SC19: IBM Changes Its HPC-AI Game Plan

By John Russell

November 25, 2019

It’s probably fair to say IBM is known for big bets. Summit supercomputer – a big win. Red Hat acquisition – looking like a big win. OpenPOWER and Power processors – jury’s out? At SC19, long-time IBMer Dave Turek sketched out a different kind of bet for Big Blue – a small ball strategy, if you’ll forgive the baseball analogy – in which the idea isn’t to sell big machines or infrastructure packages (those’re welcome, of course). Instead, IBM is rolling out an effort to “supercharge” existing installed HPC infrastructures using IBM AI expertise in systems with small footprints (i.e. price tags).

The idea is simple. Deploy small Power-based systems, perhaps as small as a single node, that take in application data and operations data from the client’s infrastructure, run it through IBM’s AI software – Turek emphasizes IBM’s Bayesian engine (IBM Bayesian Optimization) – to speed up applications and deliver value fast and at low cost and little disruption.

Dave Turek, IBM

“Just to drive home the point of what our ambition is; [it] is to produce solutions that are minimally or zero disruptive on installed base, okay, just so that we can shrink that sale cycle and make life as easy as possible for whatever the client is and what they’re doing,” Turek told HPCwire at an SC19 briefing. One can imagine IBM introducing systems optimized for one or another domain (manufacturing, finance, EDA, security, IT systems management, etc.) that use AI to dramatically speed up tasks running on the host infrastructure. None were announced.

Indeed, there were no new major IBM system announcements or major Power10 processor updates at SC19. Summit (148.6 PF Rmax) and Sierra (94.6 PF Rmax), both IBM machines, retained their spots atop the Top500. Instead, there was a short ‘white’ paper on IBM’s forthcoming Bayesian software which IBM says can speed-up and improve accuracy for all manner of simulations. IBM, for example, used it to reduce the number of EDA simulations by 79 percent on Power10 microprocessor development task.

“What I’ve been saying that I’ve not made explicit is that the kind of transition I’ve characterized here is also an articulation of the emergence of organic innovation coming from inside IBM. That maybe [in the past] some people looked at AI and said, well, AI is all about Nvidia’s GPU and Mellanox networks and Google’s TensorFlow and stuff like that. Those are like table stakes, if you will. But it’s actually the stuff that we’re working on here, which has all the value. I can’t deploy Nvidia GPUs and give you an eight times speed-up painlessly, right? That’s going to be a big bill. But if I can deploy a small Power cluster, got a few GPUs in it, and make your applications run 20 times faster.”

This idea of taking client data and using various AI capabilities to turn it into actionable insight isn’t new at IBM. That was at least part of the core IBM Watson strategy. At SC18, Turek, whose title just changed to vice president of high performance and cognitive computing, IBM Cognitive Systems, outlined a similar idea. The most recent formulation seems a more concrete plan with specific products to follow. The IBO software, for example, is currently in beta and will be generally available in the June 2020 timeframe according to Turek.

It’s not the case that IBM is turning its back on major system business, said Turek. In the last year or so it has, for example had significant recent success in academia with “MIT, Princeton University, University of Miami, University of Tennessee, RPI, TU Dresden, etc.,” noted Turek. Summit and Sierra, of course, were giants DoE wins and there was some surprise IBM didn’t win at least one of the forthcoming exascale machines. Energy giant Total’s Power9-based Pangea (17.9 Linpack petaflops) is among the largest commercial systems in the world.

The challenge is such large systems deals are scarce and OpenPower systems and Power microprocessor sales have not caught fire. Building a new ecosystem and dethroning x86 turned out to be a formidable task. With the new strategy, basically every existing substantial infrastructure is a potential target. For starters, wrangling through tedious capital budget cycles won’t be necessary.

“What we’re trying to do strategically is get away from this rip and replace phenomenon that’s characterized HPC since the beginning of time, get away from the lag in time of what it takes to get capital approvals and site preparation, all that stuff,” said Turek.

IBM shared few technology details about the new initiative beyond its current Bayesian centricity. AI, of course, encompasses a variety of machine learning, deep learning, and broad analytics technologies. Leveraging these, for example, to improve traditional HPC tasks such as modeling and simulation is an area of intense work right now across the HPC community.

Broadly, Bayesian approaches use real-world results and experience to inform models. (The approach dates back to its inventor Thomas Bayes (c. 1701-1761). IBM is pitching Bayesian optimization techniques as bringing intelligence to simulation. The excerpt below is from IBM’s brief paper being promoted at SC19 which briefly discusses examples from EDA, drug discovery, and computational chemistry:

“[To] close the efficiency gaps with traditional search methodology, optimization algorithms are bringing intelligence to the design and deployment of computational experiments. Bayes equation, and the statistics behind that equation, provides guidance on the most probable parameter set to advance the exploration of the response function. Bayesian optimization answers the question “based on the limited information I have, what is the best thing for me to do next?”

As always the market will decide based on technology, value, and ease of use. For the HPC community the approach sounds a little too “black boxish” but perhaps not. Skirting lengthy often contentious processes to free up capital budgets is always a plus if the cost is sufficiently low. There’s also the hope/expectation for follow-on sales of more nodes and other required infrastructure, storage for example.

Here’s Turek’s boiled-down pitch:

“So the Bayesian approach is much better because you have the sequential information passing back and forth between the simulation and Bayesian methods that give you information to orchestrate the way the simulations are run. So we take a solution. It’s a small Power cluster. It’s got the Bayesian software on it. You have an existing, I don’t know, a Haswell cluster, a few years old, running simulations and because your last dose of capital from your enterprise was five years ago, you can’t get another bunch of money. What do you do?

“What we would do is bring in our cluster, put it in the datacenter, and bring up a database and give access to that database from both sides. So [a] simulation runs, it puts output parameters into the database. I know something’s arrived, I go and inspect that, my machine learning algorithms analyze that, and it makes recommendations of the input parameters. So next simulation, rinse and repeat. And as you progress through this, the Bayesian machine learning solution gets smarter and smarter and smarter. And you get to get to your end game quicker and quicker and quicker. So empirical results: In the chemical formula formulation problem (that he cited). They reduced the amount of compute by two thirds. In discovery for new drugs for disease, they reduced the compute by 95 percent.

“I put it in a four-node cluster adjacent to my 2,000-node cluster, and I make my 2,000-node cluster behave as if it was an 8,000-node cluster? How long do I have to think about this?”

Stay tuned.

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!

Focused on ‘Silicon TAM,’ Intel Puts Gary Patton, Former GlobalFoundries CTO, in Charge of Design Enablement

December 12, 2019

Change within Intel’s upper management – and to its company mission – has continued as a published report has disclosed that chip technology heavyweight Gary Patton, GlobalFoundries’ CTO and R&D SVP as well a Read more…

By Doug Black

Quantum Bits: Rigetti Debuts New Gates, D-Wave Cuts NEC Deal, AWS Jumps into the Quantum Pool

December 12, 2019

There’s been flurry of significant news in the quantum computing world. Yesterday, Rigetti introduced a new family of gates that reduces circuit depth required on some problems and D-Wave struck a deal with NEC to coll Read more…

By John Russell

How Formula 1 Used Cloud HPC to Build the Next Generation of Racing

December 12, 2019

Formula 1, Rob Smedley explained, is maybe the biggest racing spectacle in the world, with five hundred million fans tuning in for every race. Smedley, a chief engineer with Formula 1’s performance engineering and anal Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

RPI Powers Up ‘AiMOS’ AI Supercomputer

December 11, 2019

Designed to push the frontiers of computing chip and systems performance optimized for AI workloads, an 8 petaflops (Linpack) IBM Power9-based supercomputer has been unveiled in upstate New York that will be used by IBM Read more…

By Doug Black

At SC19: Developing a Digital Twin

December 11, 2019

In the not too distant future, we can expect to see our skies filled with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) delivering packages, maybe even people, from location to location. In such a world, there will also be a digital twin for each UAV in the fleet: a virtual model that will follow the UAV through its existence, evolving with time. Read more…

By Aaron Dubrow

AWS Solution Channel

Making High Performance Computing Affordable and Accessible for Small and Medium Businesses with HPC on AWS

High performance computing (HPC) brings a powerful set of tools to a broad range of industries, helping to drive innovation and boost revenue in finance, genomics, oil and gas extraction, and other fields. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

GPU Scheduling and Resource Accounting: The Key to an Efficient AI Data Center

[Connect with LSF users and learn new skills in the IBM Spectrum LSF User Community!]

GPUs are the new CPUs

GPUs have become a staple technology in modern HPC and AI data centers. Read more…

Supercomputers Help Predict Carbon Dioxide Levels

December 10, 2019

The Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems – its lands, forests, jungles and so on – are crucial “sinks” for atmospheric carbon, holding nearly 30 percent of our annual CO2 emissions as they breathe in the carbon-rich Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Focused on ‘Silicon TAM,’ Intel Puts Gary Patton, Former GlobalFoundries CTO, in Charge of Design Enablement

December 12, 2019

Change within Intel’s upper management – and to its company mission – has continued as a published report has disclosed that chip technology heavyweight G Read more…

By Doug Black

RPI Powers Up ‘AiMOS’ AI Supercomputer

December 11, 2019

Designed to push the frontiers of computing chip and systems performance optimized for AI workloads, an 8 petaflops (Linpack) IBM Power9-based supercomputer has Read more…

By Doug Black

At SC19: Developing a Digital Twin

December 11, 2019

In the not too distant future, we can expect to see our skies filled with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) delivering packages, maybe even people, from location to location. In such a world, there will also be a digital twin for each UAV in the fleet: a virtual model that will follow the UAV through its existence, evolving with time. Read more…

By Aaron Dubrow

Intel’s Jim Clarke on its New Cryo-controller and why Intel isn’t Late to the Quantum Party

December 9, 2019

Intel today introduced the ‘first-of-its-kind’ cryo-controller chip for quantum computing and previewed a cryo-prober tool for characterizing quantum proces Read more…

By John Russell

On the Spack Track @SC19

December 5, 2019

At the annual supercomputing conference, SC19 in Denver, Colorado, there were Spack events each day of the conference. As a reflection of its grassroots heritage, nine sessions were planned by more than a dozen thought leaders from seven organizations, including three U.S. national Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories and Sylabs... Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake

Intel’s New Hyderabad Design Center Targets Exascale Era Technologies

December 3, 2019

Intel's Raja Koduri was in India this week to help launch a new 300,000 square foot design and engineering center in Hyderabad, which will focus on advanced com Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AWS Debuts 7nm 2nd-Gen Graviton Arm Processor

December 3, 2019

The “x86 Big Bang,” in which market dominance of the venerable Intel CPU has exploded into fragments of processor options suited to varying workloads, has n Read more…

By Doug Black

Ride on the Wild Side – Squyres SC19 Mars Rovers Keynote

December 2, 2019

Reminding us of the deep and enabling connection between HPC and modern science is an important part of the SC Conference mission. And yes, HPC is a science its Read more…

By John Russell

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

DARPA Looks to Propel Parallelism

September 4, 2019

As Moore’s law runs out of steam, new programming approaches are being pursued with the goal of greater hardware performance with less coding. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency is launching a new programming effort aimed at leveraging the benefits of massive distributed parallelism with less sweat. Read more…

By George Leopold

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC19: IBM Changes Its HPC-AI Game Plan

November 25, 2019

It’s probably fair to say IBM is known for big bets. Summit supercomputer – a big win. Red Hat acquisition – looking like a big win. OpenPOWER and Power processors – jury’s out? At SC19, long-time IBMer Dave Turek sketched out a different kind of bet for Big Blue – a small ball strategy, if you’ll forgive the baseball analogy... Read more…

By John Russell

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Debuts New GPU – Ponte Vecchio – and Outlines Aspirations for oneAPI

November 17, 2019

Intel today revealed a few more details about its forthcoming Xe line of GPUs – the top SKU is named Ponte Vecchio and will be used in Aurora, the first plann Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

AMD
AMD
CEJN
CJEN
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
SIX NINES IT
SIX NINES IT
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL
WEKAIO
WEKAIO

Kubernetes, Containers and HPC

September 19, 2019

Software containers and Kubernetes are important tools for building, deploying, running and managing modern enterprise applications at scale and delivering enterprise software faster and more reliably to the end user — while using resources more efficiently and reducing costs. Read more…

By Daniel Gruber, Burak Yenier and Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud

Dell Ramps Up HPC Testing of AMD Rome Processors

October 21, 2019

Dell Technologies is wading deeper into the AMD-based systems market with a growing evaluation program for the latest Epyc (Rome) microprocessors from AMD. In a Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC19: Welcome to Denver

November 17, 2019

A significant swath of the HPC community has come to Denver for SC19, which began today (Sunday) with a rich technical program. As is customary, the ribbon cutt Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

When Dense Matrix Representations Beat Sparse

September 9, 2019

In our world filled with unintended consequences, it turns out that saving memory space to help deal with GPU limitations, knowing it introduces performance pen Read more…

By James Reinders

Cerebras to Supply DOE with Wafer-Scale AI Supercomputing Technology

September 17, 2019

Cerebras Systems, which debuted its wafer-scale AI silicon at Hot Chips last month, has entered into a multi-year partnership with Argonne National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as part of a larger collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

With the Help of HPC, Astronomers Prepare to Deflect a Real Asteroid

September 26, 2019

For years, NASA has been running simulations of asteroid impacts to understand the risks (and likelihoods) of asteroids colliding with Earth. Now, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are preparing for the next, crucial step in planetary defense against asteroid impacts: physically deflecting a real asteroid. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Jensen Huang’s SC19 – Fast Cars, a Strong Arm, and Aiming for the Cloud(s)

November 20, 2019

We’ve come to expect Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s annual SC keynote to contain stunning graphics and lively bravado (with plenty of examples) in support of GPU 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