IBM Offers Glimpse into Future of HPC Investments

By Nicole Hemsoth

June 24, 2014

This week at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC14) one of the more frequent topics of conversation has been the revised role that some expect IBM might play following the Lenovo x86 business acquisition—and how their investment in high performance computing might change following the transition.

There’s little wonder this topic is on everyone’s lips, especially when reminded of IBM’s steady role on the TOP500 list, which was just announced. Big Blue still enjoys a sizable share of the Linpack benchmark’s finest with its 35.2% share of the overall list (just a tick below HP). But of course, these are systems that will be going the way of the dinosaur as IBM refreshes its HPC strategy in the wake of the many changes around OpenPower investments, the Lenovo deal, and heightening competition from developments at the chip and accelerator level. While this list and HPC is still important to IBM, they’re seeing this segment as something that dwarfs the Top500–in fact, it stands as the antithesis to the FLOPs-centric view.

IBM has been vocal this week during presentations and individual meetings about the steadfast nature of its commitment to supercomputing, and finally, we’re starting to get a sense of what this means beyond mere words. It appears that over the course of the year, we’ll see that lip service to ongoing HPC investment play out in the form of some major announcements that tie together innovations in OpenPower and a fresh approach to the “workflow” concept as the dominant theory guiding future system design.

What’s most compelling is that we can expect this vision, which incorporates the activity around OpenPower (and naturally, the Power architecture roadmap), a move away from a compute-centric emphasis, and a focus on real-world commercial HPC operations to materialize in the form of actual product announcements in 2014 and a more narrowly defined product and strategy roadmap for 2015.

At the heart of this is will be that HPC workflow concept, which carries a few central tenants. First, the management, acquisition and manipulation data cannot be removed from the HPC conversation—the big data phenomenon is too powerful to ignore and it factors prominently in nearly all of the actual end user HPC applications IBM’s technical computing team has evaluated—even as far back as their planning phases for the Sequoia system, says Turek. The problem, he explains, is that system designers are still rooted in the outmoded cluster approaches that ignores the fact that compute is the simple part—it’s the data that represents the challenge.

With further heterogeneity in systems, increases in programmatic complexity, more bottlenecks fed by memory and bandwidth, and now, sheer data overload, Turek says the only possibility is to take a workflow approach to designing future architectures—one that is data-centric and moves away from the “disparate components” present of system design.

Workflow, as IBM’s Dave Turek told us in a detailed conversation around the questions at ISC, is a term that is defining their HPC system strategy going forward since it includes the increasing data-centric requirements the technical computing team at IBM is finding dominate the FLOPS-defined needs at centers in government and industry. While he says that academic centers have slightly different algorithmic needs that might tie in better with world of Linpack performance, the dominant need for other HPC centers is around dramatic increases in integer performance—not floating point.

“If you look at the operational folks HPC, their focus is so often on servers. They get their interconnect, storage, and other elements from a collection of vendors and cobble these things together. But why would anyone do that, why would anyone decompose the offerings and center it all on servers when so much of the real computational activity is married to the network, to storage, to the manipulation of data?” With its coming announcements later in the year, IBM expects to bring everything together into the right package that exploits the latest advancements in memory, storage, networks, and of course tie it to the right server package in a programming model that is “utilitarian”.

Their goal with the coming announcements later this year is to mesh all of these concerns and potential solutions and leverage the support of the OpenPower foundation. With the many memory, storage and other vendors on this list, one can speculate that they’ll be looking to their own on-package memory, integrated storage, and data locality solutions to move into a system-wide approach. We’ll learn more around supercomputing, but it’s difficult to ignore the roadmap items from Intel that just became clearer this week in terms of their use of Micron’s memory technology at the chip level and the new OmniScale fabric to push out development at the interconnect and networking layers. Turek sounded quite confident that whatever they’re cooking will have a more seamless value-add for HPC centers commercial and otherwise and at least reading between the lines, it seems that putting the data closer to the computer in a comprehensive, system-level way could be their ticket to take an enterprise product and give it an HPC gloss with some added HPC acceleration via the OpenPower possibilities.

Again, this is roadmap speculation. But there’s still the question of the present. Is IBM already losing ground because of the Lenovo questions and lack of future for its core HPC technologies, including BlueGene, that will be allowed to wither?

“Look at our Open Foundation members list,” was Turek’s answer. With the new string of announcements expected later in the year, Turek said they’ll be harvesting a number of technologies that have fed their existing HPC strategy but again, the way these will arrive is in the form of more integrated, broader, workflow-defined approaches that fit the data-centric needs of actual end users versus the more compute and FLOPS-centric form that is so often associated with high performance computing centers.

There are not many details about how the actual transition will take place since it’s not been finalized, even following today’s presentations at ISC around the topic of IBM’s future—a future that other Big Blue execs are echoing. Turek says that IBM will continue to operate as if there’s been no change, then sometime later this summer, will provide more details about the actual mechanics of the Lenovo changeover.

Turek reiterated that “IBM is centered more generally on a business orientation that focuses on innovation, but that innovation is difficult to do in a commodity space when the entrances are closed and there’s a single supplier who can dictate a lot of the terms for future development. OpenPower will buttress our general approach going forward with respect to HPC.”

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!

TACC Helps ROSIE Bioscience Gateway Expand its Impact

April 26, 2017

Biomolecule structure prediction has long been challenging not least because the relevant software and workflows often require high-end HPC systems that many bioscience researchers lack easy access to. Read more…

By John Russell

Messina Update: The US Path to Exascale in 16 Slides

April 26, 2017

Paul Messina, director of the U.S. Exascale Computing Project, provided a wide-ranging review of ECP’s evolving plans last week at the HPC User Forum. Read more…

By John Russell

IBM, Nvidia, Stone Ridge Claim Gas & Oil Simulation Record

April 25, 2017

IBM, Nvidia, and Stone Ridge Technology today reported setting the performance record for a “billion cell” oil and gas reservoir simulation. Read more…

By John Russell

ASC17 Makes Splash at Wuxi Supercomputing Center

April 24, 2017

A record-breaking twenty student teams plus scores of company representatives, media professionals, staff and student volunteers transformed a formerly empty hall inside the Wuxi Supercomputing Center into a bustling hub of HPC activity, kicking off day one of 2017 Asia Student Supercomputer Challenge (ASC17). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Remote Visualization Optimizing Life Sciences Operations and Care Delivery

As patients continually demand a better quality of care and increasingly complex workloads challenge healthcare organizations to innovate, investing in the right technologies is key to ensuring growth and success. Read more…

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 a new generation of chips designed specifically for deep learning workloads. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Musk’s Latest Startup Eyes Brain-Computer Links

April 21, 2017

Elon Musk, the auto and space entrepreneur and severe critic of artificial intelligence, is forming a new venture that reportedly will seek to develop an interface between the human brain and computers. Read more…

By George Leopold

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

NERSC Cori Shows the World How Many-Cores for the Masses Works

April 21, 2017

As its mission, the high performance computing center for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, NERSC (the National Energy Research Supercomputer Center), supports a broad spectrum of forefront scientific research across diverse areas that includes climate, material science, chemistry, fusion energy, high-energy physics and many others. Read more…

By Rob Farber

Messina Update: The US Path to Exascale in 16 Slides

April 26, 2017

Paul Messina, director of the U.S. Exascale Computing Project, provided a wide-ranging review of ECP’s evolving plans last week at the HPC User Forum. Read more…

By John Russell

ASC17 Makes Splash at Wuxi Supercomputing Center

April 24, 2017

A record-breaking twenty student teams plus scores of company representatives, media professionals, staff and student volunteers transformed a formerly empty hall inside the Wuxi Supercomputing Center into a bustling hub of HPC activity, kicking off day one of 2017 Asia Student Supercomputer Challenge (ASC17). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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 a new generation of chips designed specifically for deep learning workloads. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

NERSC Cori Shows the World How Many-Cores for the Masses Works

April 21, 2017

As its mission, the high performance computing center for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, NERSC (the National Energy Research Supercomputer Center), supports a broad spectrum of forefront scientific research across diverse areas that includes climate, material science, chemistry, fusion energy, high-energy physics and many others. Read more…

By Rob Farber

Hyperion (IDC) Paints a Bullish Picture of HPC Future

April 20, 2017

Hyperion Research – formerly IDC’s HPC group – yesterday painted a fascinating and complicated portrait of the HPC community’s health and prospects at the HPC User Forum held in Albuquerque, NM. HPC sales are up and growing ($22 billion, all HPC segments, 2016). Read more…

By John Russell

Knights Landing Processor with Omni-Path Makes Cloud Debut

April 18, 2017

HPC cloud specialist Rescale is partnering with Intel and HPC resource provider R Systems to offer first-ever cloud access to Xeon Phi "Knights Landing" processors. The infrastructure is based on the 68-core Intel Knights Landing processor with integrated Omni-Path fabric (the 7250F Xeon Phi). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN openlab Explores New CPU/FPGA Processing Solutions

April 14, 2017

Through a CERN openlab project known as the ‘High-Throughput Computing Collaboration,’ researchers are investigating the use of various Intel technologies in data filtering and data acquisition systems. Read more…

By Linda Barney

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of “quantum supremacy,” researchers are stretching the limits of today’s most advanced supercomputers. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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 phase of neural networks (NN). 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. Read more…

By John Russell

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 campaign. 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 assets. 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

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

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular offerings such as Caffe, Theano, and Torch. Read more…

By John Russell

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

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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