IBM Bare Metal Cloud Targets AI with New P100 GPUs

By Tiffany Trader

April 5, 2017

IBM announced today that it will be adding Nvidia P100 graphics processors to its Bluemix cloud later this month, becoming the “first major global cloud vendor” to provide the high-end “Pascal” GPUs. Big Blue is targeting the new hardware at customers who run compute-heavy workloads, such as artificial intelligence, deep learning, data analytics and high-performance computing.

Unlike Nimbix, the heterogeneous cloud vendor that began offering NVLink’d Nvidia P100 GPUs on the IBM “Minsky” Power8 platform last October (2016), IBM will be using PCIe form factor cards within an Intel x86 server. This is not really a surprise since IBM operates most of its cloud servers on Intel-based chip sets. Customers will be able to add up to two Nvidia P100 cards to a dual Xeon E5-2690 v3 machine (24-core CPUs running at 2.6 GHz).

The IBM cloud does have some Power server options for specific big data workloads but it does not have an expanded assortment of Power, says Jay Jubran, Global Offering Management for Compute at IBM Cloud. A plan to integrate Power8 based systems with NVIDIA P100 GPUs into the IBM cloud portfolio is underway. “We are are working side by side with the Power Systems team to ensure that IBM Cloud will deliver access to the best of IBM technology to allow customers to run HPC and AI workloads,” Jubran told us.

The Power8 “Minsky” platform enables tight coupling of the Power CPU and P100 GPU over Nvidia’s proprietary NVLink interconnect. The mezzanine form factor P100 also provides nearly 13 percent better raw performance than the PCIe card, 5.3 double-precision teraflops versus 4.7. Both versions provide 16 gigabytes of HBM2 stacked memory. Networking on the IBM cloud stands at 10 Gigabit Ethernet today with IBM stating that future platforms might go up to 25 Gigabit Ethernet.

IBM will be first to the P100 punch in terms of major cloud providers, but as we have seen, other cloud purveyors are advancing with P100 plays of their own. Here’s a rundown:

Nimbix – As mentioned above, Nimbix added IBM Power S822LC for HPC systems (codenamed “Minsky”) to its heterogeneous HPC cloud platform last October. Target markets include high-performance computing, data analytics, in-memory databases, and machine learning.

Cirrascale – On its GPU-driven deep learning infrastructure as a service, San Diego, Calif.-based Cirrascale offers a number of P100-based server configurations, including four-way and eight-way Intel-based GPU servers and IBM Power8 Systems with two and four GPU options.

Google – The Google Cloud platform website states that P100s are “coming soon.” Google will also be incorporating AMD FirePro S9300 x2 GPUS into its infrastructure. Google began offering K80 GPU-equipped virtual machines (as a beta release) in February of this year.

Microsoft – Microsoft last month revealed blueprints for a new open source P100-based accelerator – HGX-1 – developed under Project Olympus. It’s an accelerator box with eight Tesla P100s, connected in the same hypercube mesh as the Nvidia DGX-1 server and also leveraging the NVLink interconnect. The HGX-1 hooks to servers via PCIe interface. We’re to assume the boxes, being manufactured by Ingrasys, will show up on Azure but Microsoft hasn’t indicated when that will be. The company has had some notable delays in GPU rollouts – announcing a planned K80 instance in September 2015, and AWS beating them to  general availability a year later.

Tencent – Two weeks ago, Chinese cloud giant Tencent said it will offer a range of cloud products that will include GPU cloud servers incorporating Nvidia Tesla P100, P40 and M40 GPU accelerators and Nvidia deep learning software. Tencent Cloud launched GPU servers based on Nvidia Tesla M40 GPUs and NVIDIA deep learning software in December; it expects to integrate cloud servers with up to eight Pascal-based GPUs each by mid-year.

Reigning cloud king Amazon does not yet offer Nvidia’s Pascal-based silicon (the P100 or the P40 inferencing engine). Amazon’s most recent P2 instance family is backed by Kepler-generation K80 parts, rolled out last September (2016).

IBM emphasized the advantage of its bare metal cloud offering, compared to the multi-tenant environments of AWS and the other mega-cloud providers, especially for HPC workloads. “The main reason why people come to IBM cloud, other than the global presence, is the performance and consistency of having access to the bare metal. The bare metal allows us to give better performance than any other virtualized environment with the same specification because we do not have the hypervisor tax which is roughly 10-15 percent of the CPU power,” said Jubran.

“We find HPC workloads typically find their way to the IBM cloud. If the customer is looking to run HPC on an hourly basis sometimes you’ll see them go to other clouds, but in terms of monthly consumption we have the best offering in terms of performance and price value,” he added.

The bare metal infrastructure is also attractive to the graphics community, for gaming, especially a subset called cognitive gaming, and for engineering, said Jubran. Financial services, healthcare, and retail are all target verticals.

Customers that prioritize highly elastic resources and pay-by-the-sip pricing typically go to IBM’s competitors, Jubran noted, but their core customers are the ones who understand the performance metrics that IBM offers.

“We are attracting both digital customers looking for performance, gaming customers and born on the web type customers who are looking for bare metal performance, but scalability of the cloud. And we also get in the higher end of the spectrum in terms of enterprise and that is because of IBM obviously being an enterprise-focused company from day one and they put trust in IBM to bring their workload to our datacenters. So having both aspects of the spectrum keeps us on the innovative side in terms of digital and keeps us on the high-performance secure side for the enterprise,” said Jubran.

Aside from the advantage of this enterprise trust factor, IBM’s distributed model of 50 datacenters (built up since the Softlayer acquisition in 2013 for a reported $2 billion) gives them the geo-precision to provide local data sovereignty for their customers and is a natural fit for edge computing (important for AI training workflows and for IoT). For many customers, proximity of compute and data are far more important than saving on compute cost offered by the greater elasticity of mega-datacenters. A typical IBM datacenter unit consists of roughly 20,000 servers; in the hyperscaler world, that’s pretty small.

The Tesla P100 joins Nvidia’s portfolio of GPU offerings on the IBM Cloud, including the older Tesla K2 GPU, the Tesla M60 for virtualized graphics and the Tesla K80, which IBM added in 2015, about a year ahead of the competition. IBM expects most of its K80 customers will be migrating over to the P100 servers as they begin adding the parts later this month. “We also expect newcomers into the AI platform as the P100 is the most powerful GPU in terms of AI workloads that are based on TensorFlow, Caffe, Nvidia SDK or any of the AI SDKs available out today,” said Jubran. “With so much focus from all the different industries in AI, I think you will see more and more of those workloads coming to IBM cloud and the P100 will enable that. If you look at the Nvidia material for P100 it is the most powerful GPU for both training and inferencing, the two aspects of AI.”

“With all key deep learning frameworks GPU-accelerated and over 400 HPC applications in a broad range of domains, including the top 10 high performance computing applications, IBM Cloud customers can quickly tap into the power of the our GPU platform to boost performance, accelerate time to results and save money,” Nvidia’s Vice President of Accelerated Computing Ian Buck wrote in a blog post.

The cost for the new Pascal-based hardware is $750 per month per P100 GPU card, tacked on to the price of the server. This adds a 50 percent premium over the cost of the K80s ($500 per card) but the P100 card offers a 60 percent additional performance improvement over the K80. That should make switching a no-brainer and while IBM won’t be forcing customers with active workloads off the K80, they are planning to sunset the older Teslas as inventory depletes.

Editor’s note — April 6, 2017: In an earlier version of this article, we reported (based on information IBM shared with us) that the Power8 “Minsky” platform was not on IBM’s cloud roadmap. After the article was published, IBM contacted us to let us know that it does have plans to incorporate Power8 based systems with Nvidia P100 GPUs into its cloud portfolio. We have amended the story to include this updated information.

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!

Quantum Rolls – DOE Dishes $218M; NSF Awards $31M; US Releases ‘Strategic Overview’

September 24, 2018

It was quite a day for U.S. quantum computing. In conjunction with the White House Summit on Advancing American Leadership in Quantum Information Science (QIS) held today, the Department of Energy announced $218 million Read more…

By John Russell

Russian and American Scientists Achieve 50% Increase in Data Transmission Speed

September 20, 2018

As high-performance computing becomes increasingly data-intensive and the demand for shorter turnaround times grows, data transfer speed becomes an ever more important bottleneck. Now, in an article published in IEEE Tra Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

IBM to Brand Rescale’s HPC-in-Cloud Platform

September 20, 2018

HPC (or big compute)-in-the-cloud platform provider Rescale has formalized the work it’s been doing in partnership with public cloud vendors by announcing its Powered by Rescale program – with IBM as its first named Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Introducing the First Integrated System Management Software for HPC Clusters from HPE

How do you manage your complex, growing cluster environments? Answer that big challenge with the new HPC cluster management solution: HPE Performance Cluster Manager. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Clouds Over the Ocean – a Healthcare Perspective

Advances in precision medicine, genomics, and imaging; the widespread adoption of electronic health records; and the proliferation of medical Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile devices are resulting in an explosion of structured and unstructured healthcare-related data. Read more…

Democratization of HPC Part 1: Simulation Sheds Light on Building Dispute

September 20, 2018

This is the first of three articles demonstrating the growing acceptance of High Performance Computing especially in new user communities and application areas. Major reasons for this trend are the ongoing improvements i Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch

Quantum Rolls – DOE Dishes $218M; NSF Awards $31M; US Releases ‘Strategic Overview’

September 24, 2018

It was quite a day for U.S. quantum computing. In conjunction with the White House Summit on Advancing American Leadership in Quantum Information Science (QIS) Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Accelerates AI Inference in the Datacenter with T4 GPU

September 14, 2018

Nvidia is upping its game for AI inference in the datacenter with a new platform consisting of an inference accelerator chip--the new Turing-based Tesla T4 GPU- Read more…

By George Leopold

DeepSense Combines HPC and AI to Bolster Canada’s Ocean Economy

September 13, 2018

We often hear scientists say that we know less than 10 percent of the life of the oceans. This week, IBM and a group of Canadian industry and government partner Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Rigetti (and Others) Pursuit of Quantum Advantage

September 11, 2018

Remember ‘quantum supremacy’, the much-touted but little-loved idea that the age of quantum computing would be signaled when quantum computers could tackle Read more…

By John Russell

How FPGAs Accelerate Financial Services Workloads

September 11, 2018

While FSI companies are unlikely, for competitive reasons, to disclose their FPGA strategies, James Reinders offers insights into the case for FPGAs as accelerators for FSI by discussing performance, power, size, latency, jitter and inline processing. Read more…

By James Reinders

Update from Gregory Kurtzer on Singularity’s Push into FS and the Enterprise

September 11, 2018

Container technology is hardly new but it has undergone rapid evolution in the HPC space in recent years to accommodate traditional science workloads and HPC systems requirements. While Docker containers continue to dominate in the enterprise, other variants are becoming important and one alternative with distinctly HPC roots – Singularity – is making an enterprise push targeting advanced scale workload inclusive of HPC. Read more…

By John Russell

TACC Wins Next NSF-funded Major Supercomputer

July 30, 2018

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has won the next NSF-funded big supercomputer beating out rivals including the National Center for Supercomputing Ap Read more…

By John Russell

IBM at Hot Chips: What’s Next for Power

August 23, 2018

With processor, memory and networking technologies all racing to fill in for an ailing Moore’s law, the era of the heterogeneous datacenter is well underway, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Requiem for a Phi: Knights Landing Discontinued

July 25, 2018

On Monday, Intel made public its end of life strategy for the Knights Landing "KNL" Phi product set. The announcement makes official what has already been wide Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

By John Russell

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

AMD’s EPYC Road to Redemption in Six Slides

June 21, 2018

A year ago AMD returned to the server market with its EPYC processor line. The earth didn’t tremble but folks took notice. People remember the Opteron fondly Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17


AMD @ SC17


ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack



DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17


IBM @ SC17


IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17


Lenovo @ SC17


Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17


Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17


Tyan @ SC17


Univa @ SC17


Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

Sandia to Take Delivery of World’s Largest Arm System

June 18, 2018

While the enterprise remains circumspect on prospects for Arm servers in the datacenter, the leadership HPC community is taking a bolder, brighter view of the x86 server CPU alternative. Amongst current and planned Arm HPC installations – i.e., the innovative Mont-Blanc project, led by Bull/Atos, the 'Isambard’ Cray XC50 going into the University of Bristol, and commitments from both Japan and France among others -- HPE is announcing that it will be supply the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with a 2.3 petaflops peak Arm-based system, named Astra. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave Breaks New Ground in Quantum Simulation

July 16, 2018

Last Friday D-Wave scientists and colleagues published work in Science which they say represents the first fulfillment of Richard Feynman’s 1982 notion that Read more…

By John Russell

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

TACC’s ‘Frontera’ Supercomputer Expands Horizon for Extreme-Scale Science

August 29, 2018

The National Science Foundation and the Texas Advanced Computing Center announced today that a new system, called Frontera, will overtake Stampede 2 as the fast Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GPUs Power Five of World’s Top Seven Supercomputers

June 25, 2018

The top 10 echelon of the newly minted Top500 list boasts three powerful new systems with one common engine: the Nvidia Volta V100 general-purpose graphics proc Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Machine Learning Hype Cycle and HPC

June 14, 2018

Like many other HPC professionals I’m following the hype cycle around machine learning/deep learning with interest. I subscribe to the view that we’re probably approaching the ‘peak of inflated expectation’ but not quite yet starting the descent into the ‘trough of disillusionment. This still raises the probability that... Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

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