OpenPower Partners Open SuperVessel Dev Cloud
June 15, 2015 Dan Burger and Timothy Prickett Morgan
The Power Tech Open Lab in Beijing, China, is the home to the first open development cloud that IBM is firing up to help developers worldwide gain access to Power8 hybrid systems to create innovative applications. The idea is simple enough: servers ain’t cheap, but without some access to cheap or free iron, developers will stick to the X86 systems they know and can prototype on their laptops.
The development cloud, known as SuperVessel, was created by the IBM Systems Lab and IBM Research arms, which both have facilities in Beijing. (A certain portion of IBM i hardware and software development is performed in China these days, which will come as no surprise to anyone.) Sumit Gupta, who just moved over from graphics chip maker Nvidia to become vice president of OpenPower high performance computing, tells The Four Hundred that this is just the first of several open development facilities that will be operational soon.
SuperVessel is based on IBM’s Power S824 machines, which means that they can in theory be used to run IBM i as well as Linux and AIX. The nodes are equipped with field programmable gate array (FPGA) accelerators made by Xilinx, which attach to the Power8 processors over the Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface (CAPI) so the CPUs and FPGAs can share main memory and work. The SuperVessel cloud is managed by the OpenStack cloud controller and is being used for a number of big data workloads. Sources in the Chinese lab tell us that in the six months that the SuperVessel cloud has been prototyping, over 2,000 developers have monkeyed around with the system. All of these users have been working in Linux, and the machines can be equipped with Hadoop data analytics and Spark in-memory processing.
IBM is very keen for the Power architecture to take off in China for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that it can be a local technology tweaked by Chinese companies who gain access through the OpenPower Foundation. This is precisely the plan, but IBM and its OpenPower partners need to seed the world with some capacity if they are to learn how to tune existing code and create new code specifically for Power8 and future Power machines.
This issue has plagued the OS/400 and IBM i community for years, of course. From the standpoint of introducing colleges and universities to Power Systems and the OpenPower community, SuperVessel is the latest in string of similar projects.
“This is a focused activity with the OpenPower Foundation members to bring state of the art capabilities to university environments,” says Terri Virnig, IBM vice president of Power Ecosystem and Strategy. “We help the university students gain ‘next generation’ expertise in areas such as Power, cloud, open source, big data, and analytics.”
Virnig, who has overall responsibility of the Power Systems Academic Initiative, says SuperVessel is distinct from the PSAI in that it is very focused and PSAI is designed for broad appeal. However, PSAI also has a cloud-based environment for universities around the world. Colleges and universities that are members of PSAI are welcome to join SuperVessel, with its next gen technology.
More than 30 universities are currently participating in SuperVessel. Almost all of them are based in China, where the program has its roots. The schools are working on individual projects as well as collaborating with other universities, IBM, and OpenPower Foundation members.
Virnig says the involvement of the universities creates a “collaboration of business development and educational development” that has proved to be successful in the past. “It’s not a new idea, but it is applying new technology and increasing the understanding of what new technology can achieve,” she says. “This is an example of how the pieces come together.”
It raises the awareness level for Power8 and IBM software and gets the OpenPower partners engaged in activities that could lead to break-through solutions. And it also provides students with more than learning specific skills in the classroom. They gain real world experience that involves critical thinking, a higher level of creativity and collaboration, and includes global experience.