatures and longer vacations, does not seem to have impacted Fujitsu's out Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Use DNA to Store and Retrieve Digital Movie

July 18, 2017

From abacus to pencil and paper to semiconductor chips, the technology of computing has always been an ever-changing target. The human brain is probably the com Read more…

By John Russell

The Exascale FY18 Budget – The Next Step

July 17, 2017

On July 12, 2017, the U.S. federal budget for its Exascale Computing Initiative (ECI) took its next step forward. On that day, the full Appropriations Committee Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Women in HPC Luncheon Shines Light on Female-Friendly Hiring Practices

July 13, 2017

The second annual Women in HPC luncheon was held on June 20, 2017, during the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt, Germany. The luncheon provid Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Satellite Advances, NSF Computation Power Rapid Mapping of Earth’s Surface

July 13, 2017

New satellite technologies have completely changed the game in mapping and geographical data gathering, reducing costs and placing a new emphasis on time series Read more…

By Ken Chiacchia and Tiffany Jolley

Intel Skylake: Xeon Goes from Chip to Platform

July 13, 2017

With yesterday’s New York unveiling of the new “Skylake” Xeon Scalable processors, Intel made multiple runs at multiple competitive threats and strategic Read more…

By Doug Black

Perverse Incentives? How Economics (Mis-)shaped Academic Science

July 12, 2017

The unintended consequences of how we fund academic research—in the U.S. and elsewhere—are strangling innovation, putting universities into debt and creatin Read more…

By Ken Chiacchia, Senior Science Writer, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is the successor to Caffe, the deep learning framework developed by Berkeley AI Research and community contributors. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Engine (GCE) job. Sutherland ran the massive mathematics workload on 220,000 GCE cores using preemptible virtual machine instances. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

Groq This: New AI Chips to Give GPUs a Run for Deep Learning Money

April 24, 2017

CPUs and GPUs, move over. Thanks to recent revelations surrounding Google’s new Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), the computing world appears to be on the cusp of Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This