Posts Tagged ‘POWER8’

IBM Shouldn’t Forget Its Server Platforms

April 5, 2018

The word coming out of IBM brings a steady patter about cognitive, Watson, and quantum computing, for which IBM predicted quantum would be going mainstream within five years. Most DancingDinosaur readers aren’t worrying about what’s coming in 2023 although maybe they should. They have data centers to run now and are wondering where they are going to get the system horsepower they will need to deliver IoT or Blockchain or any number of business initiatives clamoring for system resources today or tomorrow and all they’ve got are the z14 and the latest LinuxONE. As powerful as they were when first announced, do you think that will be enough tomorrow?

IBM’s latest server, the Z

Timothy Prickett Morgan, analyst at The Next Platform, apparently isn’t so sure. He writes in a recent piece how Google and the other hyperscalers need to add serious power to today’s server options. The solution involves “putting systems based on IBM’s Power9 processor into production.” This shouldn’t take anybody by surprise; almost as soon as IBM set up the Open Power consortium Rackspace, Google, and a handful of others started making noises about using Open POWER for a new type of data center server. The most recent announcements around Power9, covered here back in Feb., promise some new options with even more coming.

Writes Morgan: “Google now has seven applications that have more than 1 billion users – adding Android, Maps, Chrome, and Play to the mix – and as the company told us years ago, it is looking for any compute, storage, and networking edge that will allow it to beat Moore’s Law.” Notice that this isn’t about using POWER9 to drive down Intel’s server prices; Google faces a more important nemesis, the constraints of Moore’s Law.

Google has not been secretive about this, at least not recently. To its credit Google is making its frustrations known at appropriate industry events:  “With a technology trend slowdown and growing demand and changing demand, we have a pretty challenging situation, what we call a supply-demand gap, which means the supply on the technology side is not keeping up with this phenomenal demand growth,” explained Maire Mahony, systems hardware engineer at Google and its key representative at the OpenPower Foundation that is steering the Power ecosystem. “That makes it hard to for us to balance that curve we call performance per TCO dollar. This problem is not unique to Google. This is an industry-wide problem.” True, but the majority of data centers, even the biggest ones, don’t face looming multi-billion user performance and scalability demands.

Morgan continued: “Google has absolutely no choice but to look for every edge. The benefits of homogeneity, which have been paramount for the first decade of hyperscaling, no longer outweigh the need to have hardware that better supports the software companies like Google use in production.”

This isn’t Intel’s problem alone although it introduced a new generation of systems, dubbed Skylake, to address some of these concerns. As Morgan noted recently, “various ARM chips –especially ThunderX2 from Cavium and Centriq 2400 from Qualcomm –can boost non-X86 numbers.” So can AMD’s Epyc X86 processors. Similarly, the Open Power consortium offers an alternative in POWER9.

Morgan went on: IBM differentiated the hardware with its NVLink versions and, depending on the workload and the competition, with its most aggressive pricing and a leaner and cheaper microcode and hypervisor stack reserved for the Linux workloads that the company is chasing. IBM very much wants to sell its Power-Linux combo against Intel’s Xeon-Linux and also keep AMD’s Epyc-Linux at bay. Still, it is not apparent to Morgan how POWER9 will compete.

Success may come down to a battle of vendor ecosystems. As Morgan points out: aside from the POWER9 system that Google co-engineered with Rackspace Hosting, the most important contributions that Google has made to the OpenPower effort is to work with IBM to create the OPAL firmware, the OpenKVM hypervisor, and the OpenBMC baseboard management controller, which are all crafted to support little endian Linux, as is common on x86.

Guess this is the time wade into the endian morass. Endian refers to the byte ordering that is used, and IBM chips and a few others do them in reverse of the x86 and Arm architectures. The Power8 chip and its POWER9 follow-on support either mode, big or little endian. By making all of these changes, IBM has made the Power platform more palatable to the hyperscalers, which is why Google, Tencent, Alibaba, Uber, and PayPal all talk about how they make use of Power machinery, particularly to accelerate machine learning and generic back-end workloads. But as quickly as IBM jumped on the problem recently after letting it linger for years, it remains one more complication that must be considered. Keep that in mind when a hyperscaler like Google talks about performance per TCO dollar.

Where is all this going? Your guess is as good as any. The hyperscalers and the consortia eventually should resolve this and DancingDinosaur will keep watching. Stay tuned.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his work at technologywriter.com and here.

IBM Jumps into the Next Gen Server Party with POWER9

February 15, 2018

IBM re-introduced its POWER9 lineup of servers  this week starting with 2-socket and 4-socket systems and more variations coming in the months ahead as IBM, along with the rest of the IT vendor community grapples with how to address changing data center needs. The first, the AC922, arrived last fall. DancingDinosaur covered it here. More, the S922/S914/S924 and H922/H924/L922, are promised later this quarter.

The workloads organizations are running these days are changing, often dramatically and quickly. One processor, no matter how capable or flexible or efficient will be unlikely to do the job going forward. It will take an entire family of chips.  That’s as true for Intel and AMR and the other chip players as IBM.

In some ways, IBM’s challenge is even qwerkier. Its chips will not only need to support Linux and Windows, but also IBMi and AIX. IBM simply cannot abandon its IBMi and AIX customer bases. So chips supporting IBMi and AIX are being built into the POWER9 family.

For IBMi the company is promising POWER9 exploitation for:

  • Expanding the secure-ability of IBMi with TLS, secure APIs, and logs for SIEM solutions
  • Expanded Install options with an installation process using USB 3.0 media
  • Encryption and compression for cloud storage
  • Increasing the productivity of developers and administrators

This may sound trivial to those who have focused on the Linux world and work with x86 systems too, but it is not for a company still mired in productive yet aging IBMi systems.

IBM also is promising POWER9 goodies for AIX, its legacy Unix OS, including:

  • AIX Security: PowerSC and PowerSC MFA updates for malware intrusion prevention and strong authentication
  • New workload acceleration with shared memory communications over RDMA (SMC-R)
  • Improved availability: AIX Live Update enhancements; GDR 1.2; PowerHA 7.2
  • Improved Cloud Mgmt: IBM Cloud PowerVC Manager for SDI; Import/Export;
  • AIX 7.2 native support for POWER9 – e.g. enabling NVMe

Again, if you have been running Linux on z or LinuxONE this may sound antiquated, but AIX has not been considered state-of-the-art for years. NVMe alone gives is a big boost.

But despite all the nice things IBM is doing for IBMi and AIX, DancingDinosaur believes the company clearly is betting POWER9 will cut into Intel x86 sales. But that is not a given. Intel is rolling out its own family of advanced x86 Xeon machines under the Skylake code name. Different versions will be packaged and tuned to different workloads. They are rumored, at the fully configured high end, to be quite expensive. Just don’t expect POWER9 systems to be cheap either.

And the chip market is getting more crowded. As Timothy Prickett Morgan, analyst at The Next Platform noted, various ARM chips –especially ThunderX2 from Cavium and Centriq 2400 from Qualcomm –can boost non-X86 numbers and divert sales from IBM’s POWER9 family. Also, AMD’s Epyc X86 processors have a good chance of stealing some market share from Intel’s Skylake. So the POWER9 will have to fight for every sale IBM wants.

Morgan went on: IBM differentiated the hardware and the pricing with its NVLink versions, depending on the workload and the competition, with its most aggressive pricing and a leaner and cheaper microcode and hypervisor stack reserved for the Linux workloads that the company is chasing. IBM very much wants to sell its Power-Linux combo against Intel’s Xeon-Linux and also keep AMD’s Epyc-Linux at bay. Where the Power8 chip had the advantage over the Intel’s Haswell and Broadwell Xeon E5 processors when it came to memory capacity and memory bandwidth per socket, and could meet or beat the Xeons when it came to performance on some workloads that is not yet apparent with the POWER9.

With the POWER9, however, IBM will likely charge a little less for companies buying its Linux-only variants, observes Morgan, effectively enabling IBM to win Linux deals, particularly where data analytics and open source databases drive the customer’s use case. Similarly, some traditional simulation and modeling workloads in the HPC and machine learning areas are ripe for POWER9.

POWER9 is not one chip. Packed into the chip are next-generation NVIDIA NVLink and OpenCAPI to provide significantly faster performance for attached GPUs. The PCI-Express 4.0 interconnect will be twice the speed of PCI-Express 3.0. The open POWER9 architecture also allows companies to mix a wide range of accelerators to meet various needs. Meanwhile, OpenCAPI can unlock coherent FPGAs to support varied accelerated storage, compute, and networking workloads. IBM also is counting on the 300+ members of the OpenPOWER Foundation and OpenCAPI Consortium to launch innovations for POWER9. Much is happening: Stay tuned to DancingDinosaur

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his work at technologywriter.com and here.

Meltdown and Spectre Attacks Require IBM Mitigation

January 12, 2018

The chip security threats dubbed Meltdown and Spectre revealed last month apparently will require IBM threat mitigation in the form of code and patching. IBM has been reticent to make a major public announcement, but word finally is starting to percolate publicly.

Courtesy: Preparis Inc.

On January 4, one day after researchers disclosed the Meltdown and Spectre attack methods against Intel, AMD and ARM processors the Internet has been buzzing.  Wrote Eduard Kovacs on Wed.; Jan. 10, IBM informed customers that it had started analyzing impact on its own products. The day before IBM revealed its POWER processors are affected.

A published report from Virendra Soni, January 11, on the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018 in Las Vegas where Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang revealed how the technology leaders are scrambling to find patches to the Spectre and Meltdown attacks. These attacks enable hackers to steal private information off users’ CPUs running processors from Intel, AMD, and ARM.

For DancingDinosaur readers, that puts the latest POWER chips and systems at risk. At this point, it is not clear how far beyond POWER systems the problem reaches. “We believe our GPU hardware is immune. As for our driver software, we are providing updates to help mitigate the CPU security issue,” Nvidia wrote in their security bulletin.

Nvidia also reports releasing updates for its software drivers that interact with vulnerable CPUs and operating systems. The vulnerabilities take place in three variants: Variant 1, Variant 2, and Variant 3. Nvidia has released driver updates for Variant 1 and 2. The company notes none of its software is vulnerable to Variant 3. Nvidia reported providing security updates for these products: GeForce, Quadro, NVS Driver Software, Tesla Driver Software, and GRID Driver Software.

IBM has made no public comments on which of their systems are affected. But Red Hat last week reported IBM’s System Z, and POWER platforms are impacted by Spectre and Meltdown. IBM may not be saying much but Red Hat is, according to Soni: “Red Hat last week reported that IBM’s System Z, and POWER platforms are exploited by Spectre and Meltdown.”

So what is a data center manager with a major investment in these systems to do?  Meltdown and Spectre “obviously are a very big problem, “ reports Timothy Prickett Morgan, a leading analyst at The Last Platform, an authoritative website following the server industry. “Chip suppliers and operating systems and hypervisor makers have known about these exploits since last June, and have been working behind the scenes to provide corrective countermeasures to block them… but rumors about the speculative execution threats forced the hands of the industry, and last week Google put out a notice about the bugs and then followed up with details about how it has fixed them in its own code. Read it here.

Chipmakers AMD and AMR put out a statement saying only Variant 1 of the speculative execution exploits (one of the Spectre variety known as bounds check bypass), and by Variant 2 (also a Spectre exploit known as branch target injection) affected them. AMD, reports Morgan, also emphasized that it has absolutely no vulnerability to Variant 3, a speculative execution exploit called rogue data cache load and known colloquially as Meltdown.  This is due, he noted, to architectural differences between Intel’s X86 processors and AMD’s clones.

As for IBM, Morgan noted: its Power chips are affected, at least back to the Power7 from 2010 and continuing forward to the brand new Power9. In its statement, IBM said that it would have patches out for firmware on Power machines using Power7+, Power8, Power8+, and Power9 chips on January 9, which passed, along with Linux patches for those machines; patches for the company’s own AIX Unix and proprietary IBM i operating systems will not be available until February 12. The System z mainframe processors also have speculative execution, so they should, in theory, be susceptible to Spectre but maybe not Meltdown.

That still leaves a question about the vulnerability of the IBM LinuxONE and the processors spread throughout the z systems. Ask your IBM rep when you can expect mitigation for those too.

Just patching these costly systems should not be sufficiently satisfying. There is a performance price that data centers will pay. Google noted a negligible impact on performance after it deployed one fix on Google’s millions of Linux systems, said Morgan. There has been speculation, Googled continued, that the deployment of KPTI (a mitigation fix) causes significant performance slowdowns. As far as is known, there is no fix for Spectre Variant 1 attacks, which have to be fixed on a binary-by-binary basis, according to Google.

Red Hat went further and actually ran benchmarks. The company tested its Enterprise Linux 7 release on servers using Intel’s “Haswell” Xeon E5 v3, “Broadwell” Xeon E5 v4, and “Skylake,” the upcoming Xeon SP processors, and showed impacts that ranged from 1-19 percent. You can demand these impacts be reflected in reduced system prices.

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’s POWER9 Races to AI

December 7, 2017

IBM is betting the future of its Power Systems on artificial intelligence (AI). The company introduced its newly designed POWER9 processor publicly this past Tuesday. The new machine, according to IBM, is capable of shortening the training of deep learning frameworks by nearly 4x, allowing enterprises to build more accurate AI applications, faster.

IBM engineer tests the POWER9

Designed for the post-CPU era, the core POWER9 building block is the IBM Power Systems AC922. The AC922, notes IBM, is the first to embed PCI-Express 4.0, next-generation NVIDIA NVLink, and OpenCAPI—3 interface accelerators—which together can accelerate data movement 9.5x faster than PCIe 3.0 based x86 systems. The AC922 is designed to drive demonstrable performance improvements across popular AI frameworks such as Chainer, TensorFlow and Caffe, as well as accelerated databases such as Kinetica.

More than a CPU under the AC922 cover

Depending on your sense of market timing, POWER9 may be coming at the best or worst time for IBM.  Notes industry observer Timothy Prickett Morgan, The Next Platform: “The server market is booming as 2017 comes to a close, and IBM is looking to try to catch the tailwind and lift its Power Systems business.”

As Morgan puts it, citing IDC 3Q17 server revenue figures, HPE and Dell are jockeying for the lead in the server space, and for the moment, HPE (including its H3C partnership in China) has the lead with $3.32 billion in revenues, compared to Dell’s $3.07 billion, while Dell was the shipment leader, with 503,000 machines sold in Q3 2017 versus HPE’s 501,400 machines shipped. IBM does not rank in the top five shippers but thanks in part to the Z and big Power8 boxes, IBM still holds the number three server revenue generator spot, with $1.09 billion in sales for the third quarter, according to IDC. The z system accounted for $673 million of that, up 63.8 percent year-on year due mainly to the new Z. If you do the math, Morgan continued, the Power Systems line accounted for $420.7 million in the period, down 7.2 percent from Q3 2016. This is not surprising given that customers held back knowing Power9 systems were coming.

To get Power Systems back to where it used to be, Morgan continued, IBM must increase revenues by a factor of three or so. The good news is that, thanks to the popularity of hybrid CPU-GPU systems, which cost around $65,000 per node from IBM, this isn’t impossible. Therefore, it should take fewer machines to rack up the revenue, even if it comes from a relatively modest number of footprints and not a huge number of Power9 processors. More than 90 percent of the compute in these systems is comprised of GPU accelerators, but due to bookkeeping magic, it all accrues to Power Systems when these machines are sold. Plus IBM reportedly will be installing over 10,000 such nodes for the US Department of Energy’s Summit and Sierra supercomputers in the coming two quarters, which should provide a nice bump. And once IBM gets the commercial Power9 systems into the field, sales should pick up again, Morgan expects.

IBM clearly is hoping POWER9 will cut into Intel x86 sales. But that may not happen as anticipated. Intel is bringing out its own advanced x86 Xeon machine, Skylake, rumored to be quite expensive. Don’t expect POWER9 systems to be cheap either. And the field is getting more crowded. Morgan noted various ARM chips –especially ThunderX2 from Cavium and Centriq 2400 from Qualcomm –can boost non-X86 numbers and divert sales from IBM’s Power9 system. Also, AMD’s Epyc X86 processors have a good chance of stealing some market share from Intel’s Skylake. So the Power9 will have to fight for every sale IBM wants and take nothing for granted.

No doubt POWER9 presents a good case and has a strong backer in Google, but even that might not be enough. Still, POWER9 sits at the heart of what is expected to be the most powerful data-intensive supercomputers in the world, the Summit and Sierra supercomputers, expected to knock off the world’s current fastest supercomputers from China.

Said Bart Sano, VP of Google Platforms: “Google is excited about IBM’s progress in the development of the latest POWER technology;” adding “the POWER9 OpenCAPI bus and large memory capabilities allow further opportunities for innovation in Google data centers.”

This really is about deep learning, one of the latest hot buzzwords today. Deep learning emerged as a fast growing machine learning method that extracts information by crunching through millions of processes and data to detect and rank the most important aspects of the data. IBM designed the POWER9 chip to manage free-flowing data, streaming sensors, and algorithms for data-intensive AI and deep learning workloads on Linux.  Are your people ready to take advantage of POWER9?

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.

Get a Next-Gen Datacenter with IBM-Nutanix POWER8 System

July 14, 2017

First announced by IBM on May 16 here, this solution, driven by client demand for a simplified hyperconverged—combined server, network, storage, hardware, software—infrastructure, is designed for data-intensive enterprise workloads.  Aimed for companies increasingly looking for the ease of deployment, use, and management that hyperconverged solutions promise. It is being offered as an integrated hardware and software offering in order to deliver on that expectation.

Music made with IBM servers, storage, and infrastructure

IBM’s new POWER8 hyperconverged solutions enable a public cloud-like experience through on-premises infrastructure with top virtualization and automation capabilities combined with Nutanix’s public and on-premises cloud capabilities. They provide a combination of reliable storage, fast networks, scalability and extremely powerful computing in modular, scalable, manageable building blocks that can be scaled simply by adding nodes when needed.

Over time, IBM suggests a roadmap of offerings that will roll out as more configurations are needed to satisfy client demand and as feature and function are brought into both the IBM Cognitive Systems portfolio and the Nutanix portfolio. Full integration is key to the value proposition of this offering so more roadmap options will be delivered as soon as feature function is delivered and integration testing can be completed.

Here are three immediate things you might do with these systems:

  1. Mission-critical workloads, such as databases, large data warehouses, web infrastructure, and mainstream enterprise apps
  2. Cloud native workloads, including full stack open source middleware, enterprise databases
    and containers
  3. Next generation cognitive workloads, including big data, machine learning, and AI

Note, however, the change in IBM’s pricing strategy. The products will be priced with the goal to remain neutral on total cost of acquisition (TCA) to comparable offerings on x86. In short, IBM promises to be competitive with comparable x86 systems in terms of TCA. This is a significant deviation from IBM’s traditional pricing, but as we have started to see already and will continue to see going forward IBM clearly is ready to play pricing flexibility to win the deals on products it wants to push.

IBM envisions the new hyperconverged systems to bring data-intensive enterprise workloads like EDB Postgres, MongoDB and WebSphere into a simple-to-manage, on-premises cloud environment. Running these complex workloads on IBM Hyperconverged Nutanix POWER8 system can help an enterprise quickly and easily deploy open source databases and web-serving applications in the data center without the complexity of setting up all of the underlying infrastructure plumbing and wrestling with hardware-software integration.

And maybe more to IBM’s ultimate aim, these operational data stores may become the foundational building blocks enterprises will use to build a data center capable of taking on cognitive workloads. These ever-advancing workloads in advanced analytics, machine learning and AI will require the enterprise to seamlessly tap into data already housed on premises. Soon expect IBM to bring new offerings to market through an entire family of hyperconverged systems that will be designed to simply and easily deploy and scale a cognitive cloud infrastructure environment.

Currently, IBM offers two systems: the IBM CS821 and IBM CS822. These servers are the industry’s first hyperconverged solutions that marry Nutanix’s one-click software simplicity and scalability with the proven performance of the IBM POWER architecture, which is designed specifically for data-intensive workloads. The IBM CS822 (the larger of the two offerings) sports 22 POWER8 processor cores. That’s 176 compute threads, with up to 512 GB of memory and 15.36 TB of flash storage in a compact server that meshes seamlessly with simple Nutanix Prism management.

This server runs Nutanix Acropolis with AHV and little endian Linux. If IBM honors its stated pricing policy promise, the cost should be competitive on the total cost of acquisition for comparable offerings on x86. DancingDinosaur is not a lawyer (to his mother’s disappointment), but it looks like there is considerable wiggle room in this promise. IBM Hyperconverged-Nutanix Systems will be released for general availability in Q3 2017. Specific timelines, models, and supported server configurations will be announced at the time of availability.

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 and z Platforms Show Renewed Excitement

June 30, 2017

Granted, 20 consecutive quarters of posting negative revenue numbers is enough to get even the most diehard mainframe bigot down. If you ran your life like that your house and your car would have been seized by the bank months ago.

Toward the end of June, however, both z and Power had some good news. First,  a week ago IBM announced that corporate enterprise users ranked the IBM z  enterprise servers as the most reliable hardware platform available on the market today. In its enterprise server category the survey also found that IBM Power Systems achieved the highest levels of reliability and uptime when compared with 14 server hardware options and 11 server hardware virtualization platforms.

IBM links 2 IBM POWER8 with NVIDIA NVLink with 4 NVIDIA Tesla P100 accelerators

The results were compiled and reported by the ITIC 2017 Global Server Hardware and Server OS Reliability survey, which polled 750 organizations worldwide during April/May 2017. Also among the survey finding:

  • IBM z Systems Enterprise mainframe class systems, had zero percent incidents of more than four hours of per server/per annum downtime of any hardware platform. Specifically, IBM z Systems mainframe class servers exhibit true mainframe fault tolerance experiencing just 0.96 minutes of minutes of unplanned per server, per annual downtime. That equates to 8 seconds per month of “blink and you miss it,” or 2 seconds of unplanned weekly downtime. This is an improvement over the 1.12 minutes of per server/per annum downtime the z Systems servers recorded in ITIC’s 2016 – 2017 Reliability poll nine months ago.
  • IBM Power Systems has the least amount of unplanned downtime, with 2.5 minutes per server/per year of any mainstream Linux server platforms.
  • IBM and the Linux operating system distributions were either first or second in every reliability category, including virtualization and security.

The survey also highlighted market reliability trends. For nearly all companies surveyed, having four nines (99.99%) of availability, equating to less than one hour of system downtime per year was a key factor in its decision.

Then consider the increasing costs of downtime. Nearly all survey respondents claimed that one hour of downtime costs them more than $150k, with one-third estimating that the same will cost their business up to $400k.

With so much activity going on 24×7, for an increasing number of businesses, 4 nines of availability is no longer sufficient.  These businesses are adopting carrier levels of availability; 5 nines or 6 nines (or 99.999 to 99.9999 percent) availability, which translates to downtime per year of 30 seconds (6 nines) or 5 minutes (5 nines) of downtime per year.

According to ITIC’s 2016 report: IBM’s z Enterprise mainframe customers reported the least amount of unplanned downtime and the highest percentage of five nines (99.999%) uptime of any server hardware platform.

Just this week, IBM announced that according to results from International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker® (June, 2017) IBM exceeded market growth by 3x compared with the total Linux server market, which grew at 6 percent. The improved performance are the result of success across IBM Power Systems including IBM’s OpenPOWER LC servers and IBM Power Systems running SAP HANA as well as the OpenPOWER-Ready servers developed through the OpenPOWER Foundation.

As IBM explains it: Power Systems market share growth is underpinned by solutions that handle fast growing applications, like the deep learning capabilities within the POWER8 architecture. In addition these are systems that expand IBM’s Linux server portfolio, which have been co-developed with fellow members of the OpenPOWER Foundation

Now all that’s needed is IBM’s sales and marketing teams to translate this into revenue. Between that and the new systems IBM has been hinting at for the past year maybe the consecutive quarterly losses might come to an end this year.

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 Shows Off POWER and NVIDIA GPU Setting High Performance Record 

May 4, 2017

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 technologywriter.com and here.

 

IBM Gets Serious About Open Data Science (ODS) with Anaconda

April 21, 2017

As IBM rapidly ramps up cognitive systems in various forms, its two remaining platforms, z System and POWER, get more and more interesting. This week IBM announced it was bringing the Anaconda Open Data Science (ODS) platform to its Cognitive Systems and PowerAI.

Anaconda, Courtesy Pinterest

Specifically, Anaconda will integrate with the PowerAI software distribution for machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL). The goal: make it simple and fast to take advantage of Power performance and GPU optimization for data-intensive cognitive workloads.

“Anaconda on IBM Cognitive Systems empowers developers and data scientists to build and deploy deep learning applications that are ready to scale,” said Bob Picciano, senior vice president of IBM Cognitive Systems. Added Travis Oliphant, co-founder and chief data scientist, Continuum Analytics, which introduced the Anaconda platform: “By optimizing Anaconda on Power, developers will also gain access to the libraries in the PowerAI Platform for exploration and deployment in Anaconda Enterprise.”

With more than 16 million downloads to date, Anaconda has emerged as the Open Data Science platform leader. It is empowering leading businesses across industries worldwide with tools to identify patterns in data, uncover key insights, and transform basic data into the intelligence required to solve the world’s most challenging problems.

As one of the fastest growing fields of AI, DL makes it possible to process enormous datasets with millions or even billions of elements and extract useful predictive models. DL is transforming the businesses of leading consumer Web and mobile application companies, and it is catching on with more traditional business.

IBM developed PowerAI to accelerate enterprise adoption of open-source ML and DL frameworks used to build cognitive applications. PowerAI promises to reduce the complexity and risk of deploying these open source frameworks for enterprises on the Power architecture and is tuned for high performance, according to IBM. With PowerAI, organizations also can realize the benefit of enterprise support on IBM Cognitive Systems HPC platforms used in the most demanding commercial, academic, and hyperscale environments

For POWER shops getting into Anaconda, which is based on Python, is straightforward. You need a Power8 with IBM GPU hardware or a Power8 combined with a Nvidia GPU, in effect a Minsky machine. It’s essentially a developer’s tool although ODS proponents see it more broadly, bridging the gap between traditional IT and lines of business, shifting traditional roles, and creating new roles. In short, they envision scientists, mathematicians, engineers, business people, and more getting involved in ODS.

The technology is designed to run on the user’s desktop but is packaged and priced as a cloud subscription with a base package of 20 users. User licenses range from $500 per year to $30,000 per year depending on which bells and whistles you include. The number of options is pretty extensive.

According to IBM, this started with PowerAI to accelerate enterprise adoption of open-source ML/DL learning frameworks used to build cognitive applications. Overall, the open Anaconda platform brings capabilities for large-scale data processing, predictive analytics, and scientific computing to simplify package management and deployment. Developers using open source ML/DL components can use Power as the deployment platform and take advantage of Power optimization and GPU differentiation for NVIDIA.

Not to be left out, IBM noted growing support for the OpenPOWER Foundation, which recently announced the OpenPOWER Machine Learning Work Group (OPMLWG). The new OPMLWG includes members like Google, NVIDIA and Mellanox to provide a forum for collaboration that will help define frameworks for the productive development and deployment of ML solutions using OpenPOWER ecosystem technology. The foundation has also surpassed 300-members, with new participants such as Kinetica, Red Hat, and Toshiba. For traditional enterprise data centers, the future increasingly is pointing toward cognitive in one form or another.

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.

 

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.

 

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


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