Back in 2009, I was frustrated. Worshiping the Top500 list was all the rage. I just did not understand what all the fuss was about. I certainly appreciated the goal of the Top500 benchmark and the valuable historical data it has collected over the years. However, using it as a metric to measure real-world HPC performance was in my mind a "high tech pissing contest." In my opinion, things have gotten a little better, but not much. The focus on one data point was great for marketing types, but scientists and engineers know better.

And, for those scientists and engineers that use HPC to do useful things, I highly recommend reading HPC Scales out of Balance With CPU Heavy Thinking. [Note: The Platform is a new HPC resource worth reading.] Even if you don't have time to read, look at the figures in the article. These multi-dimensional plots are how one should look at HPC performance. Indeed, I highly recommend you also read Crossing the Performance Chasm with OpenPOWER by Srini Chari of Cabot Partners. This white paper is the source of the figures in The Platform article. Study them carefully. The application area performance envelopes are very telling and the future of HPC can be described in their geometry. Or, if you want to keep waving the FLOPS Flag, go ahead. And, good luck with that.

The white paper also talks about OpenPOWER and the new IBM Power 8 Turismo SCM processor. For those that don't know, the OpenPOWER Foundation was founded in 2013 as an open technical membership organization. Member companies are enabled to customize POWER CPU processors and system platforms for optimization and innovation for their business needs. The word open in the context of software is fairly well understood. In terms of hardware, this blog describes what IBM means by "open":

  • IBM is licensing the microprocessor technology openly to its partners. They are sharing the blueprints to their hardware and software to their partners, so they can hire IBM or other companies to manufacture processors or other related chips.
  • IBM is collaborating openly in an open-collaboration business model where participants share technologies and innovations with each other.
  • IBM will leverage the advantages via open source software such as the Linux operating system.

OpenPOWER is beginning to bear fruit. Take a look at the TYAN TN71-BP012 Power 8 Turismo motherboard. That is a TYAN product and not a rebadged IBM server. If IBM Power processors licensed through OpenPOWER enter the commodity HPC market, Intel/AMD x86 solutions may see some real competition. And, if OpenPower can better serve the HPC performance envelops discussed in the above white paper, then IBM may have a big power play in HPC and other markets. Now, that I think about it, IBM should probably unload System x so they aren't selling their competitors processors. Oh, wait...

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