IBM Shows Off POWER and NVIDIA GPU Setting High Performance Record 

The record achievement used 60 Power processors and 120 GPU accelerators to shatter the previous supercomputer record, which used over a 700,000 processors. The results point to how dramatically the capabilities of high performance computing (HPC) has increase while the cost of HPC systems has declined. Or put another way: the effort demonstrates the ability of NVIDIA GPUs to simulate one billion cell models in a fraction of the time, while delivering 10x the performance and efficiency.

Courtesy of IBM: Takes a lot of processing to take you into a tornado

In short, the combined success of IBM and NVIDIA puts the power of cognitive computing within the reach of mainstream enterprise data centers. Specifically the project performed reservoir modeling to predict the flow of oil, water, and natural gas in the subsurface of the earth before they attempt to extract the maximum oil in the most efficient way. The effort, in this case, involved a billion-cell simulation, which took just 92 minutes using 30 for HPC servers equipped with 60 POWER processors and 120 NVIDIA Tesla P100 GPU accelerators.

“This calculation is a very salient demonstration of the computational capability and density of solution that GPUs offer. That speed lets reservoir engineers run more models and ‘what-if’ scenarios than previously,” according to Vincent Natoli, President of Stone Ridge Technology, as quoted in the IBM announcement. “By increasing compute performance and efficiency by more than an order of magnitude, we’re democratizing HPC for the reservoir simulation community,” he added.

“The milestone calculation illuminates the advantages of the IBM POWER architecture for data-intensive and cognitive workloads.” said Sumit Gupta, IBM Vice President, High Performance Computing, AI & Analytics in the IBM announcement. “By running Stone Ridge’s ECHELON on IBM Power Systems, users can achieve faster run-times using a fraction of the hardware.” Gupta continued. The previous record used more than 700,000 processors in a supercomputer installation that occupies nearly half a football field while Stone Ridge did this calculation on two racks of IBM Power Systems that could fit in the space of half a ping-pong table.”

This latest advance challenges perceived misconceptions that GPUs could not be efficient on complex application codes like reservoir simulation and are better suited to simple, more naturally parallel applications such as seismic imaging. The scale, speed, and efficiency of the reported result disprove this misconception. The milestone calculation with a relatively small server infrastructure enables small and medium-size oil and energy companies to take advantage of computer-based reservoir modeling and optimize production from their asset portfolio.

Billion cell simulations in the industry are rare in practice, but the calculation was accomplished to highlight the performance differences between new fully GPU-based codes like the ECHELON reservoir simulator and equivalent legacy CPU codes. ECHELON scales from the cluster to the workstation and while it can simulate a billion cells on 30 servers, it can also run smaller models on a single server or even on a single NVIDIA P100 board in a desktop workstation, the latter two use cases being more in the sweet spot for the energy industry, according to IBM.

As importantly, the company notes, this latest breakthrough showcases the ability of IBM Power Systems with NVIDIA GPUs to achieve similar performance leaps in other fields such as computational fluid dynamics, structural mechanics, climate modeling, and others that are widely used throughout the manufacturing and scientific community. By taking advantage of POWER and GPUs organizations can literally do more with less, which often is an executive’s impossible demand.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.


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