Posts Tagged ‘PowerAI’

Is Your Enterprise Ready for AI?

May 11, 2018

According to IBM’s gospel of AI “we are in the midst of a global transformation and it is touching every aspect of our world, our lives, and our businesses.”  IBM has been preaching its gospel of AI of the past year or longer, but most of its clients haven’t jumped fully aboard. “For most of our clients, AI will be a journey. This is demonstrated by the fact that most organizations are still in the early phases of AI adoption.”

AC922 with NIVIDIA Tesla V100 and Enhanced NVLink GPUs

The company’s latest announcements earlier this week focus POWER9 squarely on AI. Said Tim Burke, Engineering Vice President, Cloud and Operating System Infrastructure, at Red Hat. “POWER9-based servers, running Red Hat’s leading open technologies offer a more stable and performance optimized foundation for machine learning and AI frameworks, which is required for production deployments… including PowerAI, IBM’s software platform for deep learning with IBM Power Systems that includes popular frameworks like Tensorflow and Caffe, as the first commercially supported AI software offering for [the Red Hat] platform.”

IBM insists this is not just about POWER9 and they may have a point; GPUs and other assist processors are taking on more importance as companies try to emulate the hyperscalers in their efforts to drive server efficiency while boosting power in the wake of declines in Moore’s Law. ”GPUs are at the foundation of major advances in AI and deep learning around the world,” said Paresh Kharya, group product marketing manager of Accelerated Computing at NVIDIA. [Through] “the tight integration of IBM POWER9 processors and NVIDIA V100 GPUs made possible by NVIDIA NVLink, enterprises can experience incredible increases in performance for compute- intensive workloads.”

To create an AI-optimized infrastructure, IBM announced the latest additions to its POWER9 lineup, the IBM Power Systems LC922 and LC921. Characterized by IBM as balanced servers offering both compute capabilities and up to 120 terabytes of data storage and NVMe for rapid access to vast amounts of data. IBM included HDD in the announcement but any serious AI workload will choke without ample SSD.

Specifically, these new servers bring an updated version of the AC922 server, which now features recently announced 32GB NVIDIA V100 GPUs and larger system memory, which enables bigger deep learning models to improve the accuracy of AI workloads.

IBM has characterized the new models as data-intensive machines and AI-intensive systems, LC922 and LC921 Servers with POWER9 processors. The AC922, arrived last fall. It was designed for the what IBM calls the post-CPU era. The AC922 was 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 was designed to drive demonstrable performance improvements across popular AI frameworks such as TensorFlow and Caffe.

In the post CPU era, where Moore’s Law no longer rules, you need to pay as much attention to the GPU and other assist processors as the CPU itself, maybe even more so. For example, the coherence and high-speed of the NVLink enables hash tables—critical for fast analytics—on GPUs. As IBM noted at the introduction of the new machines this week: Hash tables are fundamental data structure for analytics over large datasets. For this you need large memory: small GPU memory limits hash table size and analytic performance. The CPU-GPU NVLink2 solves 2 key problems: large memory and high-speed enables storing the full hash table in CPU memory and transferring pieces to GPU for fast operations; coherence enables new inserts in CPU memory to get updated in GPU memory. Otherwise, modifications on data in CPU memory do not get updated in GPU memory.

IBM has started referring to the LC922 and LC921 as big data crushers. The LC921 brings 2 POWER9 sockets in a 1U form factor; for I/O it comes with both PCIe 4.0 and CAPI 2.0.; and offers up to 40 cores (160 threads) and 2TB RAM, which is ideal for environments requiring dense computing.

The LC922 is considerably bigger. It offers balanced compute capabilities delivered with the P9 processor and up to 120TB of storage capacity, again advanced I/O through PCIe 4.0/CAPI 2.0, and up to 44 cores (176 threads) and 2TB RAM. The list price, notes IBM is ~30% less.

If your organization is not thinking about AI your organization is probably in the minority, according to IDC.

  • 31 percent of organizations are in [AI] discovery/evaluation
  • 22 percent of organizations plan to implement AI in next 1-2 years
  • 22 percent of organizations are running AI trials
  • 4 percent of organizations have already deployed AI

Underpinning both servers is the IBM POWER9 CPU. The POWER9 enjoys a nearly 5.6x improved CPU to GPU bandwidth vs x86, which can improve deep learning training times by nearly 4x. Even today companies are struggling to cobble together the different pieces and make them work. IBM learned that lesson and now offers a unified AI infrastructure in PowerAI and Power9 that you can use today.

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

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 and here.


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