OCF brings IBM POWER9 systems to UK academia

Queen Mary University of London and Newcastle University are the first to benefit from the new high performance systems

Two Universities, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and Newcastle University, are the first UK academic organisations to deploy IBM’s POWER9 system, delivering unprecedented performance for modern High Performance Computing (HPC), analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) workloads. Working with the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF), the high performance compute, storage and data analytics integrator, both Universities have taken delivery of the systems and will be integrated by OCF into existing HPC infrastructures.

QMUL needs to have the latest technology to help its researchers in areas where they are using deep learning to solve some of today’s toughest scientific challenges. The University became one of the first organisations to purchase two IBM Accelerated Compute Servers (AC922) powered by POWER9 CPUs, Volta GPUs and NVLink 2.0 interconnects.

“QMUL is a world-leader in deep learning research in post-event video forensics and analysis,” said Professor Sean Gong, Head of the Computer Vision Research Group at QMUL. “Deep learning by large-scale convolutional neural networks – a category of neural networks that has been proven effective in areas such as image recognition and classification – has radically changed research into computer vision in recent years. Given our previous test trials on IBM Minsky POWER8 servers, we expect to see significant benefit from the new POWER9 servers for deep learning on big video data.”

“Modern AI, HPC and Analytics workloads are driving an ever-growing set of data intensive challenges.”

Within the Mathematics, Statistics and Physics departments at Newcastle University, researchers were looking to use the GPU-accelerated platform for computational physics projects. “The major difficulty we face is that our calculations are non-linear, time-dependent and three-dimensional, so solving them is out of reach with pencil and paper, and the numerical computation requires large memory and fast speed – we are humbled from the start,” said Carlo Barenghi, Co-Director of the Joint Quantum Centre at Newcastle University. “We did some investigations and the IBM POWER9 system was the best technology for our work – in trial runs we got a ‘speed up factor’ in the order of 10x magnitude, so the decision was easily made.”

“Modern AI, HPC and Analytics workloads are driving an ever-growing set of data intensive challenges,” said Julian Fielden, Managing Director of OCF. “These challenges can only be met with accelerated infrastructure, such as IBM’s POWER9. In such a highly competitive field as academic research, providing superior HPC services to compute large quantities of data quickly, can help to attract world-class researchers, as well as grants and funding.”

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