IBM’s New Deal Captures Refocused HPC Strategy

By Nicole Hemsoth

January 29, 2014

It’s been quite a month of news for IBM, with the sale of its x86 business to Lenovo, followed by some intense questioning about what this means for their vision (and future) with HPC customers in academia and government in particular. And while some might call this the centerpiece of a shift in strategy, something bigger is looming on Big Blue’s horizon, and the processor piece is only one sliver of the story arc.

But Dave Turek, IBM’s Vice President of Advanced Computing says that ultimately, and yes, even after the Lenovo news, their business will march along to the HPC drum, but with some new beats added to an old tune. After all, as he reminds, IBM was never the only x86 vendor supplying servers to the government and universities. Further, these commodity approaches might not be as well equipped for a data-defined future–one that Turek says requires a honed sense of overall workflow instead of mere flops. Accordingly, IBM is unfurling a grander approach to big science (and big business) problems that blends subtler hues into the HPC server portrait–leading to what might be a completely different picture in the years to come.

Specifically, IBM will be melding some (yet unnamed) upcoming technologies with their vision of data-driven systems that make the concept of workflow and end function of the user requirement paramount. The challenge there isn’t going to be about technology as much as merging these concepts and moving “classic HPC” from its traditional focus. For IBM, the shift involves a wide-ranging view of the entire data lifecycle and, not surprisingly, significant investment in Power.

He noted that IBM’s proposition going forward is “to attack the entire workflow from the perspective of how data is acquired, managed, governed and analyzed in many different areas of the HPC infrastructure, not just the server. The consequence of that is that the nature of what servers look like in the future might change a bit.”

In other words, what IBM sees going forward looks a lot like verbiage around Watson and their Smarter Planet array of technologies—parallels that Turek made explicit during a conversation this week in the wake of some news about a new partnership with Texas A&M that meshes data analytics with high performance computing via IBM-hosted (cloud-delivered) Blue Gene/Q power managed with Platform Computing and leveraging GPFS.  This provides a way for the company to show off the blend of all of its priority tools says Turek, from the file system, the Platform software, and the ability to drive data on a range of applications. The collaboration is, according to IBM, aimed at “improving extraction of Earth-based energy resources, facilitating the smart energy grid, accelerating materials development, improving disease identification and tracking in animals, and fostering better understanding and monitoring of our global food supplies.” Again, all of which have elements aligned with IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative.

“All the servers are on the periphery and the data is in the center of the proposition,” explained Turek. We wanted Texas A&M’s strategy to mirror IBM’s strategy towards data-centric high performance computing that creates an infrastructure that lets them bring different architectures to address the problems at hand. This deal is characteristic of one of the shifts that’s happening in IBM’s overall HPC strategy, he noted. “The goal is to progressively engage clients in collaboration as a way to help us better understand different market segments and problem domains and to build better products… It’s about the right tool for the right problem” says Turek.

Even though this is essentially a collaboration rooted in research HPC, he stressed that the BlueGene piece isn’t the keystone of the story—it’s all about the data problems that are being addressed in novel, practical and workflow-conscious ways. “There’s a needed integration between big data and classic HPC technologies. These are inseparable concept for us going forward. Too often, players in the HPC space have cherry picked an algorithm or set of partial differential equations and they sort of thump their chests and say, ‘look how fast we made this go.’ The fact is, if in the general workflow of interest to the client, that piece of work went from a day to a second, you’ve just improved the overall performance of the much larger workflow by only a few percent.”

“Our industry has been hamstrung by self-defining itself as a vehicle to produce devices that try to optimally solve collections of partial differential equations or nonlinear/linear equations. But that can be such a small part of the overall workflow that constitutes an HPC workflow that we’ve ended up providing a degree of disservice to the industry at large.”

Turek says that when IBM introduced the concept of workflow a couple of years ago in their exascale conversations with the DoE and others, they made it clear that when you begin to look at workflows, it’s necessary to explicitly factor in data management, data flows and data organization as much as it does to pay attention to algorithms per se. When asked how this changes the direction for IBM’s HPC systems of the future, especially without an x86 play for some of their core HPC customers in government and academia, he noted that the data-centric architecture goes far beyond the micro-architecture view of evaluating systems. “You have to take into account where data sits, how its moved, and where its processed. Sure, there’s a processor involved, but there are a lot of ways to attack these problems from an overall workflow perspective.”

The final word from IBM is a steady firm commitment to HPC, a commitment that absolutely extends to the government and academic spaces (those areas being the focus of the question). “We are materially engaged with them in terms of co-design activities for future investments and our own investment in our Power servers to make sure that we’re offering them the best solutions in the world going forward. We’ll continue with these investments in HPC. We will be focused in terms of getting that investment centered on our Power technology and we’ll preserve our business relationship with Lenovo to provide the Intel-based technologies that customers we encounter might require.”

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!

Scientists Conduct First Quantum Simulation of Atomic Nucleus

May 23, 2018

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., May 23, 2018—Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory are the first to successfully simulate an atomic nucleus using a quantum computer. The results, published in Ph Read more…

By Rachel Harken, ORNL

Pattern Computer – Startup Claims Breakthrough in ‘Pattern Discovery’ Technology

May 23, 2018

If it weren’t for the heavy-hitter technology team behind start-up Pattern Computer, which emerged from stealth today in a live-streamed event from San Francisco, one would be tempted to dismiss its claims of inventing Read more…

By John Russell

Intel, Micro Debut Quad-Level Cell NAND Flash

May 22, 2018

Chipmakers continue to gear designs toward AI and other demanding cloud workloads that take advantage of datacenter flash storage capacity. To that end, memory specialist Micron Technology Inc. began shipping compact sol Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPC and AI Convergence is Accelerating New Levels of Intelligence

Data analytics is the most valuable tool in the digital marketplace – so much so that organizations are employing high performance computing (HPC) capabilities to rapidly collect, share, and analyze endless streams of data. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Mastering the Big Data Challenge in Cognitive Healthcare

Patrick Chain, genomics researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory, posed a question in a recent blog: What if a nurse could swipe a patient’s saliva and run a quick genetic test to determine if the patient’s sore throat was caused by a cold virus or a bacterial infection? Read more…

Japan Meteorological Agency Takes Delivery of Pair of Crays

May 21, 2018

Cray has supplied two identical Cray XC50 supercomputers to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) in northwestern Tokyo. Boasting more than 18 petaflops combined peak computing capacity, the new systems will extend the a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Pattern Computer – Startup Claims Breakthrough in ‘Pattern Discovery’ Technology

May 23, 2018

If it weren’t for the heavy-hitter technology team behind start-up Pattern Computer, which emerged from stealth today in a live-streamed event from San Franci Read more…

By John Russell

Japan Meteorological Agency Takes Delivery of Pair of Crays

May 21, 2018

Cray has supplied two identical Cray XC50 supercomputers to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) in northwestern Tokyo. Boasting more than 18 petaflops combine Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ASC18: Final Results Revealed & Wrapped Up

May 17, 2018

It was an exciting week at ASC18 in Nanyang, China. The student teams braved extreme heat, extremely difficult applications, and extreme competition in order to cross the cluster competition finish line. The gala awards ceremony took place on Wednesday. The auditorium was packed with student teams, various dignitaries, the media, and other interested parties. So what happened? Read more…

By Dan Olds

Spring Meetings Underscore Quantum Computing’s Rise

May 17, 2018

The month of April 2018 saw four very important and interesting meetings to discuss the state of quantum computing technologies, their potential impacts, and th Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Quantum Network Hub Opens in Japan

May 17, 2018

Following on the launch of its Q Commercial quantum network last December with 12 industrial and academic partners, the official Japanese hub at Keio University is now open to facilitate the exploration of quantum applications important to science and business. The news comes a week after IBM announced that North Carolina State University was the first U.S. university to join its Q Network. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Democratizing HPC: OSC Releases Version 1.3 of OnDemand

May 16, 2018

Making HPC resources readily available and easier to use for scientists who may have less HPC expertise is an ongoing challenge. Open OnDemand is a project by t Read more…

By John Russell

PRACE 2017 Annual Report: Exascale Aspirations; Industry Collaboration; HPC Training

May 15, 2018

The Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) today released its annual report showcasing 2017 activities and providing a glimpse into thinking about Read more…

By John Russell

US Forms AI Brain Trust

May 11, 2018

Amid calls for a U.S. strategy for promoting AI development, the Trump administration is forming a senior-level panel to help coordinate government and industry research efforts. The Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence was announced Thursday (May 10) during a White House summit organized by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Read more…

By George Leopold

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. 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

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

HPC and AI – Two Communities Same Future

January 25, 2018

According to Al Gara (Intel Fellow, Data Center Group), high performance computing and artificial intelligence will increasingly intertwine as we transition to Read more…

By Rob Farber

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Wins $57 Million DoD Supercomputing Contract

February 20, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today revealed details of its massive $57 million HPC contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The deal calls for HP Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CFO Steps down in Executive Shuffle at Supermicro

January 31, 2018

Supermicro yesterday announced senior management shuffling including prominent departures, the completion of an audit linked to its delayed Nasdaq filings, and Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Portends ‘Sea Change’ for Oil and Gas Sector

February 1, 2018

The billowing compute and data demands that spurred the oil and gas industry to be the largest commercial users of high-performance computing are now propelling Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Ups Hardware Game with 16-GPU DGX-2 Server and 18-Port NVSwitch

March 27, 2018

Nvidia unveiled a raft of new products from its annual technology conference in San Jose today, and despite not offering up a new chip architecture, there were still a few surprises in store for HPC hardware aficionados. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Hennessy & Patterson: A New Golden Age for Computer Architecture

April 17, 2018

On Monday June 4, 2018, 2017 A.M. Turing Award Winners John L. Hennessy and David A. Patterson will deliver the Turing Lecture at the 45th International Sympo Read more…

By Staff

Part One: Deep Dive into 2018 Trends in Life Sciences HPC

March 1, 2018

Life sciences is an interesting lens through which to see HPC. It is perhaps not an obvious choice, given life sciences’ relative newness as a heavy user of H Read more…

By John Russell

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