Think Fast: IBM Talks Acceleration in HPC and the Enterprise

By John Russell

November 16, 2015

At SC15 today, IBM provided a glimpse of its broadening vision for accelerator-assisted computing with announcements around Watson, a strategic alliance with FPGA specialist Xilinx, an expanded developer outreach via the SuperVessel program, and new efforts to accelerate the datacenter and a wide variety of applications used in both HPC and the enterprise.

“Accelerators have come to play a dominant role in HPC and we believe the notion of an accelerated datacenter is beginning to creep into the enterprise and will become a dominant factor,” Sumit Gupta, vice president, HPC and OpenPOWER operations at IBM told HPCwire. The IBM vision encompasses roles for both GPU- and FPGA- accelerated systems integrated with OpenPOWER architecture and taking advantage of CAPI interface. Gupta outlined what he called an ambitious three-pronged effort to accelerate computing, storage and networking.

GPUs, of course, have proven very powerful in HPC. More than 100 of the TOP500 machines from the list announced this morning rely on GPU acceleration, accounting for a total 143 petaflops – more than one-third of the list’s total FLOPS. NVIDIA Tesla GPU-based supercomputers comprise 70 of these systems – including 23 of the 24 new systems on the list.

Accelerators.TOP500.SC15As shown here the mix of accelerators powering the TOP500 is growing (source: Top500). With Moore’s Law topping out, IBM is betting accelerators, both GPUs and FPGAs, will become pivotal to improving performance not only for traditional HPC applications, but also for big data and data analytics challenges.

As part of the barrage of accelerator news, IBM noted for the first time that Watson, IBM’s “cognitive computing” platform, has been accelerated with NVIDIA Tesla K80 GPUs coupled to Watson’s POWER-based architecture. According to IBM, Watson’s retrieve and rank API capability is now 1.7x of its normal speed and Watson’s processing power up to 10x its prior performance according.

Other important bullet points include:

  • Newest OpenPOWER Platinum member Xilinx and IBM have a multi-year strategic collaboration to develop and market a series of data center and network function virtualization (NFV) solutions with systems, software, and management components around Xilinx FPGA accelerators. Solutions will focus on emerging workloads including high performance computing, cognitive computing, machine learning, genomics and big data analytics.
  • IBM reiterated Mellanox support of CAPI with its earlier release of the world’s first smart network switch, the Switch-IB 2, capable of delivering clients 10x system performance improvement. NEC announced availability of its ExpEther Technology that is also suited for POWER architecture-based systems, along with plans to leverage IBM’s CAPI technology in 2016.
  • OpenPOWER members, E4 Computer Engineering and Penguin Computing, announced new systems based on the OpenPOWER architecture and incorporating POWER8 and NVIDIA Tesla GPU accelerators.
  • IBM has ported a series of key IBM Internet of Things, Spark, Big Data and Cognitive Era applications to take advantage of the POWER architecture with accelerators.

As part of the IBM and Xilinx strategic collaboration, IBM Systems Group developers will create solution stacks for POWER-based servers, storage and middleware systems with Xilinx FPGA accelerators for data center architectures such as OpenStack, Docker, and Spark. IBM will also develop and qualify Xilinx accelerator boards into IBM Power Systems servers. Xilinx is developing and will release POWER-based versions of its leading software defined SDAccel Development Environment and libraries for the OpenPOWER developer community.

IBM suggests that as heterogeneous workloads have become increasingly prevalent, data centers are turning to application accelerators to keep up with the demands for throughput and latency at low power. Xilinx FPGAs, reports IBM, can deliver the power efficiency that makes accelerators practical to deploy throughout the data center.

SumitGupta_120x168Gupta couldn’t resist taking a swipe at Intel. “The difference between our platform and the x86 platform is that we actually partner with Xilinx and NVIDIA to build tightly integrated interfaces like CAPI and NVlink and put our investments together to come to market with an open collaborative solutions. This is in stark contrast to [the] competing solution which is completely closed, proprietary, and all designed from one vendor.”

The war of words aside, it will be interesting to watch the competing approaches play out. IBM and the OpenPOWER favor a multiple discrete component approach that is optimized and tightly glued together through collaborative design. Intel is betting that bringing these functions together under one roof, and mostly in silicon, will end up delivering higher performance. No doubt both have advantages. Stay tuned.

Commenting on the expanding role of FPGAs and GPUs, Gupta said IBM sees the two technologies as complementary. Some workloads such as deep learning and model training are currently best suited for GPUs, he said. Conversely, once the model is set and objects identified, FPGAs can handle those workloads well.

He added IBM is seeing more use of FPGAs in a variety of workloads – genomics is one – and network processing is another. The latter permits use of a standard server with FPGA-based specialization rather than the use of distinct dedicated boxes for differing network applications such as security or packet processing. Network virtualization will significantly benefit from FPGAs, he said.

Currently, IBM is working on accelerating a wide range of applications. “We have an accelerated storage solution [in which] we connect our flash using CAPI to the POWER system [which] is very useful to accelerate NoSQL database applications, which are basically analytics,” Gupta said. He pointed to Apache Spark and NoSQL databases Redis and Neo4j as examples of application acceleration being undertaken by IBM.

Obviously, getting OpenPOWER systems with accelerators into the hands of developers is a necessary part of IBM’s strategy. To that end, IBM reported expanding GPU services on SuperVessel, the global cloud-based OpenPOWER ecosystem resource launched in June and initially based only in China. SuperVessel now provides GPU-accelerated computing as-a-service capabilities, giving users access to high-performance NVIDIA Tesla GPUs to enable Caffe, Torch and Theano deep-learning frameworks to instantaneously launch from the SuperVessel cloud.

“We are also announcing a new SuperVessel system that will serve North America and Europe. This will dramatically increase developer access,” said Gupta. As part of the expansion, Xilinx and IBM have developed a new FPGA accelerator service on SuperVessel that makes coherent reconfigurable accelerators available to developers via the cloud. By enabling high-level language programming like C, C++ and OpenCL, Xilinx and IBM are attempting to dramatically expand how users leverage FPGAs in the cloud for innovation on applications like machine learning, big data analytics and HPC.

IBM is also adding developer resources at the University of Texas and Oregon State University aimed at the academic research community, “but which anyone can apply for” said Gupta. He noted IBM has already developed proof-point case studies such as one based on work at Baylor College, which used accelerators and a Power system for genomics applications.

  • The Baylor team, led by geneticist and computer scientist Erez Lieberman Aiden, developed a new procedure to modify how a human genome is arranged in three dimensions in the nucleus of a cell. The work was done using a Power System accelerated with NVIDIA Tesla GPUs and Mellanox network infrastructure “to build a 3-D map of the human genome and model the reaction of the genome to this surgical procedure, without disturbing the surrounding DNA.”
  • At OSU, the Open Source Lab (OSUOSL) has increased the footprint of POWER8-based systems in their existing OpenStack cluster with additional compute and memory capacity. The expansion significantly increases the number of distinct users OSUOSL can support for research and development on OpenPOWER/OpenStack infrastructures.

IBM logoIBM offered another bit of evidence for OpenPOWER Foundation’s gathering momentum: new member Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at University of Texas at Austin, and IBM announced a POWER8 accelerated computing cluster to be made available to academic researchers and developers. The new cluster is currently running successfully in an early user mode, and will begin accepting requests for access this week.

On balance, today’s IBM news was all about the rise of accelerator-assisted computing and IBM’s embrace of it, including its steady march into the enterprise.

“There is a need for systems that provide greater speed to insight — for data and analytics workloads to help businesses and organization make sense of the data, to outthink competitors as we usher in a new era of Cognitive Computing,” said Brad McCredie, IBM Fellow and OpenPOWER Foundation President. “IBM and our more than 160 partners in the OpenPOWER Foundation are on the forefront driving the changes necessary for innovation at all levels of the technology stack, including the development the industry’s first open, high-speed interconnects between processors and accelerators.”

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!

HPC in Life Sciences Part 1: CPU Choices, Rise of Data Lakes, Networking Challenges, and More

February 21, 2019

For the past few years HPCwire and leaders of BioTeam, a research computing consultancy specializing in life sciences, have convened to examine the state of HPC (and now AI) use in life sciences. Without HPC writ large, modern life sciences research would quickly grind to a halt. It’s true most life sciences research computing... Read more…

By John Russell

Arm Unveils Neoverse N1 Platform with up to 128-Cores

February 20, 2019

Following on its Neoverse roadmap announcement last October, Arm today revealed its next-gen Neoverse microarchitecture with compute and throughput-optimized silicon designs catered toward general-purpose cloud computing Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Internet of Criminal Things—Trust in the Gods but Verify!

February 20, 2019

“Are we under attack?” asked Professor Elmarie Biermann of the Cyber Security Institute during the recent South African Centre for High Performance Computing’s (CHPC) National Conference in Cape Town. A quick show Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake, STEM-Trek

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture: How to Power a Cloud

Learn how HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture provide critical infrastructure for leading Nordic HPC provider’s HPCFLOW cloud service.

powercloud_blog.jpgFor decades, HPE has been at the forefront of high-performance computing, and we’ve powered some of the fastest and most robust supercomputers in the world. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

The Perils of Becoming Trapped in the Cloud

Terms like ‘open systems’ have been bandied about for decades. While modern computer systems are relatively open compared to their predecessors, there are still plenty of opportunities to become locked into proprietary interfaces. Read more…

Machine Learning Takes Heat for Science’s Reproducibility Crisis

February 19, 2019

Scientists are raising red flags about the accuracy and reproducibility of conclusions drawn by machine learning frameworks. Among the remedies are developing new ML systems that can question their own predictions, show Read more…

By George Leopold

HPC in Life Sciences Part 1: CPU Choices, Rise of Data Lakes, Networking Challenges, and More

February 21, 2019

For the past few years HPCwire and leaders of BioTeam, a research computing consultancy specializing in life sciences, have convened to examine the state of HPC (and now AI) use in life sciences. Without HPC writ large, modern life sciences research would quickly grind to a halt. It’s true most life sciences research computing... Read more…

By John Russell

Arm Unveils Neoverse N1 Platform with up to 128-Cores

February 20, 2019

Following on its Neoverse roadmap announcement last October, Arm today revealed its next-gen Neoverse microarchitecture with compute and throughput-optimized si Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Insights from Optimized Codes on Cineca’s Marconi

February 15, 2019

What can you do with 381,392 CPU cores? For Cineca, it means enabling computational scientists to expand a large part of the world’s body of knowledge from the nanoscale to the astronomic, from calculating quantum effects in new materials to supporting bioinformatics for advanced healthcare research to screening millions of possible chemical combinations to attack a deadly virus. Read more…

By Ken Strandberg

ClusterVision in Bankruptcy, Fate Uncertain

February 13, 2019

ClusterVision, European HPC specialists that have built and installed over 20 Top500-ranked systems in their nearly 17-year history, appear to be in the midst o Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

UC Berkeley Paper Heralds Rise of Serverless Computing in the Cloud – Do You Agree?

February 13, 2019

Almost exactly ten years to the day from publishing of their widely-read, seminal paper on cloud computing, UC Berkeley researchers have issued another ambitious examination of cloud computing - Cloud Programming Simplified: A Berkeley View on Serverless Computing. The new work heralds the rise of ‘serverless computing’ as the next dominant phase of cloud computing. Read more…

By John Russell

Iowa ‘Grows Its Own’ to Fill the HPC Workforce Pipeline

February 13, 2019

The global workforce that supports advanced computing, scientific software and high-speed research networks is relatively small when you stop to consider the magnitude of the transformative discoveries it empowers. Technical conferences provide a forum where specialists convene to learn about the latest innovations and schedule face-time with colleagues from other institutions. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake, STEM-Trek

Trump Signs Executive Order Launching U.S. AI Initiative

February 11, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) today launching a U.S Artificial Intelligence Initiative. The new initiative - Maintaining American L Read more…

By John Russell

Celebrating Women in Science: Meet Four Women Leading the Way in HPC

February 11, 2019

One only needs to look around at virtually any CS/tech conference to realize that women are underrepresented, and that holds true of HPC. SC hosts over 13,000 H Read more…

By AJ Lauer

Quantum Computing Will Never Work

November 27, 2018

Amid the gush of money and enthusiastic predictions being thrown at quantum computing comes a proposed cold shower in the form of an essay by physicist Mikhail Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Unveils Shasta, Lands NERSC-9 Contract

October 30, 2018

Cray revealed today the details of its next-gen supercomputing architecture, Shasta, selected to be the next flagship system at NERSC. We've known of the code-name "Shasta" since the Argonne slice of the CORAL project was announced in 2015 and although the details of that plan have changed considerably, Cray didn't slow down its timeline for Shasta. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

AMD Sets Up for Epyc Epoch

November 16, 2018

It’s been a good two weeks, AMD’s Gary Silcott and Andy Parma told me on the last day of SC18 in Dallas at the restaurant where we met to discuss their show news and recent successes. Heck, it’s been a good year. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Reportedly in $6B Bid for Mellanox

January 30, 2019

The latest rumors and reports around an acquisition of Mellanox focus on Intel, which has reportedly offered a $6 billion bid for the high performance interconn Read more…

By Doug Black

ClusterVision in Bankruptcy, Fate Uncertain

February 13, 2019

ClusterVision, European HPC specialists that have built and installed over 20 Top500-ranked systems in their nearly 17-year history, appear to be in the midst o Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Leads Supercomputing with #1, #2 Systems & Petascale Arm

November 12, 2018

The 31st Supercomputing Conference (SC) - commemorating 30 years since the first Supercomputing in 1988 - kicked off in Dallas yesterday, taking over the Kay Ba Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Looking for Light Reading? NSF-backed ‘Comic Books’ Tackle Quantum Computing

January 28, 2019

Still baffled by quantum computing? How about turning to comic books (graphic novels for the well-read among you) for some clarity and a little humor on QC. The Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 18 Virtual Booth Video Tour

Advania @ SC18 AMD @ SC18
ASRock Rack @ SC18
DDN Storage @ SC18
HPE @ SC18
IBM @ SC18
Lenovo @ SC18 Mellanox Technologies @ SC18
NVIDIA @ SC18
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

Contract Signed for New Finnish Supercomputer

December 13, 2018

After the official contract signing yesterday, configuration details were made public for the new BullSequana system that the Finnish IT Center for Science (CSC Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Deep500: ETH Researchers Introduce New Deep Learning Benchmark for HPC

February 5, 2019

ETH researchers have developed a new deep learning benchmarking environment – Deep500 – they say is “the first distributed and reproducible benchmarking s Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Quantum Update: Q System One Launch, New Collaborators, and QC Center Plans

January 10, 2019

IBM made three significant quantum computing announcements at CES this week. One was introduction of IBM Q System One; it’s really the integration of IBM’s Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Bets $2B Seeking 1000X AI Hardware Performance Boost

February 7, 2019

For now, AI systems are mostly machine learning-based and “narrow” – powerful as they are by today's standards, they're limited to performing a few, narro Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC Reflections and (Mostly Hopeful) Predictions

December 19, 2018

So much ‘spaghetti’ gets tossed on walls by the technology community (vendors and researchers) to see what sticks that it is often difficult to peer through Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia’s Jensen Huang Delivers Vision for the New HPC

November 14, 2018

For nearly two hours on Monday at SC18, Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, presented his expansive view of the future of HPC (and computing in general) as only he can do. Animated. Backstopped by a stream of data charts, product photos, and even a beautiful image of supernovae... Read more…

By John Russell

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Confirms 48-Core Cascade Lake-AP for 2019

November 4, 2018

As part of the run-up to SC18, taking place in Dallas next week (Nov. 11-16), Intel is doling out info on its next-gen Cascade Lake family of Xeon processors, specifically the “Advanced Processor” version (Cascade Lake-AP), architected for high-performance computing, artificial intelligence and infrastructure-as-a-service workloads. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This