IBM is boosting the high-performance computing (HPC) capabilities of the IBM Cloud by now offering Nvidia Tesla K80 dual-graphics processing unit (GPU) accelerators on bare metal cloud servers.
The new offering brings high-speed performance to the IBM SoftLayer infrastructure and enables companies using the IBM Cloud to build supercomputing clusters without having to expand their existing technology infrastructure.
“We’re offering the Nvidia K80 on bare metal servers here at SoftLayer,” said Jerry Gutierrez, global HPC sales leader for SoftLayer, in an interview with eWEEK. “It’s been through beta testing with some of our customers over the last several months. And they have all gone into production. What we’re addressing here is a need by the HPC industry as a whole to move to the cloud. We see a huge demand from those customers. They’re the last segment of customers that are able to move.”
Gutierrez said IBM Cloud is the only cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) provider to offer GPU-accelerated computing on bare metal servers directly to customers. And it is now the only IaaS provider to offer its customers Tesla K80 GPU accelerators in the cloud, he said. By providing such capabilities in the cloud, IBM gives companies of all sizes easier and more affordable access to supercomputing resources.
“What has happened over the last couple of years is some HPC users have attempted to move to some of our competitors and been met with very lackluster performance, Gutierrez said. “By offering the K80 on bare metal, we’re able to offer a full solution for them to be able to deploy clusters for anything from machine learning, to analytics and be used across all industries. We’re seeing it in oil and gas, we’re seeing it in media and entertainment; we’re also seeing it in medical uses as well.”
In addition to bringing SoftLayer supercomputing capabilities to the enterprise, this new cloud GPU capability is particularly important for startups and research facilities, which typically start small, using only a few machines and GPU accelerators for testing and development workloads, Gutierrez said. With the Tesla K80, IBM Cloud provides a scalable supercomputing option that supports discovery and insight for customers in a variety of industries, including genomics, data analysis, machine learning and deep learning.
“This opens the door for a lot of these startups that come out of universities that have been using supercomputers or HPC at their universities to come out and hit the ground running with starting their business,” he said. “We’re seeing some really unique things that customers are doing – everything from image recognition to machine learning. This allows them to get started on a small scale and then grow into the business.”
Some of the early users of the Nvidia K80 on SoftLayer include New York University, MapD and Artomatix. NYU recently used Tesla K80 accelerators on IBM Cloud to support a deep-learning course.
“Students in our course were assigned to teams that used the K80 nodes on the SoftLayer infrastructure to complete deep-learning course work, assignments, and projects,” said Christian Puhrsch, former section leader at NYU, in a statement.
Startup MapD has been using Tesla K80 accelerators on IBM Cloud for data and analytics. The solution enables multiple users to query and visualize multi-billion row data sets with latencies measured in milliseconds, achieving orders-of-magnitude increases in speed over other solutions.
“While we offer on-premises appliance solutions, having a cloud GPU offering on SoftLayer is a perfect way to deploy to customers who would rather use MapD on a subscription basis or ‘try before they buy,’” said Todd Mostak, founder and CEO of MapD, in a statement. “The fact that IBM Cloud offers SoftLayer bare metal GPU servers dovetails perfectly with our focus on overwhelming performance, as virtualization can increase query latencies.”
IBM Puts Nvidia Tesla K80 GPU on SoftLayer Cloud
Meanwhile, Artomatix uses Tesla K80 accelerators on IBM Cloud to apply machine-learning and big-data concepts to art creation, enabling computers to manage many tedious and time-consuming aspects of the process and allowing artists to focus on creating more dynamic games and films. The Artomatix platform enables a single artist to do the work of a team, disrupting traditional art and animation workflows in the video game and movie industries.
“We leverage the latest Nvidia GPUs by repurposing them to work as supercomputers on IBM Cloud, which makes it feasible to do in seconds what would otherwise take hours or even days to do on standard hardware,” said Neal O’Gorman, founder and CEO of Artomatix, in a statement. “By automating the generation of art on the SoftLayer platform, Artomatix enables digital graphic artists to focus on being creative, in addition to reducing project times and costs.”
“Artomatix does animation created by a machine learning backend,” Gutierrez said. “So for animation for movies and video games, instead of having animators draw animations to make them look more realistic, Artomatix can output characters for you. It allows animators to do more work and have more computational throughput. We’ve seen a lot of uptake from video production houses and rendering farms where they need a great deal of bandwidth and high I/O.”
Gutierrez said the Nvidia K80 offers up to 10 times the performance of the K10, which is the previous version of Nvidia’s GPU technology IBM used in its cloud environment.
“It puts us out in front of our competitors in that no other major cloud provider has the K80 capabilities for their customers,” Gutierrez said. “We offer it on bare metal and in a cloud model. We’ve always offered customers the choice of virtualized or to use bare metal. With bare metal they’re going to see a lot of benefits especially when they have GPU capabilities thrown on top of a bare metal server. This enables users to throw the toughest, most demanding workloads on the cloud. This is one of our key differentiators. This is a cost-effective way of getting HPC level performance at a reasonable price.”
The K80 on SoftLayer beta customers took advantage of the Tesla K80’s dual-GPU architecture, which has a large memory that provides more teraflops of double-precision computing performance and gigabytes of memory in a single server—accelerating compute-heavy workloads and delivering 10 times higher performance than today’s fastest CPU, IBM said.
“The Tesla Accelerated Computing Platform is used by researchers and data scientists around the world to drive innovation and scientific discovery,” said Ian Buck, vice president of Accelerated Computing at Nvidia, in a statement. “With the addition of Tesla K80 GPUs, SoftLayer’s unique cloud offering for HPC will dramatically expand access to supercomputing-class performance, accelerating the pace of important new advances.”
The K80 accelerator joins IBM Cloud’s other Nvidia GPU offerings, which include the Grid K2 and Tesla K10.
“Our global network of data centers, connectivity features, bare metal servers, and GPU offerings meet the rigorous requirements of most supercomputing workloads,” said Marc Jones, CTO for SoftLayer, in a statement. “By introducing the K80 accelerator on IBM Cloud, we’re giving our customers an even more powerful tool to run demanding applications.”