Posts Tagged ‘Power Systems’

Open POWER-Open Compute-POWER9 at Open Compute Summit

March 16, 2017

Bryan Talik, President, OpenPOWER Foundation provides a detailed rundown on the action at the Open Compute  Summit held last week in Santa Clara. After weeks of writing about Cognitive, Machine Learning, Blockchain, and even quantum computing, it is a nice shift to conventional computing platforms that should still be viewed as strategic initiatives.

The OpenPOWER, Open Compute gospel was filling the air in Santa Clara.  As reported, Andy Walsh, Xilinx Director of Strategic Market Development and OpenPOWER Foundation Board member explained, “We very much support open standards and the broad innovation they foster. Open Compute and OpenPOWER are catalysts in enabling new data center capabilities in computing, storage, and networking.”

Added Adam Smith, CEO of Alpha Data:  “Open standards and communities lead to rapid innovation…We are proud to support the latest advances of OpenPOWER accelerator technology featuring Xilinx FPGAs.”

John Zannos, Canonical OpenPOWER Board Chair chimed in: For 2017, the OpenPOWER Board approved four areas of focus that include machine learning/AI, database and analytics, cloud applications and containers. The strategy for 2017 also includes plans to extend OpenPOWER’s reach worldwide and promote technical innovations at various academic labs and in industry. Finally, the group plans to open additional application-oriented workgroups to further technical solutions that benefits specific application areas.

Not surprisingly, some members even see collaboration as the key to satisfying the performance demands that the computing market craves. “The computing industry is at an inflection point between conventional processing and specialized processing,” according to Aaron Sullivan, distinguished engineer at Rackspace. “

To satisfy this shift, Rackspace and Google announced an OCP-OpenPOWER server platform last year, codenamed Zaius and Barreleye G2.  It is based on POWER9. At the OCP Summit, both companies put on a public display of the two products.

This server platform promises to improve the performance, bandwidth, and power consumption demands for emerging applications that leverage machine learning, cognitive systems, real-time analytics and big data platforms. The OCP players plan to continue their work alongside Google, OpenPOWER, OpenCAPI, and other Zaius project members.

Andy Walsh, Xilinx Director of Strategic Market Development and OpenPOWER Foundation Board member explains: “We very much support open standards and the broad innovation they foster. Open Compute and OpenPOWER are catalysts in enabling new data center capabilities in computing, storage, and networking.”

This Zaius and Barreleye G@ server platforms promise to advance the performance, bandwidth and power consumption demands for emerging applications that leverage the latest advanced technologies. These latest technologies are none other than the strategic imperatives–cognitive, machine learning, real-time analytics–IBM has been repeating like a mantra for months.

Open Compute Projects also were displayed at the Summit. Specifically, as reported: Google and Rackspace, published the Zaius specification to Open Compute in October 2016, and had engineers to explain the specification process and to give attendees a starting point for their own server design.

Other Open Compute members, reportedly, also were there. Inventec showed a POWER9 OpenPOWER server based on the Zaius server specification. Mellanox showcased ConnectX-5, its next generation networking adaptor that features 100Gb/s Infiniband and Ethernet. This adaptor supports PCIe Gen4 and CAPI2.0, providing a higher performance and a coherent connection to the POWER9 processor vs. PCIe Gen3.

Others, reported by Talik, included Wistron and E4 Computing, which showcased their newly announced OCP-form factor POWER8 server. Featuring two POWER8 processors, four NVIDIA Tesla P100 GPUs with the NVLink interconnect, and liquid cooling, the new platform represents an ideal OCP-compliant HPC system.

Talik also reported IBM, Xilinx, and Alpha Data showed their line ups of several FPGA adaptors designed for both POWER8 and POWER9. Featuring PCIe Gen3, CAPI1.0 for POWER8 and PCIe Gen4, CAPI2.0 and 25G/s CAPI3.0 for POWER9 these new FPGAs bring acceleration to a whole new level. OpenPOWER member engineers were on-hand to provide information regarding the CAPI SNAP developer and programming framework as well as OpenCAPI.

Not to be left out, Talik reported that IBM showcased products it previously tested and demonstrated: POWER8-based OCP and OpenPOWER Barreleye servers running IBM’s Spectrum Scale software, a full-featured global parallel file system with roots in HPC and now widely adopted in commercial enterprises across all industries for data management at petabyte scale.  Guess compute platform isn’t quite the dirty phrase IBM has been implying for months.

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 technologywriter.com and here.

 

IBM Introduces First Universal Commercial Quantum Computers

March 9, 2017

A few years ago DancingDinosaur first encountered the possibility of quantum computing. It was presented as a real but distant possibility. This is not something I need to consider I thought at the time.  By the time it is available commercially I will be long retired and probably six feet under. Well, I was wrong.

This week IBM unveiled its IBM Q quantum systems. IBM Q will be leading Watson and blockchain to deliver the most advanced set of services on the IBM Cloud platform. There are organizations using it now, and DancingDinosaur continues to be living and working still.

IBM Quantum Computing scientists Hanhee Paik (left) and Sarah Sheldon (right) examine the hardware inside an open dilution fridge at the IBM Q Lab

As IBM explains: While technologies that currently run on classical (or conventional) computers, such as Watson, can help find patterns and insights buried in vast amounts of existing data, quantum computers will deliver solutions to multi-faceted problems where patterns cannot be seen because the data doesn’t exist and the possibilities that you need to explore are too enormous to ever be processed by conventional computers.

Just don’t retire your z or Power system in favor on an IBM Q yet. As IBM explained at a recent briefing on the quantum computing the IBM Q universal quantum computers will be able to do any type of problem that conventional computers do today. However, many of today’s workloads, like on-line transaction processing, data storage, and web serving will continue to run more efficiently on conventional systems. The most powerful quantum systems of the next decade will be a hybrid of quantum computers with conventional computers to control logic and operations on large amounts of data.

The most immediate use cases will involve molecular dynamics, drug design, and materials. The new quantum machine, for example, will allow the healthcare industry to design more effective drugs faster and at less cost and the chemical industry to develop new and improved materials.

Another familiar use case revolves around optimization in finance and manufacturing. The problem here comes down to computers struggling with optimization involving an exponential number of possibilities. Quantum systems, noted IBM, hold the promise of more accurately finding the most profitable investment portfolio in the financial industry, the most efficient use of resources in manufacturing, and optimal routes for logistics in the transportation and retail industries.

To refresh the basics of quantum computing.  The challenges invariably entail exponential scale. You start with 2 basic ideas; 1) the uncertainty principle, which states that attempting to observe a state in general disturbs it while obtaining only partial information about the state. Or 2) where two systems can exist in an entangled state, causing them to behave in ways that cannot be explained by supposing that each has some state of its own. No more zero or 1 only.

The basic unit of quantum computing is the qubit. Today IBM is making available a 5 qubit system, which is pretty small in the overall scheme of things. Large enough, however, to experiment and test some hypotheses; things start getting interesting at 20 qubits. An inflexion point, IBM researchers noted, occurs around 50 qubits. At 50-100 qubits people can begin to do some serious work.

This past week IBM announced three quantum computing advances: the release of a new API for the IBM Quantum Experience that enables developers and programmers to begin building interfaces between IBM’s existing 5 qubit cloud-based quantum computer and conventional computers, without needing a deep background in quantum physics. You can try the 5 qubit quantum system via IBM’s Quantum Experience on Bluemix here.

IBM also released an upgraded simulator on the IBM Quantum Experience that can model circuits with up to 20 qubits. In the first half of 2017, IBM plans to release a full SDK on the IBM Quantum Experience for users to build simple quantum applications and software programs. Only the publically available 5 qubit quantum system with a web-based graphical user interface now; soon to be upgraded to more qubits.

 IBM Research Frontiers Institute allows participants to explore applications for quantum computing in a consortium dedicated to making IBM’s most ambitious research available to its members.

Finally, the IBM Q Early Access Systems allows the purchase of access to a dedicated quantum system hosted and managed by IBM. Initial system is 15+ qubits, with a fast roadmap promised to 50+ qubits.

“IBM has invested over decades to growing the field of quantum computing and we are committed to expanding access to quantum systems and their powerful capabilities for the science and business communities,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president of Hybrid Cloud and director for IBM Research. “We believe that quantum computing promises to be the next major technology that has the potential to drive a new era of innovation across industries.”

Are you ready for quantum computing? Try it today on IBM’s Quantum Experience through Bluemix. Let me know how it works for you.

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 technologywriter.com and here.

IBM Launches New IoT Collaborative Initiative

February 23, 2017

Collaboration partners can pull hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue from IoT, according to IBM’s recent IoT announcement. Having reached what it describes as a tipping point with IoT innovation the company now boasts of having over 6,000 clients and partners around the world, many of whom are now wanting to join in its new global Watson IoT center to co-innovate. Already Avnet, BNP Paribas, Capgemini, and Tech Mahindra will collocate development teams at the IBM Munich center to work on IoT collaborations.

new-ibm-watson-iot-center

IBM Opens New Global Center for Watson IoT

The IBM center also will act as an innovation space for the European IoT standards organization EEBus.  The plan, according to Harriet Green, General Manager, IBM Watson IoT, Cognitive Engagement and Education (pictured above left), calls for building a new global IoT innovation ecosystem that will explore how cognitive and IoT technologies will transform industries and our daily lives.

IoT and more recently cognitive are naturals for the z System, and POWER Systems have been the platform for natural language processing and cognitive since Watson won Jeopardy three years ago. With the latest enhancements IBM has brought to the z in the form of on-premises cognitive and machine learning the z should assume an important role as it gathers, stores, collects, and processes IoT data for cognitive analysis. DancingDinosaur first reported on this late in 2014 and again just last week. As IoT and cognitive workloads ramp up on z don’t be surprised to see monthly workload charges rise.

Late last year IBM announced that car maker BMW will collocate part of its research and development operations at IBM’s new Watson IoT center to help reimagine the driving experience. Now, IBM is announcing four more companies that have signed up to join its special industry “collaboratories” where clients and partners work together with 1,000 Munich-based IBM IoT experts to tap into the latest design thinking and push the boundaries of the possible with IoT.

Let’s look at the four newest participants starting with Avnet. According to IBM, an IT distributor and global IBM partner, Avnet will open a new joint IoT Lab within IBM’s Watson IoT HQ to develop, build, demonstrate and sell IoT solutions powered by IBM Watson. Working closely with IBM’s leading technologists and IoT experts, Avnet also plans to enhance its IoT technical expertise through hands-on training and on-the-job learning. Avnet’s team of IoT and analytics experts will also partner with IBM on joint business development opportunities across multiple industries including smart buildings, smart homes, industry, transportation, medical, and consumer.

As reported by BNP Paribas, Consorsbank, its retail digital bank in Germany, will partner with IBM´s new Watson IoT Center. The company will collocate a team of solution architects, developers and business development personnel at the Watson facility. Together with IBM’s experts, they will explore how IoT and cognitive technologies can drive transformation in the banking industry and help innovate new financial products and services, such as investment advice.

Similarly, global IT consulting and technology services provider Capgemini will collocate a team of cognitive IoT experts at the Watson center. Together they will help customers maximize the potential of Industry 4.0 and develop and take to market sector-specific cognitive IoT solutions. Capgemini plans a close link between its Munich Applied Innovation Exchange and IBM’s new Customer Experience zones to collaborate with clients in an interactive environment.

Finally, the Indian multinational provider of enterprise and communications IT and networking technology Tech Mahindra, is one of IBM’s Global System Integrators with over 3,000 specialists focused on IBM technology around the world. The company will locate a team of six developers and engineers within the Watson IoT HQ to help deliver on Tech Mahindra’s vision of generating substantial new revenue based on IBM’s Watson IoT platform. Tech Mahindra will use the center to co-create and showcase new solutions based on IBM’s Watson IoT platform for Industry 4.0 and Manufacturing, Precision Farming, Healthcare, Insurance and Banking, and automotive.

To facilitate connecting the z to IoT IBM offers a simple recipe. It requires 4 basic ingredients and 4 steps: Texas Instrument’s SensorTag, a Bluemix account, IBM z/OS Connect Enterprise Edition, and a back-end service like CICS.  Start by exposing an existing z Systems application as a RESTful AP. This is where the z/OS Connect Edition comes in.  Then enable your SensorTag device to Watson IoT Quick Start. From there connect the Cloud to your on-premises Hybrid Cloud.  Finally, enable the published IoT data to trigger a RESTful API. Sounds pretty straightforward but—full disclosure—Dancing Dinosaur has not tried it due to lacking the necessary pieces. If you try it, please tell DancingDinosaur how it works (info@radding.net). Good luck.

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 technologywriter.com and here.

 

IBM Cheers Beating Estimates But Losing Streak Continues

January 26, 2017

It has been 19 quarters since IBM reported positive revenue in its quarterly reports but the noises coming out of IBM with the latest 4Q16 and full year 2016 financials are upbeat due to the company beating analyst consensus revenue estimates and its strategic initiatives are starting to generate serious revenue.   Although systems revenues were down again (12%) the accountants at least had something positive to say about the z: “gross profit margins improved driven by z Systems performance.”

ezsource-dashboard

EZSource: Dashboard visualizes changes to mainframe code

IBM doesn’t detail which z models were contributing but you can guess they would be the LinuxONE models (Emperor and Rock Hopper) and the z13. DancingDinosaur expects z performance to improve significantly in 2017 when a new z, which had been heavily hinted in the 3Q2016 results reported here, is expected to ship.

With it latest financials IBM is outright crowing about its strategic initiatives: Fourth-quarter cloud revenues increased 33 percent.  The annual exit run rate for cloud as-a-service revenue increased to $8.6 billion from $5.3 billion at year-end 2015.  Revenues from analytics increased 9 percent.  Revenues from mobile increased 16 percent and revenues from security increased 7 percent.

For the full year, revenues from strategic imperatives increased 13 percent.  Cloud revenues increased 35 percent to $13.7 billion.  The annual exit run rate for cloud as-a-service revenue increased 61 percent year to year.  Revenues from analytics increased 9 percent.  Revenues from mobile increased 34 percent and from security increased 13 percent.

Of course, cognitive computing is IBM’s strategic imperative darling for the moment, followed by blockchain. Cognitive, for which IBM appears to use an expansive definition, is primarily a cloud play as far as IBM is concerned.  There is, however, a specific role for the z, which DancingDinosaur will get into in a later post. Blockchain, on the other hand, should be a natural z play.  It is, essentially, extremely secure OLTP on steroids.  As blockchain scales up it is a natural to drive z workloads.

As far as IBM’s financials go the strategic imperatives indeed are doing well. Other business units, however, continue to struggle.  For instance:

  • Global Business Services (includes consulting, global process services and application management) — revenues of $4.1 billion, down 4.1 percent.
  • Systems (includes systems hardware and operating systems software), remember, this is where z and Power platforms reside — revenues of $2.5 billion, down 12.5 percent. But as noted above, gross profit margins improved, driven by z Systems performance.
  • Global Financing (includes financing and used equipment sales) — revenues of $447 million, down 1.5 percent.

A couple of decades ago, when this blogger first started covering IBM and the mainframe as a freelancer writing for any technology publication that would pay real money IBM was struggling (if $100 billion behemoths can be thought to be struggling). The buzz among the financial analysts who followed the company was that IBM should be broken up into its parts and sold off.  IBM didn’t take that advice, at least not exactly, but it did begin a rebound that included laying off tons of people and the sale of some assets. Since then it invested heavily in things like Linux on z and open systems.

In December IBM SVP Tom Rosamilia talked about new investments in z/OS and z software like DB2 and CICS and IMS, and the best your blogger can tell he is still there. (Rumors suggest Rosamilia is angling for Rometty’s job in two years.)  If the new z does actually arrive in 2017 and key z software is refreshed then z shops can rest easy, at least for another few quarters.  But whatever happens, you can follow it here.

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 technologywriter.com and here.

 

IBM Introduces New DS8880 All-Flash Arrays

January 13, 2017

Yesterday IBM introduced three new members of the DS8000 line, each an all-flash product.  The new, all-flash storage products are designed for midrange and large enterprises, where high availability, continuous up-time, and performance are critical.

ibm-flash-ds8888-mainframe-ficon

IBM envisions these boxes for more than the z’s core OLTP workloads. According to the company, they are built to provide the speed and reliability needed for workloads ranging from enterprise resource planning (ERP) and financial transactions to cognitive applications like machine learning and natural language processing. The solutions are designed to support cognitive workloads, which can be used to uncover trends and patterns that help improve decision-making, customer service, and ROI. ERP and financial transactions certainly constitute conventional OLTP but the cognitive workloads are more analytical and predictive.

The three products:

  • IBM DS8884 F
  • IBM DS8886 F
  • IBM DS8888 F

The F signifies all-flash.  Each was designed with High-Performance Flash Enclosures Gen2. IBM did not just slap flash into existing hard drive enclosures.  Rather, it reports undertaking a complete redesign of the flash-to-z interaction. As IBM puts it: through deep integration between the flash and the z, IBM has embedded software that facilitates data protection, remote replication, and optimization for midrange and large enterprises. The resulting new microcode is ideal for cognitive workloads on z and Power Systems requiring the highest availability and system reliability possible. IBM promises that the boxes will deliver superior performance and uncompromised availability for business-critical workloads. In short, fast enough to catch bad guys before they leave the cash register or teller window. Specifically:

  • The IBM DS8884 F—labelled as the business class offering–boasts the lowest entry cost for midrange enterprises (prices starting at $90,000 USD). It runs an IBM Power Systems S822, which is a 6-core POWER8 processor per S822 with 256 GB Cache (DRAM), 32 Fibre channel/FICON ports, and 6.4 – 154 TB of flash capacity.
  • The IBM DS8886 F—the enterprise class offering for large organizations seeking high performance– sports a 24-core POWER8 processor per S824. It offers 2 TB Cache (DRAM), 128 Fibre channel/FICON ports, and 6.4 – 614.4 TB of flash capacity. That’s over one-half petabyte of high performance flash storage.
  • The IBM DS8888 F—labelled an analytics class offering—promises the highest performance for faster insights. It runs on the IBM Power Systems E850 with a 48-core POWER8 processor per E850. It also comes with 2 TB Cache (DRAM), 128 Fibre channel/FICON ports, and 6.4TB – 1.22 PB of flash capacity. Guess crossing the petabyte level qualifies it as an analytics and cognitive device along with the bigger processor complex

As IBM emphasized in the initial briefing, it engineered these storage devices to surpass the typical big flash storage box. For starters, IBM bypassed the device adapter to connect the z directly to the high performance storage controller. IBM’s goal was to reduce latency and optimize all-flash storage, not just navigate a simple replacement by swapping new flash for ordinary flash or, banish the thought, HDD.

“We optimized the data path,” explained Jeff Barber IBM systems VP for HE Storage BLE (DS8, DP&R and SAN). To that end, IBM switched from a 1u to a 4u enclosure, runs on shared-nothing clusters, and boosted throughput performance. The resulting storage, he added, “does database better than anyone; we can run real-time analytics.”  The typical analytics system—a shared system running Hadoop, won’t even come close to these systems, he added. With the DS8888, you can deploy a real-time cognitive cluster with minimal latency flash.

DancingDinosaur always appreciates hearing from actual users. Working through a network of offices, supported by a team of over 850 people, Health Insurance Institute of Slovenia (Zavod za zdravstveno zavarovanje Slovenije), provides health insurance to approximately two million customers. In order to successfully manage its new customer-facing applications (such as electronic ordering processing and electronic receipts) its storage system required additional capacity and performance. After completing research on solutions capable of managing these applications –which included both Hitachi and EMC –the organization deployed the IBM DS8886 along with DB2 for z/OS data server software to provide an integrated data backup and restore system. (Full disclosure: DancingDinosaur has not verified this customer story.)

“As long-time users of IBM storage infrastructure and mainframes, our upgrade to the IBM DS8000 with IBM business partner Comparex was an easy choice. Since then, its high performance and reliability have led us to continually deploy newer DS8000 models as new features and functions have provided us new opportunities,” said Bojan Fele, CIO of Health Insurance Institute of Slovenia. “Our DS8000 implementation has improved our reporting capabilities by reducing time to actionable insights. Furthermore, it has increased employee productivity, ensuring we can better serve our clients.”

For full details and specs on these products, click here

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 technologywriter.com and here.

 

z System-Power-Storage Still Live at IBM

January 5, 2017

A mid-December briefing by Tom Rosamilia, SVP, IBM Systems, reassured some that IBM wasn’t putting its systems and platforms on the backburner after racking up financial quarterly losses for years. Expect new IBM systems in 2017. A few days later IBM announced that Japan-based APLUS Co., Ltd., which operates credit card and settlement service businesses, selected IBM LinuxONE as its mission-critical system for credit card payment processing. Hooray!

linuxone-emperor-2

LinuxONE’s security and industry-leading performance will ensure APLUS achieves its operational objectives as online commerce heats up and companies rely on cloud applications to draw and retain customers. Especially in Japan, where online and mobile shopping has become increasingly popular, the use of credit cards has grown, with more than 66 percent of consumers choosing that method for conducting online transactions. And with 80 percent enterprise hybrid cloud adoption predicted by 2017, APLUS is well positioned to connect cloud transactions leveraging LinuxONE. Throw in IBM’s expansion of blockchain capabilities and the APLUS move looks even smarter.

With the growth of international visitors spending money, IBM notes, and the emergence of FinTech firms in Japan have led to a diversification of payment methods the local financial industry struggles to respond. APLUS, which issues well-known credit cards such as T Card Plus, plans to offer leading-edge financial services by merging groups to achieve lean operations and improved productivity and efficiency. Choosing to update its credit card payment system with LinuxONE infrastructure, APLUS will benefit from an advanced IT environment to support its business growth by helping provide near-constant uptime. In addition to updating its server architecture, APLUS has deployed IBM storage to manage mission-critical data, the IBM DS8880 mainframe-attached storage that delivers integration with IBM z Systems and LinuxONE environments.

LinuxONE, however, was one part of the IBM Systems story Rosamilia set out to tell.  There also is the z13s, for encrypted hybrid clouds and the z/OS platform for Apache Spark data analytics and even more secure cloud services via blockchain on LinuxONE, by way of Bluemix or on premises.

z/OS will get attention in 2017 too. “z/OS is the best damn OLTP system in the world,” declared Rosamilia. He went on to imply that enhancements and upgrades to key z systems were coming in 2017, especially CICS, IMS, and a new release of DB2. Watch for new announcements coming soon as IBM tries to push z platform performance and capacity for z/OS and OLTP.

Rosamilia also talked up the POWER story. Specifically, Google and Rackspace have been developing OpenPOWER systems for the Open Compute Project.  New POWER LC servers running POWER8 and the NVIDIA NVLink accelerator, more innovations through the OpenCAPI Consortium, and the team of IBM and Nvidia to deliver PowerAI, part of IBM’s cognitive efforts.

As much as Rosamilia may have wanted to talk about platforms and systems IBM continues to avoid using terms like systems and platforms. So Rosamilia’s real intent was to discuss z and Power in conjunction with IBM’s strategic initiatives.  Remember these: cloud, big data, mobile, analytics. Lately, it seems, those initiatives have been culled down to cloud, hybrid cloud, and cognitive systems.

IBM’s current message is that IT innovation no longer comes from just the processor. Instead, it comes through scaling performance by workload and sustaining leadership through ecosystem partnerships.  We’ve already seen some of the fruits of that innovation through the Power community. Would be nice to see some of that coming to the z too, maybe through the open mainframe project. But that isn’t about z/0S. Any boost in CICS, DB2, and IMS will have to come from the core z team. The open mainframe project is about Linux on z.

The first glimpse we had of this came last spring in a system dubbed Minsky, which was described back then by commentator Timothy Prickett Morgan. With the Minsky machine, IBM is using NVLink ports on the updated Power8 CPU, which was shown in April at the OpenPower Summit and is making its debut in systems actually manufactured by ODM Wistron and rebadged, sold, and supported by IBM. The NVLink ports are bundled up in a quad to deliver 80 GB/sec bandwidth between a pair of GPUs and between each GPU and the updated Power8 CPU.

The IBM version, Morgan describes, aims to create a very brawny node with very tight coupling of GPUs and CPUs so they can better share memory, have fewer overall GPUs, and more bandwidth between the compute elements. IBM is aiming Minsky at HPC workloads, according to Morgan, but there is no reason it cannot be used for deep learning or even accelerated databases.

Is this where today’s z data center managers want to go?  No one is likely to spurn more performance, especially if it is accompanied with a price/performance improvement.  Whether rank-and-file z data centers are queueing up for AI or cognitive workloads will have to be seen. The sheer volume and scale of expected activity, however, will require some form of automated intelligent assist.

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 technologywriter.com and here

IBM Power System S822LC for HPC Beat Sort Record by 3.3x

November 17, 2016

The new IBM Power System S822LC for High Performance Computing servers set a new benchmark for sorting by taking less than 99 seconds (98.8 seconds) to finish sorting 100 terabytes of data in the Indy GraySort category, improving on last year’s best result, 329 seconds, by a factor of 3.3. The win proved a victory not only for the S822LC but for the entire OpenPOWER community. The team of Tencent, IBM, and Mellanox has been named the Winner of the Sort Benchmark annual global computing competition for 2016.

rack-of-new-ibm-power-systems-s822lc-for-high-performance-computing-servers-1Power System S822LC for HPC

Specifically, the machine, an IBM Power S822LC for High Performance Computing (HPC), features NVIDIA NVLink technology optimized for the Power architecture and NVIDIA’s latest GPU technology. The new system supports emerging computing methods of artificial intelligence, particularly deep learning. The combination, newly dubbed IBM PowerAI, provides a continued path for Watson, IBM’s cognitive solutions platform, to extend its artificial intelligence expertise in the enterprise by using several deep learning methods to train Watson.

Actually Tencent Cloud Data Intelligence (the distributed computing platform of Tencent Cloud) won each category in both the GraySort and MinuteSort benchmarks, establishing four new world records with its performance, outperforming the 2015 best speeds by 2-5x. Said Zeus Jiang, Vice President of Tencent Cloud and General Manager of Tencent’s Data Platform Department: “In the future, the ability to manage big data will be the foundation of successful Internet businesses.”

To get this level of performance Tencent runs 512 IBM OpenPOWER LC servers and Mellanox’100Gb interconnect technology, improving the performance of Tencent Cloud big data products with the infrastructure. Online prices for the S822LC starts at about $9600 for 2-socket, 2U with up to 20 cores (2.9-3.3Ghz), 1 TB memory (32 DIMMs), 230 GB/sec sustained memory bandwidth, 2x SFF (HDD/SSD), 2 TB storage, 5 PCIe slots, 4 CAPI enabled, up to 2 NVidia K80 GPU. Be sure to shop for volume discounts.

The 2016 Sort Benchmark Results below (apologies in advance if this table breaks apart)

Sort Benchmark Competition 20 Records (Tencent Cloud ) 2015 World Records 2016 Improvement
Daytona GraySort 44.8 TB/min 15.9 TB/min 2.8X greater performance
Indy GraySort 60.7 TB/min 18.2 TB/min 3.3X greater performance
Daytona MinuteSort 37 TB/min 7.7 TB/min 4.8X greater performance
Indy MinuteSort 55 TB/min 11 TB/min 5X greater performance

Pretty impressive, huh. As IBM explains it: Tencent Cloud used 512 IBM OpenPOWER servers and Mellanox’100Gb interconnect technology, improving the performance of Tencent Cloud big data products with the infrastructure. Then Tom Rosamilia, IBM Senior VP weighed in: “Industry leaders like Tencent are helping IBM and our OpenPOWER partners push performance boundaries for a cognitive era defined by big data and advanced analytics.” The computing record achieved by Tencent Cloud on OpenPOWER turned out to be an important milestone for the OpenPOWER Foundation too.

Added Amir Prescher, Sr. Vice President, Business Development, at Mellanox Technologies: “Real-time-analytics and big data environments are extremely demanding, and the network is critical in linking together the extra high performance of IBM POWER-based servers and Tencent Cloud’s massive amounts of data,” In effect, Tencent Cloud developed an optimized hardware/software platform to achieve new computing records while demonstrating that Mellanox’s 100Gb/s Ethernet technology can deliver total infrastructure efficiency and improve application performance, which should make it a favorite for big data applications.

Behind all of this was the new IBM Power System S822LC for High Performance Computing servers. Currently the servers feature a new IBM POWER8 chip designed for demanding workloads including artificial intelligence, deep learning and advanced analytics.  However, a new POWER9 chips has already been previewed and is expected next year.  Whatever the S822LC can do running POWER8 just imagine how much more it will do running POWER9, which IBM describes as a premier acceleration platform. DancingDinosaur covered POWER9 in early Sept. here.

To capitalize on the hardware, IBM is making a new deep learning software toolkit available, PowerAI, which runs on the recently announced IBM Power S822LC server built for artificial intelligence that features NVIDIA NVLink interconnect technology optimized for IBM’s Power architecture. The hardware-software combination provides more than 2X performance over comparable servers with 4 GPUs running AlexNet with Caffe. The same 4-GPU Power-based configuration running AlexNet with BVLC Caffe can also outperform 8 M40 GPU-based x86 configurations, making it the world’s fastest commercially available enterprise systems platform on two versions of a key deep learning framework.

Deep learning is a fast growing, machine learning method that extracts information by crunching through millions of pieces of data to detect and ranks the most important aspects of the data. Publicly supported among leading consumer web and mobile application companies, deep learning is quickly being adopted by more traditional enterprises across a wide range of industry sectors; in banking to advance fraud detection through facial recognition; in automotive for self-driving automobiles; and in retail for fully automated call centers with computers that can better understand speech and answer questions. Is your data center ready for deep learning?

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 technologywriter.com and here.

 

 

Can SDS and Flash Resurrect IBM Storage?

November 4, 2016

As part of IBM’s ongoing string of quarterly losses storage has consistently contributed to the red ink, but the company is betting on cloud storage, all-flash strategy, and software defined storage (SDS) to turn things around. Any turn-around, however, is closely tied to the success of IBM’s strategic imperatives, which have emerged as bright spots amid the continuing quarterly losses; especially cloud, analytics, and cognitive computing.

climate-data-requires-fast-access-1

Climate study needs large amounts of fast data access

As a result, IBM needs to respond to two challenges created by its customers: 1) changes like the increased adoption of cloud, analytics, and most recently cognitive computing and 2) the need by customers to reduce the cost of the IT infrastructure. The problem as IBM sees it is this: How do I simultaneously optimize the traditional application infrastructure and free up money to invest in a new generation application infrastructure, especially if I expect move forward into the cognitive era at some point? IBM’s answer is to invest in flash and SDS.

A few years ago DancingDinosaur was skeptical, for example, that flash deployment would lower storage costs except in situations where low cost IOPS was critical. Today between the falling cost of flash and new ways to deploy increasingly cheaper flash DancingDinosaur now believes Flash storage can save IT real money.

According to the Evaluator Group and cited by IBM, flash and hybrid cloud technologies are dramatically changing the way companies deploy storage and design applications. As new applications are created–often for mobile or distributed access–the ability to store data in the right place, on the right media, and with the right access capability will become even more important.

In response, companies are adding cloud to lower costs, flash to increase performance, and SDS to add flexibility. IBM is integrating these capabilities together with security and data management for faster return on investment.  Completing the IBM pitch, the company offers choice among on-premise storage, SDS, or storage as a cloud service.

In an announcement earlier this week IBM introduced six products:

  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize 7.8 with transparent cloud tiering
  • IBM Spectrum Scale 4.2.2 with cloud data sharing
  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize family flash enhancements
  • IBM Storwize family upgrades
  • IBM DS8880 High Performance Flash Enclosure Gen2
  • IBM DeepFlash Elastic Storage Server
  • VersaStack—a joint IBM-Cisco initiative

In short, these announcements address Hybrid Cloud enablement, as a standard feature for new and existing users of Spectrum Virtualize to enable data sharing to the cloud through Spectrum Scale, which can sync file and object data across on-premises and cloud storage to connect cloud native applications. Plus, more high density, highly scalable all-flash storage now sports a new high density expansion enclosure that includes new 7TB and 15TB flash drives.

IBM Storwize, too, is included, now able to grow up to 8x larger than previously without disruption. That means up to 32PB of flash storage in only four racks to meet the needs of fast-growing cloud workloads in space-constrained data centers. Similarly, IBM’s new DeepFlash Elastic Storage Server (ESS) offers up to 8x better performance than HDD-based solutions for big data and analytics workloads. Built with IBM Spectrum Scale ESS includes virtually unlimited scaling, enterprise security features, and unified file, object, and HDFS support.

The z can play in this party too. IBM’s DS8888 now delivers 2x better performance and 3x more efficient use of rack space for mission-critical applications such as credit card and banking transactions as well as airline reservations running on IBM’s z System or IBM Power Systems. DancingDinosaur first reported on the all flash z, the DS8888, when it was introduced last May.

Finally hybrid cloud enablement for existing and new on-premises storage enhancements through IBM Spectrum Virtualize, which brings hybrid cloud capabilities for block storage to the Storwize family, FlashSystem V9000, SVC, and VersaStack, the IBM-Cisco collaboration.

Behind every SDS deployment lies some actual physical storage of some type. Many opt for generic, low cost white box storage to save money.  As part of IBM’s latest SDS offerings you can choose among any of nearly 400 storage systems from IBM and others. Doubt any of those others are white box products but at least they give you some non-IBM options to potentially lower your storage costs.

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

 

IBM 3Q16 Results Telegraph a New z System in 2017

October 27, 2016

DancingDinosaur usually doesn’t like to read too much into the statements of IBM suits at financial briefings. This has been especially true since IBM introduced a new presentation format this year to downplay its platform business and emphasize its strategic imperatives. (Disclaimer: DancingDinosaur is NOT a financial analyst but a technology analyst.)

But this quarter the CFO said flat out: “Our z Systems results reflect a product cycle dynamic, seven quarters into the z13 cycle; revenue was down while margins continue to expand. We continue to add new clients to the platform and we are introducing new technologies like block chain. We announced new services to make it easier to build and test block chain networks in a secure environment as we build our block chain platform it’s been engineered to run on multiple platforms but is optimized for scale, security and resilience on both the IBM mainframe and the IBM cloud.”

linuxone-emperorLinuxONE Emperor

If you parse the first sentence–reflect a product cycle dynamic–he is not too subtly hinting that IBM needs a z System refresh if they want to stop the financial losses with z. You don’t have to be a genius to expect a new z, probably the z14, in 2017. Pictured above is the LinuxONE Emperor, a z optimized to run Linux. The same suit said “We’ve been shifting our platform to address Linux, and in the third quarter Linux grew at a double digit rate, faster than the market.” So based on that we can probably guess that the z14 (or whatever it will be called) will run z/OS, followed shortly by a LinuxONE version to further expand the z System’s Linux footprint.

Timothy Prickett Morgan picked that up too and more. He expects a z14 processor complex will be announced next year around the same time that the Power9 chip ships. In both cases, Power and z customers who can wait will wait, or, if they are smart, will demand very steep discounts on current Power8 hardware to make up for the price/performance improvements that are sure to accompany the upcoming Power9 and z machines.

When it comes to revenue 3Q16 was at best flat, but actually was down again overall. The bright spot again was IBM’s strategic imperatives. As the suit stated: in total, we continue to deliver double-digit revenue growth in our strategic imperatives led by our cloud business. Specifically, cognitive solutions were up 5% and, within that, solution software was up 8%.

Overall, growth in IBM’s strategic imperatives rose 15%. Over the last 12 months, strategic imperatives delivered nearly $32 billion in revenue and now represent 40% of IBM. The suit also emphasized strong performance in IBM’s cloud offerings which increased over 40%, led by the company’s as-a-service offerings. IBM ended the third quarter with an as-a-service run rate of $7.5 billion, up from $6.7 billion last quarter. Most of that was attributed to organic growth, not acquisitions. Also strong was IBM’s revenue performance in security and mobile. In addition, the company experienced growth in its analytic offerings, up 14% this quarter with contributions from the core analytics platform, especially the Watson platform, Watson Health, and Watson IoT.

IBM apparently is convinced that cognitive computing, defined as using data and adding intelligence into products and services to help companies make better decisions, is the wave of the future. As the company sees it, real value lies in providing cognitive capabilities via the IBM cloud. A critical element of its strategy is IBM’s industry focus. Initially industry platforms will address two substantial opportunity areas, financial services and block chain solutions. You can probably add healthcare too.

Blockchain may emerge as the sleeper, although DancingDinosaur has long been convinced that blockchain is ideal for z shops—the z already handles the transactions and delivers the reliability, scalability, availability, and security to do it right.  As IBM puts it, “we believe block chain has the potential to do for trusted transactions what the Internet did for information.” Specifically, IBM is building a complete block chain platform and is now working with over 300 clients to pioneer block chain for business, including CLS, which settles $5 trillion per day in the currency markets, to implement a distributed ledger in support of its payment netting service, and Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, for smart contracts to manage service level agreements and automate multi party transactions.

Says Morgan: “IBM is very enthusiastic about using Blockchain in commercial transaction processing settings, and has 40 clients testing it out on mainframes, but this workload will take a long time to grow. Presumably, IBM will also push Blockchain on Power as well.”  Morgan may be right about blockchain coming to Power, but it is a natural for the z right now, whether as a new z14 or a new z-based LinuxONE machine.

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

 

OpenCAPI, Gen-Z, CCIX Initiate a New Computing Era

October 20, 2016

The next generation data center will be a more open, cooperative, and faster place judging from the remarkably similar makeup of three open consortia, OpenCAPI , Gen-Z, and CCIX. CCIX allows processors based on different instruction set architectures to extend their cache coherency to accelerators, interconnect, and I/O.

OpenCAPI provides a way to attach accelerators and I/O devices with coherence and virtual addressing to eliminate software inefficiency associated with the traditional I/O subsystem, and to attach advanced memory technologies.  The focus of OpenCAPI is on attached devices primarily within a server. Gen-Z, announced around the same time, is a new data access technology that primarily enables read and write operations among disaggregated memory and storage.

open-power-rethink-datacenter

Rethink the Datacenter

It’s quite likely that your next data center will use all three. The OpenCAPI group includes AMD, Dell EMC, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Mellanox Technologies, Micron, NVIDIA and Xilinx. Their new specification promises to enable up to 10X faster server performance with the first products expected in the second half of 2017.

The Gen-Z consortium consists Advanced Micro Devices, Broadcom, Huawei Technologies, Red Hat, Micron, Xilinx, Samsung, IBM, and Cray. Other founding members are Cavium, IDT, Mellanox Technologies, Microsemi, Seagate, SK Hynix, and Western Digital. They plan to develop a scalable computing interconnect and protocol that will enable systems to keep with the rapidly rising tide of data that is being generated and that needs to be analyzed. This will require the rapid movement of high volumes of data between memory and storage.

The CCIX initial members include Amphenol Corp., Arteris Inc., Avery Design Systems, Atos, Cadence Design Systems, Inc., Cavium, Inc., Integrated Device Technology, Inc., Keysight Technologies, Inc., Micron Technology, Inc., NetSpeed Systems, Red Hat Inc., Synopsys, Inc., Teledyne LeCroy, Texas Instruments, and TSMC.

The basic problem all three address revolves around how to make the volume and variety of new hardware forge fast communications and work together. In effect each group, from its own particular perspective, aims to boost the performance and interoperability of data center servers, devices, and components engaged in generating and handling myriad data and tasked with analyzing large amounts of that data. This will only be compounded as IoT, blockchain, and cognitive computing ramp up.

To a large extent, this results from the inability of Moore’s Law to continue to double the number of processors indefinitely. Future advances must rely on different sorts of hardware tweaks and designs to deliver greater price/performance.

Then in Aug. 2016 IBM announced a related chip breakthrough.  It unveiled the industry’s first 7 nm chip that could hold more than 20 billion tiny switches or transistors for improved computing power. The new chips could help meet demands of future cloud computing and Big Data systems, cognitive computing, mobile products and other emerging technologies, according to IBM.

Most chips today in servers and other devices use microprocessors between 14 and 22 nanometers (nm). The 7nm technology represents at least a 50 percent power improvement. IBM intends to apply the new chips to analyze DNA, viruses, and exosomes. IBM expects to test this lab-on-a-chip technology starting with prostate cancer.

The point of this digression into chips and Moore’s Law is to suggest the need for tools and interfaces like Open CAPI, Gen-Z, and CCIX. As the use cases for ultra fast data analytics expands along with the expected proliferation of devices speed becomes critical. How long do you want to wait for an analysis of your prostate or breast cells? If the cells are dear to you, every nanosecond matters.

For instance, OpenCAPI provides an open, high-speed pathway for different types of technology – advanced memory, accelerators, networking and storage – to more tightly integrate their functions within servers. This data-centric approach to server design puts the compute power closer to the data and removes inefficiencies in traditional system architectures to help eliminate system bottlenecks that significantly improve server performance.  In some cases OpenCAPI enables system designers to access memory with sub-500 nanosecond latency.

IBM plans to introduce POWER9-based servers that leverage the OpenCAPI specification in the second half of 2017. Similarly, expect other members of OpenPOWER Foundation to introduce OpenCAPI enabled products in the same time frame. In addition, Google and Rackspace’s new server under development, codenamed Zaius and announced at the OpenPOWER Summit in San Jose, will leverage POWER9 processor technology and plans to provide the OpenCAPI interface in its design. Also, Mellanox plans to enable the new specification capabilities in its future products and Xilinx plans to support OpenCAPI enabled FPGAs

As reported at the Gen-Z announcement, “The formation of these new consortia (CCIX, OpenCAPI, and Gen-Z), backed by more than 30 industry-leading global companies, supports the premise that the datacenter of the future will require open standards. We look forward to collaborating with CCIX and OpenCAPI as this new ecosystem takes shape,” said Kurtis Bowman, Gen-Z Consortium president. Welcome to the 7nm computing era.

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

 


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