Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Saturday, January 29, 2022

In OpenPOWER Play, IBM and Google Make Hyperscale Waves at Foundation Summit 

OpenPOWER Foundation, the mostly IBM-driven effort to create an alternative architecture to Intel x86, took a major step forward today with the announcement of a joint effort by Google and Rackspace to co-develop an open data center server architecture design specification based on IBM’s new POWER9 CPU. Google said the server supports its work with the Facebook-led Open Compute Project (OCP), which Google recently joined.

In all, the Foundation announced 59 new servers and components spanning the system stack – including systems, boards, cards and accelerators. Unveiled at the second OpenPOWER Summit in San Jose, the new releases add to the 30 existing OpenPOWER-based solutions. The Google / Rackspace joint effort is a significant validation of the Foundation’s vision of targeting hyperscale data centers, along with HPC organization.

“In fact, the POWER9 data center server specification is designed to fit in the proposed 48V open rack that we're co-designing with Facebook,” Maire Mahony, hardware engineering manager at Google and a OpenPOWER Foundation director, wrote in a blog post. “We’ve been working on OpenPOWER since 2014, when we helped found the OpenPOWER Foundation and we’re now POWER-ready. This means the architecture is fully supported across our tool chain, allowing developers to target apps to POWER with a simple flag.”

It’s been nearly two-and-a-half years since IBM (NYSE: IBM), NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA), Mellanox (NASDAQ: MLNX), Tyan, and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) co-founded the OpenPOWER Foundation to build an ecosystem around the IBM Power processor. At virtually the same time, IBM announced plans to sell the remainder of its x86 server business to Lenovo. Late last year, IBM mounted a major “watch this space” publicity effort at SC15 in Austin that was received with a somewhat jaundiced eye by many industry observers – skepticism that only increased when OpenPOWER’s promised progress seemed to stall in the ensuing months. But today’s announcements could give the skeptics pause.

Peter Rutten, research manager, server solutions with IDC’s Enterprise Platforms Group said the Google/Rackspace server collaboration “is the major hyperscale announcement that the industry has been waiting for from the OpenPOWER Foundation and it’s illustrative of the momentum that OpenPOWER is gaining. This is an important moment for this developing environment.”

New product unveiling at OpenPOWER Foundation Summit. At right, Calista Redmond, OpenPOWER Foundation president and director of OpenPOWER Global Alliances, IBM

New product unveiling at OpenPOWER Foundation Summit. At right, Calista Redmond, OpenPOWER Foundation president and director of OpenPOWER Global Alliances, IBM

The OpenPOWER Foundation has grown to more than 200 businesses, organizations and individuals (up from 170 last November) across 24 countries targeting hyperscale data centers and high performance computing organizations. OpenPOWER solutions are built upon by a community of more than 2,300 ISVs, according to the Foundation, supporting Linux on POWER applications.

“To meet the demands of today’s data centers, businesses need open system design that provides greater flexibility and speed at a lower cost,” said Calista Redmond, OpenPOWER Foundation president and director of OpenPOWER Global Alliances at IBM. “The innovations introduced today demonstrate OpenPOWER members’ commitment to building technology infrastructures that provide customers with more choice, allowing them to leverage increased data workloads and analytics to drive better business outcomes.”

The products revealed by OpenPOWER members today include more than 10 new OpenPOWER servers for HPC and cloud deployment server virtualization, including:

Rackspace has announced that “Barreleye” has moved from the lab to the data center. Rackspace anticipates “Barreleye” will move into broader availability throughout the rest of the year, with the first applications on the Rackspace Public Cloud powered by OpenStack.

IBM OpenPower 2gen server w P100

Prototype 2nd Generation OpenPOWER HPC Server w / NVLink

IBM, with NVIDIA and Wistron, plans to release its second-generation OpenPOWER high performance computing server, which includes support for the NVIDIA Tesla Accelerated Computing platform. The server will leverage POWER8 processors connected directly to the new NVIDIA Tesla P100 GPU accelerators via the NVIDIA NVLink high-speed interconnect technology. Early systems will be available in Q4 2016. Additionally, IBM and NVIDIA plan to create global acceleration labs to help developers and ISVs port applications on the POWER8 and NVIDIA NVLink-based platform.

With planned availability this month, the TYAN GT75-BP012 is a 1U, POWER8-based server solution with the ppc64 architecture for in-memory computing in a 1U implementation.

Bittware, IBM, Mellanox and Xilinx unveiled more than a dozen new accelerator solutions based on the Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface (CAPI). Alpha Data also unveiled a Xilinx FPGA-based CAPI hardware card. The Foundation said these new accelerator technologies leverage CAPI to provide performance, cost and power benefits when compared to application programs running on a core or custom acceleration implementation attached via non-coherent interfaces. “This is a key differentiator in building infrastructure to accelerate computation of big data and analytics workloads on the POWER architecture.”

The Foundation also announced that following successful collaborations with Louisiana State University and tranSMART, OpenPOWER Foundation members continue to develop solutions aimed at genomics research. Today, Edico Genome announced the DRAGEN Genomics Platform, a new appliance for ultra-rapid analysis of genomic data, reducing the time to analyze an entire genome from hours to minutes. DRAGEN is used to diagnose critically ill newborn children, for prenatal tests and to identify infectious disease outbreaks. Developed in collaboration with Xilinx and IBM, the solution features Edico’s DRAGEN processor, based on Xilinx’s Virtex-7 980T FPGA, running on IBM Power Systems S822LC. The Foundation said Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine of San Diego has adopted the DRAGEN platform.

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