OpenPOWER Shows Strength at First European Summit

By John Russell

October 27, 2016

In a show of strength in Europe before heading to SC16 next month, IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have unveiled several new European initiatives and European-developed solutions at the first OpenPOWER Summit Europe being held this week at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center. The shotgun release of so many efforts, argue IBM and OpenPOWER, demonstrates the hungry appetite for and rapid adoption of Power-based technology in Europe.

New OpenPOWER collaborations in France, Germany, Spain, and Turkey (details below), plus the launch of Supervessel Europe, a version of IBM/OpenPOWER’s cloud development platform already operating in China, were all announced. New developer tools were introduced, and the winners of the first OpenPOWER developer challenge were announced.

Many of the efforts, of course, have been taking shape for some time. Still, the orchestrated barrage of several OpenPOWER new and ongoing steps forward is impressive. In the official release, Calista Redmond, president of the OpenPOWER Foundation, was ebullient citing the needs of big data and taking a shot at commodity IT’s (re: x86) struggle to keep pace.

OpenPOWER-logo“Data growth in virtually every industry is forcing companies and organizations to change the way they consume, innovate around and manage IT infrastructure. Commodity platforms are proving ineffective when it comes to ingesting and making sense of the 2.5 billion GBs of data being created daily. With today’s announcements by our European members, the OpenPOWER Foundation expands its reach, bringing open source, high performing, flexible and scalable solutions to organizations worldwide,” she said.

Here’s a snapshot of the regional collaborations announced:

  • FRANCE – GENCI (Grand Equipement National pour le Calcul Intensif), France’s large national research facility for high performance computing, has launched a technology watch collaborative initiative to prepare French scientific communities for the challenges of exascale and to anticipate novel architectures for future procurements of Tier1 and Tier0 systems in France. OpenPOWER technology has been identified as one of the leading architectures within this initiative.
  • Germany – In support of the Human Brain Project, OpenPOWER members IBM, NVIDIA and the Juelich Supercomputing Centre delivered a pilot system as part of the Pre-Commercial Procurement process. Called JURON, the new supercomputer leverages IBM’s new Power S822LC for High Performance Computing systems and features CPU-to-GPU NVIDIA NVLink technology.  As part of the installation, OpenPOWER delivered assets such as Direct Storage Class Memory Access as well as a port of workhorse Neuroscience codes onto the OpenPOWER-based architecture.
  • Spain – The Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) announced it is using OpenPOWER technology for work underway at the IBM-BSC Deep Learning Center where IBM and BSC scientists are developing new algorithms to improve and expand the cognitive capabilities of deep learning systems.
  • Turkey – SC3 Electronics, a leading cloud supercomputing center in Turkey, announced plans to create the largest HPC cluster in the Middle East and North Africa region based on one of IBM’s new OpenPOWER LC servers – the Power S822LC for High Performance Computing, which uses NVIDIA’s NVLink technology and the latest NVIDIA GPUs. According to SC3 Executive Vice President Emre Bilgi, this is an important milestone for Turkey’s journey into HPC. The system is planned to be up and running by year’s end.

s822lc-offeringClearly, building a new, extensive technology ecosystem and penetrating the vendor and end user communities is challenging. IBM/OpenPOWER is taking great pains to point out progress. At last year’s SC, Ken King, general manager, OpenPOWER, IBM Systems Group, proclaimed Big Blue and OpenPOWER would eventually capture 20-30 percent of Intel-dominated x86 landscape. That’s a huge bet, and naysayers aside, IBM has marched steadily forward.

Addison Snell, CEO of Inersect360 Research, told HPCwire, “We’re really moving away from the notion of a Beowulf-style cluster, in which components are consistent for portability across platforms. Across high-performance markets, we’re continuing to see a proliferation of specialized architectures matched to particular workloads. This is true even within the x86 paradigm, with many-core components like Intel Xeon Phi providing another x86 option, in addition to GPUs, FPGAs, DSPs, ARM, and of course Power. 88% of HPC users expect they will support multiple architectures in their next generations of deployments. That’s a tremendous opportunity for IBM to gain ground with Power.”

Since SC last year, OpenPOWER Foundation membership has grown to 270 from roughly 170 and European membership reached 60. There has also been a steady trickle (if not gush) of Power-based systems announcements. Through the spring and summer, IBM broadly mapped out further plans for the Power9 chip, due sometime in 2017, and added NVIDIA’s high-speed NVlink to a version of the current Power8 chip already in production.

Likewise IBM/OpenPOWER has actively courted the developer community – the plan to ramp up a European version of Supervessel is good example. It’s a collaboration with the Technical University of Munich at the Department of Informatics and IBM reports the offering will be structured in a way to comply with Europe’s various regional data integrity regulations. Supervessel Europe is expected to launch before the end of 2016.

Other developer announcements included:

  • CAPI SNAP Framework – Developed by European and North American based OpenPOWER members IBM, Xilinx, Reconfigure.io, Eideticom, Rackspace, Alpha Data and Nallatech, the CAPI SNAP Framework is available in beta to developers worldwide. It is designed to make FPGA acceleration technology from the OpenPOWER Foundation easier to implement and more accessible to the developer community.
  • OpenPOWER Ready FPGA Accelerator Boards – Alpha Data, a United Kingdom and North American based leading supplier of high-performance FPGA solutions, showcased a line of low latency, low power, OpenPOWER READY compliant FPGA accelerator boards.  The production-ready PCIe accelerator boards are intended for datacenter applications requiring high-throughput processing and software acceleration.
  • OpenPOWER Developer Challenge Winners – After evaluating the work of more than 300 developers that participated in the inaugural OpenPOWER Developer Challenge, the OpenPOWER Foundation announced four Grand Prize winners. The developers received a collective total of $15,000 in prizes recognizing their OpenPOWER-based development projects including:

You get the idea. Critical mass and activity matter and IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation are pressing their case. Next up, SC16 (November 13-18, Salt Lake City, UT).

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