Tuesday, November 1, 2016

First European OpenPOWER Summit – confirms growing popularity of the platform

By Rich Ptak

The first ever OpenPOWER European Summit opened in Barcelona this week. With over 270 members worldwide (60 in Europe), the OpenPOWER Foundation continues to grow and win over developers and users for the OpenPOWER Platform.

With the demise of Moore’s Law[1], IBM believed that the performance demands of computing with dense databases, extensive virtualization, container environments, etc., can best be met with workload-tuned systems. In that vein, in September, IBM announced three new POWER8-based systems. Sessions at IBM’s Edge 2016 event and an early peek last summer at the next gen POWER9 chips, indicate a platform attracting considerable attention with increasing support and use.

The systems are used by a number of OpenPOWER Foundation members. For example, IBM Power S822LC for High Performance Computing (HPC) is used by Turkey’s SC3 Electronics to create the largest HPC cluster in the Middle East and Africa. For Germany’s Human Brain Project, the Power S822LC for HPC, is the pilot system in a part of a Pre-Commercial Procurement process for the JURON supercomputer at the Jurlich Supercomputing Center.

Why OpenPOWER?
What’s behind OpenPOWER popularity? In a nutshell, in sharp distinction from other vendors, IBM and OpenPOWER Foundation members believe that workload and task specific systems, fully optimized for dominant computer tasks, such as handling and processing Big Data, High Performance Computing, compute-intensive, Commercial computing, etc. provide the best way today’s requirements of IT developers and operations staffs. IBM also recognized the power of open, collaborating communities to rapidly develop and deliver leading edge products.

IBM and the OpenPOWER community form a unique combination that facilitates and speeds innovation to deliver the power and functionality of rapid calculations of sophisticated analytics and manipulation of massive amounts of data needed for practical application of the compute intensive machine learning, deep learning, autonomous device, cutting edge research and development efforts underway today.

The OpenPOWER Community believes the widest range of enhancements, extensions and advancements will result from extensive collaboration around a fully open architecture and standards-driven technology. The OpenPOWER platform and the OpenPOWER Foundation are joined by the recently (October) announced OpenCAPI Consortium[4]. The goal of the consortium is to fully standardize CAPI[5] as an Open Interface Architecture that allows any microprocessor to attach to accelerators, advanced memory, networking and storage devices. It is faster, easier and less expensive than traditional approaches.

OpenPOWER in Europe
The European summit detailed member-driven innovation and extensions with a range of special-purpose accelerators and enhancements using the OpenPOWER platform. In addition to those mentioned earlier, Spain’s Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) is collaborating with IBM -BSC Deep Learning Center to improve and expand algorithms for deep learning systems. See Figure 1 (below) for more OpenPower platform activities in Europe and the UK.

Figure 1 European OpenPOWER ecosystem growing
Key to the success of the OpenPower platform is acceptance in the Dev/Ops world. A partial list of OpenPOWER developer resources and events from around the world include:
  • A European developer cloud – A collaborative effort between the Technical University of Munich at the Department of Informatics; plans are to launch Supervessel, a European R&D by the end of 2016. Similar to a Chinese effort, Supervessel is a cloud built on POWER’s open architecture and technologies to provide open remote access to ecosystem developers and university students.
  •  CAPI SNAP Framework Is a collaborative effort by North American and European OpenPOWER Foundation members to make FPGA acceleration technology easier to implement and more accessible to the worldwide developer community. A beta version is available now.
  •  OpenPOWER READY FPGA Accelerator Boards – Alpha Data showcased its low latency, low power, OpenPOWER READY compliant FPGA accelerator boards for applications requiring high-throughput processing and software acceleration.
  •  OpenPOWER Developer Challenge Winners – some 300 developers competed in the first OpenPOWER Developer Challenge, the four Grand Prize winners announced are:

The OpenPOWER ecosystem continues to grow and add members in the UK, Europe and around the globe. Europe’s 60 members today could double in the next 12 months as leading edge companies (of all sizes) have access to the right platform with the right capabilities for rapid innovation in operations, accelerators, networking, storage and software.

The Final Word
While generic servers aren’t going to disappear any time soon, the OpenPOWER platform and associated technologies clearly address previously unmet needs of developer and operations communities operating at the leading edge of technology and its application. These teams are tackling some of the biggest and most demanding problems and challenging applications that being addressed today. And, more and more of them are finding the OpenPOWER ecosystem supportive of the innovative thinking they demand.
One more observation, OpenPower System architecture isn’t just for the R&D and cutting edge teams. Numerous companies use the technology in a range of situations. The basic strategy is to extend the system capabilities and lower technological barriers to access using creative collaboration to make innovation and leveraging emerging technologies easier. We think they along with their partners are succeeding.

We encourage you to follow the links provided to find out more about what is happening with OpenPOWER Systems[6], the OpenPOWER Foundation[7] and the OpenPOWER ecosystem as it expands around the world. platform and associated enhancements find considerable application in research and operations.