Mellanox and OpenPOWER Partners Sponsor “Innov8 with POWER8” Academic Challenge


By Scot Schultz, Director of HPC and Technical Computing, Mellanox Technologies

Mellanox has partnered with IBM and a group of fellow OpenPOWER Foundation member companies, including NVIDIA, Altera, to launch a brand new academic challenge for computer science graduate students.  Called “Innov8 with POWER8,” the program involves three top universities – including North Carolina State University, Rice University and Oregon State University.  This fall semester, each school was provided with OpenPOWER compatible IBM POWER8 Power Systems enabled with Mellanox’s industry leading interconnect. The goal of the challenge is to enable the students to leverage the OpenPOWER server platform to drive innovation on variety of specialized projects, each focused on the themes of either Big Data, genomics or cloud computing.

Earlier this year, at the IBM Impact 2014 conference, Mellanox demonstrated a 10x improvement in throughput and latency of a key value store application on POWER8 architecture. Mellanox Host Channel Adapters provide the highest performing interconnect solution for enterprise data centers, HPC and cloud computing and are also capable of remote direct memory access (RDMA). RDMA  allows direct memory access from remote systems with the involvement of the operating system or other CPU resources, coupled with the innovative OpenPOWER compatible POWER8 architecture, making it the perfect platform for the universities to accelerate  research and development for real-world challenges. The projects are already in development, but the initial scope of project work looks exciting. Take a look below at what the universities will be working on this semester:

North Carolina State University
NCSU’s projects address real-world bottlenecks in deploying big data solutions. NCSU has built up a strong set of skills in Big Data, having worked closely with the IBM Power Systems team to push the boundaries in delivering what clients need.  These projects extend their work to the next level, taking advantage of the accelerators that are a core element of the POWER8 value proposition.

  • Project 1: NCSU will focus on Big Data optimization, accelerating the preprocessing phase of their Big Data pipeline with Power-optimized,  coherently attached reconfigurable accelerators in FPGAs from Altera. The team will assess the work from the IBM Zurich Research Laboratory on text analytics acceleration, aiming to eventually develop their own accelerators.
    · Project 2: The University’s second project focuses on smart storage. The team is looking to leverage the Zurich accelerator in the storage context as well.

Rice University
Rice University has recognized that genomics information consumes massive datasets; however, developing the infrastructure required to rapidly ingest, perform analytics, and store this information is a challenge. Rice’s initiatives, in collaboration with NVIDIA and Mellanox, are designed to accelerate the adoption of these new big data and analytics technologies in medical research and clinical practice.

  • Project 1: Rice students will exploit the massive parallelism of GPU accelerator technology and linear programming algorithms to provide deeper understanding of basic organism biology, genetic variation and pathology, and adopting a multi-GPU implementation of the simplex algorithm to genome assembly and benchmarking.
  • Project 2: Students will develop new approaches to high-throughput systematic identification of chromatin loops between genomic regulatory elements, utilizing GPUs to in-parallel and efficiently search the space of possible chromatin interactions for true chromatin loops.

Oregon State University
Oregon State University’s Open Source Lab has been a leader in open source cloud solutions on Power Systems, even providing a cloud solution hosting for more than 160 projects. These new projects create strong Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offerings, leveraging the network strengths of Mellanox, as well as improving the management of the cloud solutions via a partnership with Chef.

  • Project 1: Oregon State University will focus on cloud enablement, working to create an OpenPOWER stack environment to demonstrate Mellanox networking and cloud capabilities.
    · Project 2: The University will take an open technology approach to cloud, using Linux, OpenStack and KVM to create a platform environment managed by Chef in the university’s Open Source Lab.

As you can see, the work that is underway is impressive. Mellanox salutes each of the students involved and we look forward to hearing about their progress throughout the semester, and ultimately learning which student team is named “Best in Class” at the IBM InterConnect conference in February!

This challenge is just the beginning. Universities may become members of the OpenPOWER Foundation for free to take advantage of the industry momentum, engage in technical work groups and strategic initiatives, and more. To find out more, visit the OpenPOWER Foundation.