Innovation Unleashed: OpenPOWER Developer Challenge Winners Announced

Published on Thursday 27 October 2016


By John Zannos, Chairman, OpenPOWER Foundation

Developers play an integral role within the OpenPOWER ecosystem, and we’re passionate about welcoming them and their creative minds into our growing community. That’s why we decided to embark on our very first OpenPOWER Developer Challenge this past spring. When we made the call for entries, we were thrilled to see over 300 individuals seize this opportunity to tap into the accessible OpenPOWER platform.

As part of the Challenge, we provided developers access to the SuperVessel Developer Cloud, along with hands-on guidance to innovative hardware acceleration technologies, advanced development tools, and programming frameworks, enabling them to optimize and accelerate their applications. Working within the OpenPOWER ecosystem, participants were challenged to build or transform their passion projects, finding new ways to accelerate applications in need of a performance boost.  They became contenders as individuals or teams in three courses: The Open Road Test, The Accelerated Spark Rally, and The Cognitive Cup.

And now, after months of forward thinking, collaboration and propelling innovative technologies ever forward, I am excited to announce the four winners of the inaugural OpenPOWER Developer Challenge!


  • Scaling Up And Out A Bioinformatics Algorithm, by Zaid Al-Ars, Johan Peltenburg, Matthijs Brobbel, Shanshan Ren, and Tudor Voicu from Delft University of Technology – Winner of the The Open Road Test
  • EmergencyPredictionOnSpark, by Antonio Carlos Furtado from the University of Alberta – Winner of The Accelerated Spark Rally
  • artNET Genre Classifier, by Praveen Sridhar and Pranav Sridhar – A two-way tie in The Cognitive Cup
  • DistributedTensorFlow4CancerDetection, by Alexander Kalinovsky, Andrey Yurkevich, Ksenia Ramaniuk, and Pavel Orda from Altoros Labs – A two-way tie in The Cognitive Cup

We spoke with each of the winners ahead of the OpenPOWER Summit Europe for insight on their experience and key takeaways from our inaugural Challenge. Here’s what our winning developers learned and what inspired their innovative applications.

Scaling Up And Out A Bioinformatics Algorithm

In addition to further developing an application that advances precision medicine, the engineers at Delft University of Technology acquired valuable skills both on a technical and team building level. As the team continues to work to further build the application, they are optimistic that working with the OpenPOWER Foundation will create a valuable network of partners to further collaborate and grow.

What was the inspiration for your application? For a couple of years now, our group in the TUDelft has been actively working to address the computational challenges in DNA analysis pipelines resulting from Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology, which brings great opportunities for new discoveries in disease diagnosis and personalized medicine. However, due to the large size of used datasets, it would take a prohibitively long time to perform NGS data analysis. Our solution is targeted to combine scaling with high-performance computer clusters and hardware acceleration of genetic analysis tools to achieve an efficient solution. – Zaid Al-Ars, Assistant Professor at the Delft University of Technology and co-Founder of Bluebee


Antonio Carlos Furtado was able to develop an emergency call prediction application through the OpenPOWER Developer Challenge, bringing himself up to speed with the OpenPOWER environment for the first time and then trying out different approaches to implementing his Big Data Analytics application. He is interested in exploring new features in deep learning and excited to get a glimpse of what is new in terms of high-performance computing at SC16.

What did you learn from the Challenge?

I learned more from the OpenPOWER Developer Challenge than what I usually learn after taking a four-month course at the university. The most useful thing I learned was probably the functional programming paradigm. As with most programmers, I am more familiar with the imperative programming paradigm. At some point during the Challenge, I realized that I would have to get myself familiarized with Scala programming language and functional programming to get my project completed in time. The main goal of the project was to use Apache Spark to scale the training of a deep learning model across multiple nodes. When learning about Apache Spark, I found that not only are there more resources for Scala, but it is also the best way to use it. I enjoyed programming in Scala so much that I continue learning it and using it even today. – Antonio Carlos Furtado, MSc Student at University of Alberta and Developer at wrnch

artNET Genre Classifier

Developers Praveen Sridhar and Pranav Sridhar were intrigued by the differentiated compute facilities provided to applicants. Initially, joining the Challenge was about testing the technologies provided on their art genre classifier; however, it transformed into absorbing and understanding deep learning through participation, which is imperative for long-term application development.

Why did you decide to participate in the OpenPOWER Developer Challenge?

I was fascinated by the fact that such awesome compute facilities were being provided by OpenPOWER for Developer Challenge participants. I initially just wanted to try out what was being provided, but once I realized its power, there was no stopping. I practically learned Deep Learning by participating in this Challenge. – Praveen Sridhar, Freelance Developer and Data Analyst


Altoros Labs found that combining the rapidly developing challenge space involving automated cancer detection using TensorFlow with the robust and proven platform offered through the OpenPOWER Developer Challenge led to amazing results. The developers are expecting the beta version of the application to be launched in a few months, and Altoros Labs will continue to utilize the OpenPOWER community to strengthen the application.

Why did you decide to participate in the OpenPOWER Developer Challenge?

Exploring TensorFlow has been one of our R&D focuses recently. We also knew that POWER8 technology is good at enhancing big data computing systems. Our team liked the idea of bringing the two solutions together, and the Challenge was a great opportunity to do so. Even though it was the first time we tried to participate in this kind of challenge, we got promising results and are going to continue with experiments. – Ksenia Ramaniuk, Head of Java & PHP Department at Altoros

Putting advanced tools at the fingertips of some of the most innovative minds is powering the growing open technology ecosystem, and the OpenPOWER Foundation is pleased to be a part of the progression. We’ll continue to place great importance on encouraging developer-focused collaborations and innovations that are capable of impacting the industry.

Help Build the Next Great OpenPOWER Application

Join the Grand Prize winners with IBM and OpenPOWER at SC16 in Salt Lake City, November 15-19. Hear first-hand their experiences and see full demos of their winning applications at the IBM booth.

Are you ready to get started on your OpenPOWER application? Check out our new Linux Developer Portal at Think your application idea is good enough to win the OpenPOWER Developer Challenge? Then be sure to follow to get updates on next year’s Challenge!