IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

By Tiffany Trader

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit and Sierra. The new AC922 server pairs two Power9 CPUs with four or six Nvidia Tesla V100 NVLink GPUs. IBM is positioning the Power9 architecture as “a game-changing powerhouse for AI and cognitive workloads.”

The AC922 extends many of the design elements introduced in Power8 “Minsky” boxes with a focus on enabling connectivity to a range of accelerators – Nvidia GPUs, ASICs, FPGAs, and PCIe-connected devices — using an array of interfaces. In addition to being the first servers to incorporate PCIe Gen4, the new systems support the NVLink 2.0 and OpenCAPI protocols, which offer nearly 10x the maximum bandwidth of PCI-E 3.0 based x86 systems, according to IBM.

IBM AC922 rendering

“We designed Power9 with the notion that it will work as a peer computer or a peer processor to other processors,” said Sumit Gupta, vice president of of AI and HPC within IBM’s Cognitive Systems business unit, ahead of the launch. “Whether it’s GPU accelerators or FPGAs or other accelerators that are in the market, our aim was to provide the links and the hooks to give all these accelerators equal footing in the server.”

In the coming months and years there will be additional Power9-based servers to follow from IBM and its ecosystem partners, but this launch is all about the flagship AC922 platform and specifically its benefits to AI and cognitive computing – something Ken King, general manager of OpenPOWER for IBM Systems Group, shared with HPCwire when we sat down with him at SC17 in Denver.

“We didn’t build this system just for doing traditional HPC workloads,” King said. “When you look at what Power9 has with NVLink 2.0 we’re going from 80 gigabits per second throughput [in NVLink 1.0] to over 150 gigabits per second throughput. PCIe Gen3 only has 16. That GPU to CPU I/O is critical for a lot of the deep learning and machine learning workloads.”

Coherency, which Power9 introduces via both CAPI and NVLink 2.0, is another key enabler. As AI models grow large, they can easily outgrow GPU memory capacity, but the AC922 addresses these concerns by allowing accelerated applications to leverage system memory as GPU memory. This reduces latency and simplifies programming by eliminating data movement and locality requirements.

The AC922 server can be configured with either four or six Nvidia Volta V100 GPUs. According to IBM, a four GPU air-cooled version will be available December 22 and both four- and six-GPU water-cooled options are expected to follow in the second quarter of 2018.

While the new Power9 boxes have gone by a couple different codenames (“Witherspoon” and “Newell”), we’ve also heard folks at IBM refer to them informally as their “Summit servers” and indeed there is great visibility in being the manufacturer for what is widely expected to be the United States’ next fastest supercomputer. Thousands of the AC922 nodes are being connected together along with storage and networking to drive approximately 200 petaflops at Oak Ridge and 120 petaflops at Lawrence Livermore.

As King pointed out in reference to the delayed and retooled Argonne “Aurora” system, only one of the original CORAL contractors is fulfilling its mission to deliver “pre-exascale” supercomputing capability to the collaboration of US labs.

IBM has also been tapped by Google, which with partner Rackspace is building a server with Power9 processors called Zaius. In a prepared statement, Bart Sano, vice president of Google Platforms, praised “IBM’s progress in the development of the latest POWER technology” and said “the POWER9 OpenCAPI Bus and large memory capabilities allow for further opportunities for innovation in Google data centers.”

IBM sees the hyperscale market as “a good volume opportunity” but is obviously aware of the impact that volume pricing has had on the traditional server market. “We do see strong pull from them, but we have many other elements in play,” said Gupta. “We have solutions that go after the very fast-growing AI space, we have solutions that go after the open source databases, the NoSQL datacenters. We have announced a partnership with Nutanix to go after the hyperconverged space. So if you look at it, we have lots of different elements that drive the volume and opportunity around our Linux on Power servers, including of course SAP HANA.”

IBM will also be selling Power9 chips through its OpenPower ecosystem, which now encompasses 300 members. IBM says it’s committed to deploying three versions of the Power9 chip, one this year, one in 2018 and another in 2019. The scale-out variant is the one it is delivering with CORAL and with the AC922 server. “Then there will be a scale-up processor, which is the traditional chip targeted towards the AIX and the high-end space and then there’s another one that will be more of an accelerated offering with enhanced memory and other features built into it; we’re working with other memory providers to do that,” said King.

He added that there might be another version developed outside of IBM, leveraging OpenPower, which gives other organizations the opportunity to utilize IBM’s intellectual property to build their own differentiated chips and servers.

King is confident that the demand for IBM’s latest platform is there. “I think we are going to see strong out-of-the-chute opportunities for Power9 in 2018. We’re hoping to see some growth this quarter with the solution that we’re bringing out with CORAL but that will be more around the ESP customers. Next year is when we’re expecting that pent up demand to start showing positive return overall for our business results.”

A lot is riding on the success of Power9 after Power8 failed to generate the kind of profits that IBM had hoped for. There was growth in Power8’s first year, said King, but after that sales tailed off. He added that capabilities like Nutanix and building PowerAI and other software based solutions on top of it have led to a bit of a rebound. “It’s still negative but it’s low negative,” he said, “but it’s sequentially grown quarter to quarter in the last three quarters, since Bob Picciano [SVP of IBM Cognitive Systems] came on.”

Several IBM reps we spoke with acknowledged that pricing – or at least pricing perception – was a problem for Power8.

“For our traditional market I think pricing was competitive; for some of the new markets that we’re trying to get into, like the hyperscaler datacenters, I think we’ve got some work to do,” said King. “It’s really a TCO and a price-performance competitiveness versus price only. And we think we’re going to have a much better price performance competitiveness with Power9 in the hyperscalers and some of the low-end Linux spaces that are really the new markets.”

“We know what we need to do for Power9 and we’re very confident with a lot of the workload capabilities that we’ve built on top of this architecture, that we’re going to see a lot more growth, positive growth, on Power9, with PowerAI with Nuta,nix with some of the other workloads we’ve put in there. And it’s not going to be a hardware-only reason,” King continued. “It’s going to be a lot of the software capabilities that we’ve built on top of the platform, and supporting more of the newer workloads that are out there. If you look at the IDC studies of the growth curve of cognitive infrastructure, it goes from about $1.6 billion to $4.5 billion over the next two or three years – it’s a huge hockey stick – and we have built and designed Power9 for that market, specifically and primarily for that market.”

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!

UT Dallas Grows HPC Storage Footprint for Animation and Game Development

October 28, 2020

Computer-generated animation and video game development are extraordinarily computationally intensive fields, with studios often requiring large server farms with hundreds of terabytes – or even petabytes – of storag Read more…

By Staff report

Frame by Frame, Supercomputing Reveals the Forms of the Coronavirus

October 27, 2020

From the start of the pandemic, supercomputing research has been targeting one particular protein of the coronavirus: the notorious “S” or “spike” protein, which allows the virus to pry its way into human cells a Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AMD Reports Record Revenue and $35B Deal to Buy Xilinx

October 27, 2020

AMD this morning reported record quarterly revenue of $2.8 billion and a finalized deal to buy FPGA-maker Xilinx for $35 billion in an all-stock transaction. The acquisition helps AMD keep pace during a time of consolida Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia-Arm Deal a Boon for RISC-V?

October 26, 2020

The $40 billion blockbuster acquisition deal that will bring chip maker Arm into the Nvidia corporate family could provide a boost for the competing RISC-V architecture. As regulators in the U.S., China and the Europe Read more…

By George Leopold

OpenHPC Progress Report – v2.0, More Recipes, Cloud and Arm Support, Says Schulz

October 26, 2020

Launched in late 2015 and transitioned to a Linux Foundation Project in 2016, OpenHPC has marched quietly but steadily forward. Its goal “to provide a reference collection of open-source HPC software components and bes Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Solution Channel

Rapid Chip Design in the Cloud

Time-to-market and engineering efficiency are the most critical and expensive metrics for a chip design company. With this in mind, the team at Annapurna Labs selected Altair AcceleratorRead more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Berlin Institute of Health: Putting HPC to Work for the World

Researchers from the Center for Digital Health at the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) are using science to understand the pathophysiology of COVID-19, which can help to inform the development of targeted treatments. Read more…

NASA Uses Supercomputing to Measure Carbon in the World’s Trees

October 22, 2020

Trees constitute one of the world’s most important carbon sinks, pulling enormous amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing the carbon in their trunks and the surrounding soil. Measuring this carbon sto Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AMD Reports Record Revenue and $35B Deal to Buy Xilinx

October 27, 2020

AMD this morning reported record quarterly revenue of $2.8 billion and a finalized deal to buy FPGA-maker Xilinx for $35 billion in an all-stock transaction. Th Read more…

By John Russell

OpenHPC Progress Report – v2.0, More Recipes, Cloud and Arm Support, Says Schulz

October 26, 2020

Launched in late 2015 and transitioned to a Linux Foundation Project in 2016, OpenHPC has marched quietly but steadily forward. Its goal “to provide a referen Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Dominates (Again) Latest MLPerf Inference Results

October 22, 2020

The two-year-old AI benchmarking group MLPerf.org released its second set of inferencing results yesterday and again, as in the most recent MLPerf training resu Read more…

By John Russell

HPE, AMD and EuroHPC Partner for Pre-Exascale LUMI Supercomputer

October 21, 2020

Not even a week after Nvidia announced that it would be providing hardware for the first four of the eight planned EuroHPC systems, HPE and AMD are announcing a Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPE to Build Australia’s Most Powerful Supercomputer for Pawsey

October 20, 2020

The Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth, Western Australia, has had a busy year. Pawsey typically spends much of its time looking to the stars, working with a Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DDN-Tintri Showcases Technology Integration with Two New Products

October 20, 2020

DDN, a long-time leader in HPC storage, announced two new products today and provided more detail around its strategy for integrating DDN HPC technologies with Read more…

By John Russell

Is the Nvidia A100 GPU Performance Worth a Hardware Upgrade?

October 16, 2020

Over the last decade, accelerators have seen an increasing rate of adoption in high-performance computing (HPC) platforms, and in the June 2020 Top500 list, eig Read more…

By Hartwig Anzt, Ahmad Abdelfattah and Jack Dongarra

Nvidia and EuroHPC Team for Four Supercomputers, Including Massive ‘Leonardo’ System

October 15, 2020

The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU) serves as Europe’s concerted supercomputing play, currently comprising 32 member states and billions of euros in funding. I Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer-Powered Research Uncovers Signs of ‘Bradykinin Storm’ That May Explain COVID-19 Symptoms

July 28, 2020

Doctors and medical researchers have struggled to pinpoint – let alone explain – the deluge of symptoms induced by COVID-19 infections in patients, and what Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia Said to Be Close on Arm Deal

August 3, 2020

GPU leader Nvidia Corp. is in talks to buy U.K. chip designer Arm from parent company Softbank, according to several reports over the weekend. If consummated Read more…

By George Leopold

Intel’s 7nm Slip Raises Questions About Ponte Vecchio GPU, Aurora Supercomputer

July 30, 2020

During its second-quarter earnings call, Intel announced a one-year delay of its 7nm process technology, which it says it will create an approximate six-month shift for its CPU product timing relative to prior expectations. The primary issue is a defect mode in the 7nm process that resulted in yield degradation... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Hires Longtime Intel Exec Bill Magro to Lead HPC Strategy

September 18, 2020

In a sign of the times, another prominent HPCer has made a move to a hyperscaler. Longtime Intel executive Bill Magro joined Google as chief technologist for hi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Keeps Cray Brand Promise, Reveals HPE Cray Supercomputing Line

August 4, 2020

The HPC community, ever-affectionate toward Cray and its eponymous founder, can breathe a (virtual) sigh of relief. The Cray brand will live on, encompassing th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

Aurora’s Troubles Move Frontier into Pole Exascale Position

October 1, 2020

Intel’s 7nm node delay has raised questions about the status of the Aurora supercomputer that was scheduled to be stood up at Argonne National Laboratory next year. Aurora was in the running to be the United States’ first exascale supercomputer although it was on a contemporaneous timeline with... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Is the Nvidia A100 GPU Performance Worth a Hardware Upgrade?

October 16, 2020

Over the last decade, accelerators have seen an increasing rate of adoption in high-performance computing (HPC) platforms, and in the June 2020 Top500 list, eig Read more…

By Hartwig Anzt, Ahmad Abdelfattah and Jack Dongarra

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

European Commission Declares €8 Billion Investment in Supercomputing

September 18, 2020

Just under two years ago, the European Commission formalized the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU): a concerted HPC effort (comprising 32 participating states at c Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia and EuroHPC Team for Four Supercomputers, Including Massive ‘Leonardo’ System

October 15, 2020

The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU) serves as Europe’s concerted supercomputing play, currently comprising 32 member states and billions of euros in funding. I Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Google Cloud Debuts 16-GPU Ampere A100 Instances

July 7, 2020

On the heels of the Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU launch in May, Google Cloud is announcing alpha availability of the A100 “Accelerator Optimized” VM A2 instance family on Google Compute Engine. The instances are powered by the HGX A100 16-GPU platform, which combines two HGX A100 8-GPU baseboards using... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft Azure Adds A100 GPU Instances for ‘Supercomputer-Class AI’ in the Cloud

August 19, 2020

Microsoft Azure continues to infuse its cloud platform with HPC- and AI-directed technologies. Today the cloud services purveyor announced a new virtual machine Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Powers Fugaku’s Storage, Scores IO500 Win

August 28, 2020

In June, RIKEN shook the supercomputing world with its Arm-based, Fujitsu-built juggernaut: Fugaku. The system, which weighs in at 415.5 Linpack petaflops, topp Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPE, AMD and EuroHPC Partner for Pre-Exascale LUMI Supercomputer

October 21, 2020

Not even a week after Nvidia announced that it would be providing hardware for the first four of the eight planned EuroHPC systems, HPE and AMD are announcing a Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DOD Orders Two AI-Focused Supercomputers from Liqid

August 24, 2020

The U.S. Department of Defense is making a big investment in data analytics and AI computing with the procurement of two HPC systems that will provide the High Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Oracle Cloud Deepens HPC Embrace with Launch of A100 Instances, Plans for Arm, More 

September 22, 2020

Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) continued its steady ramp-up of HPC capabilities today with a flurry of announcements. Topping the list is general availabilit Read more…

By John Russell

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