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!

AI-Focused ‘Genius’ Supercomputer Installed at KU Leuven

April 24, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has deployed a new approximately half-petaflops supercomputer, named Genius, at Flemish research university KU Leuven. The system is built to run artificial intelligence (AI) workloads and, as Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Exascale System for Earth Simulation Introduced

April 23, 2018

After four years of development, the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) will be unveiled today and released to the broader scientific community this month. The E3SM project is supported by the Department of Energy Read more…

By Staff

RSC Reports 500Tflops, Hot Water Cooled System Deployed at JINR

April 18, 2018

RSC, developer of supercomputers and advanced HPC systems based in Russia, today reported deployment of “the world's first 100% ‘hot water’ liquid cooled supercomputer” at Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JI Read more…

By Staff

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Hybrid HPC is Speeding Time to Insight and Revolutionizing Medicine

High performance computing (HPC) is a key driver of success in many verticals today, and health and life science industries are extensively leveraging these capabilities. Read more…

New Device Spots Quantum Particle ‘Fingerprint’

April 18, 2018

Majorana particles have been observed by university researchers employing a device consisting of layers of magnetic insulators on a superconducting material. The advance opens the door to controlling the elusive particle Read more…

By George Leopold

AI-Focused ‘Genius’ Supercomputer Installed at KU Leuven

April 24, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has deployed a new approximately half-petaflops supercomputer, named Genius, at Flemish research university KU Leuven. The system is Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’ Read more…

By John Russell

IBM: Software Ecosystem for OpenPOWER is Ready for Prime Time

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 sup Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cloud-Readiness and Looking Beyond Application Scaling

April 11, 2018

There are two aspects to consider when determining if an application is suitable for running in the cloud. The first, which we will discuss here under the title Read more…

By Chris Downing

Transitioning from Big Data to Discovery: Data Management as a Keystone Analytics Strategy

April 9, 2018

The past 10-15 years has seen a stark rise in the density, size, and diversity of scientific data being generated in every scientific discipline in the world. Key among the sciences has been the explosion of laboratory technologies that generate large amounts of data in life-sciences and healthcare research. Large amounts of data are now being stored in very large storage name spaces, with little to no organization and a general unease about how to approach analyzing it. Read more…

By Ari Berman, BioTeam, Inc.

IBM Expands Quantum Computing Network

April 5, 2018

IBM is positioning itself as a first mover in establishing the era of commercial quantum computing. The company believes in order for quantum to work, taming qu Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

FY18 Budget & CORAL-2 – Exascale USA Continues to Move Ahead

April 2, 2018

It was not pretty. However, despite some twists and turns, the federal government’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget is complete and ended with some very positi Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

Leading Solution Providers

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC and AI – Two Communities Same Future

January 25, 2018

According to Al Gara (Intel Fellow, Data Center Group), high performance computing and artificial intelligence will increasingly intertwine as we transition to Read more…

By Rob Farber

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Te Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This