IBM: Software Ecosystem for OpenPOWER is Ready for Prime Time

By John Russell

April 16, 2018

With key pieces of the IBM/OpenPOWER versus Intel/x86 gambit settling into place – e.g., the arrival of Power9 chips and Power9-based systems, hyperscaler support including a vote of confidence from Google, firing up soon of the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility – Big Blue turned much of its attention to software portability and availability at the OpenPOWER Summit 2018, held last month in Las Vegas.

Chris Sullivan, assistant director for biocomputing, Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing (CGRB), Oregon State University, delivered the message in his keynote, Porting from x86 to OpenPOWER made easy. CGRB, though life sciences centric, serves the broader Oregon State research community and already had 4,000 tools and applications on its standard research x86 cluster before taking the Power plunge. “As we brought Power on we realized we need to do the same thing so we began this process with an undergraduate who I paid $10/hr. This is how easy it is to get this stuff to work. He sat for a month or two compiling the tools and he came up with about 2,000 programs in about two months,” said Sullivan with a bit of dramatic flair.

Readying the software ecosystem is an important step for IBM/OpenPOWER. The big change, of course, was IBM’s decision to expand support for Linux and the little endian format, first on Power8 and then on Power9. IBM had clung to support of big endian format even as Linux and little endian became the preferred approach in science computing. Sullivan said pointedly, “We really were not interested in talking about Power because of the fact that so many of the software packages were written in the context of little endian. [Support for little endian] is the fundamental reason why everybody would start moving to the Power platform.”

Wrangling over ‘endianness’ has been an interesting history. By way of background, this 2015 post[i] by Ron Gordon, a longtime IBMer who is now with consultant Mainline Information System, provides a snapshot of IBM’s thinking back then on little endian support and on targeting of Intel.

“Big Endian and Little Endian are data formats that define data in binary, with the most significant bits in the high order (Big Endian) or low order (Little Endian). Big Endian was the only data format for many years, supported by all systems and architectures. Then, x86 was “invented.” For some reason, they reversed the data bit order, and then we had Little Endian. As it turns out, only x86 is Little Endian but since x86 has the predominate market share, it is the most pervasive, at this time…

“Endianness only pertains to data and not instructions. Compilers of code reflect the Endianness of the application with LE (Little Endian) being the default for x86 compiles, and all others defaulting to BE (Big Endian). Power8 is an exception, in that compilers like XLC, GCC can accept a “compile to” definition of PPC or PPCLE. This would set the Endianness to BE or LE respectively. Now, when you boot a Linux distribution, the OS has to be LE to run LE compiled applications or BE to run BE compiled applications. In Power8, everything actually runs in BE mode, and when data is loaded or stored to memory, an LE application has its data bit structure “flipped” in the registers…so you are treating LE data correctly and transparently. Therefore, Power8 is bi-Endian. Power7 can only run in BE mode.”

IBM has since been working steadily and successfully to attract Linux distributors’ support.

Last November Red Hat announced of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.4 support for little endian on Power9: “…In recent months, we have seen interest from customers for solutions based on hardware designs that use IBM Power Little Endian (ppc64le) architecture. Several interesting designs focused on artificial intelligence, machine learning, and advanced analytics are being developed by OpenPOWER members using advanced system interconnect technologies and graphics processing unit (GPU)-aided computing. Because this architecture and the associated ecosystem is still evolving, we plan to continue our work with IBM and the OpenPOWER ecosystem to enable new and refreshed hardware.”

One early adopter of RHEL 7.4 for Power is the Summit supercomputer being installed at Oak Ridge; it’s expected to run five to 10 times faster than its predecessor (Titan). CGRB is a “big CentOS shop” according to Sullivan and also runs Ubuntu.

The end goal, of course, is to attract users such as Sullivan who want easy access to the sea of Linux applications and who also want to take advantage of Power8/9’s high performance, particularly its high-speed interconnect (NVlink, CAPI/OpenCAPI, PCIe 4.0). There are still a few rough spots in Power-Linux compatibility but they are exceptions said Sullivan who pointed a finger at Intel (an intermittent target throughout the OpenPOWER Summit):

  • “There are some problems. We noticed some of the x86 stuff had Intel inserted in the IDEs sse, sse2 memory stuff and the end users and developers had no idea that they were actually putting dependencies that were Intel specific into their code. We’ve been able to communicate to some of those groups and show them the impact because they won’t be able to take advantage of new technologies and they are going through recoding it and actually bringing their code in compliance with working across multiple architectures.”

Aaron Gardner, director of technology for BioTeam research computing consultancy, agreed IBM’s embrace of little endian has been an important step for Power.

“These days the vast majority of Linux on Power is little endian. The reason for this is the impact of not having to refactor code for big endian, especially en masse, makes porting fairly straightforward. For example Google is famous for saying before Power8 they were “struggling” to get their tools going on Power but with the little endian support everything was working within days,” said Gardner. “The thing to note around optimization is that Intel CPUs and compilers have had a heavy influence and presence in recent years. This has produced compiler optimizations and sometimes hand coded assembly routines in programs for memory access that are designed around little endian byte ordering—running Power little endian makes using this code tenable.”

“Regarding general portability, the path between Intel and AMD is fairly frictionless due to shared AMD64 instructions. I agree gcc and clang/llvm are common baselines now across Power, Intel, and AMD—and for most things it should not be difficult to get [them] working especially when autoconf, etc. are employed. For deeper optimizations there are always the Intel compilers as well as the IBM XL compilers. AMD’s free AOCC compiler is based on clang/llvm and until recently has offered little benefit over gcc or upstream clang—though it may offer more significant benefits in the future. IBM XL compilers use the same options as gcc, have improved their overall gcc compatibility, and is fronted by clang as well. This means in many cases these optimized compilers can be used to good effect with minimal rework. I would note that some moves, for example an Intel Fortran compiler optimized program being ported to Power and compiled with IBM’s XL Fortran compiler, will still be costly, but in general over the last 3-5 years the ecosystem has begun to play together much more nicely.”

Interestingly, said Gardner, the challenge moving forward is that many have moved away from compiling things themselves, and rely on third party or crowdsourced repositories. As examples of this trend, Gardner noted supercomputing centers moving to deploying modularized HPC applications using community packages through Conda, Spack, EasyBuild, etc. as opposed to building and optimizing everything themselves. “Indeed efforts to bring Power alongside Intel and AMD architectures in these community repositories is the next step to close the portability gap that remains,” said Gardner.

CGRB is an interesting proof point for IBM. Cost and performance are both drivers according to Sullivan. CGRB is a large heterogeneous environment, that runs roughly 20,000 jobs a day, has nearly 5,000 processors, more than four petabytes of useable redundant storage, and generates 4-9 terabytes of data per day from different groups. Data mining and data processing are among CGRB’s priorities.

“We have lots of machines with greater than a terabyte of RAM because that helps change the scope [of what we can do]. We have six Power8 systems and we are continuing to buy them because they’ve allowed us to increase the scope of data we include in analysis, both in terms of the number of threads and in terms of moving data across the bus,” said Sullivan. “The bus speeds are really what changes and transforms our ability to work. I have groups that go out and mine data from the oceans and generate 80 TB of data a week [and] I have a quarter petabyte of data or so coming from owl sounds in the forest. We have to try to reduce processing times from months to weeks otherwise. We also need to run multiple tools at the same time.”

Sullivan didn’t identify the interface researchers use to submit job but said the system has been architected so that “all the software is able to identify the architecture” and provide the correct environment variables. Users “can blindly submit jobs,” said Sullivan, adding higher throughput, is what drives lower cost and that it has also started researchers thinking how to better take advantage of the platform. Link to Sullivan’s keynote is below.

Link to Sullivan video: https://youtu.be/-hq8utGE-oU

[i]https://www.mainline.com/linux-on-power-to-be-or-not-to-be-why-should-i-care/

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!

How the United States Invests in Supercomputing

November 14, 2018

The CORAL supercomputers Summit and Sierra are now the world's fastest computers and are already contributing to science with early applications. Ahead of SC18, Maciej Chojnowski with ICM at the University of Warsaw discussed the details of the CORAL project with Dr. Dimitri Kusnezov from the U.S. Department of Energy. Read more…

By Maciej Chojnowski

At SC18: Humanitarianism Amid Boom Times for HPC

November 14, 2018

At SC18 in Dallas, the feeling on the ground is one of forward-looking buoyancy. Like boom times that cycle through the Texas oil fields, the HPC industry is enjoying a prosperity seen only every few decades, one driven Read more…

By Doug Black

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, produ Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

AI Can Be Scary. But Choosing the Wrong Partners Can Be Mortifying!

As you continue to dive deeper into AI, you will discover it is more than just deep learning. AI is an extremely complex set of machine learning, deep learning, reinforcement, and analytics algorithms with varying compute, storage, memory, and communications needs. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

From Deep Blue to Summit – 30 Years of Supercomputing Innovation

This week, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the SC conference, we are highlighting some of the most significant IBM contributions to supercomputing over the past 30 years. Read more…

New Panasas High Performance Storage Straddles Commercial-Traditional HPC

November 13, 2018

High performance storage vendor Panasas has launched a new version of its ActiveStor product line this morning featuring what the company said is the industry’s first plug-and-play, portable parallel file system that delivers up to 75 Gb/s per rack on industry standard hardware combined with “enterprise-grade reliability and manageability.” Read more…

By Doug Black

How the United States Invests in Supercomputing

November 14, 2018

The CORAL supercomputers Summit and Sierra are now the world's fastest computers and are already contributing to science with early applications. Ahead of SC18, Maciej Chojnowski with ICM at the University of Warsaw discussed the details of the CORAL project with Dr. Dimitri Kusnezov from the U.S. Department of Energy. Read more…

By Maciej Chojnowski

At SC18: Humanitarianism Amid Boom Times for HPC

November 14, 2018

At SC18 in Dallas, the feeling on the ground is one of forward-looking buoyancy. Like boom times that cycle through the Texas oil fields, the HPC industry is en Read more…

By Doug Black

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 Read more…

By John Russell

New Panasas High Performance Storage Straddles Commercial-Traditional HPC

November 13, 2018

High performance storage vendor Panasas has launched a new version of its ActiveStor product line this morning featuring what the company said is the industry’s first plug-and-play, portable parallel file system that delivers up to 75 Gb/s per rack on industry standard hardware combined with “enterprise-grade reliability and manageability.” Read more…

By Doug Black

SC18 Student Cluster Competition – Revealing the Field

November 13, 2018

It’s November again and we’re almost ready for the kick-off of one of the greatest computer sports events in the world – the SC Student Cluster Competitio Read more…

By Dan Olds

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

OpenACC Talks Up Summit and Community Momentum at SC18

November 12, 2018

OpenACC – the directives-based parallel programing model for optimizing applications on heterogeneous architectures – is showcasing user traction and HPC im Read more…

By John Russell

How ASCI Revolutionized the World of High-Performance Computing and Advanced Modeling and Simulation

November 9, 2018

The 1993 Supercomputing Conference was held in Portland, Oregon. That conference and it’s show floor provided a good snapshot of the uncertainty that U.S. supercomputing was facing in the early 1990s. Many of the companies exhibiting that year would soon be gone, either bankrupt or acquired by somebody else. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leading Solution Providers

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

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

HPE No. 1, IBM Surges, in ‘Bucking Bronco’ High Performance Server Market

September 27, 2018

Riding healthy U.S. and global economies, strong demand for AI-capable hardware and other tailwind trends, the high performance computing server market jumped 28 percent in the second quarter 2018 to $3.7 billion, up from $2.9 billion for the same period last year, according to industry analyst firm Hyperion Research. Read more…

By Doug Black

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

Germany Celebrates Launch of Two Fastest Supercomputers

September 26, 2018

The new high-performance computer SuperMUC-NG at the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Garching is the fastest computer in Germany and one of the fastest i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Houston to Field Massive, ‘Geophysically Configured’ Cloud Supercomputer

October 11, 2018

Based on some news stories out today, one might get the impression that the next system to crack number one on the Top500 would be an industrial oil and gas mon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Machine Learning “What-If” Analysis Tool

September 12, 2018

Training machine learning models has long been time-consuming process. Yesterday, Google released a “What-If Tool” for probing how data point changes affect a model’s prediction. The new tool is being launched as a new feature of the open source TensorBoard web application... Read more…

By John Russell

The Convergence of Big Data and Extreme-Scale HPC

August 31, 2018

As we are heading towards extreme-scale HPC coupled with data intensive analytics like machine learning, the necessary integration of big data and HPC is a curr Read more…

By Rob Farber

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