IBM focuses on power and big data

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By Robert Roe

In two initiatives announced shortly before the opening of SC14, the US Supercomputing Conference in New Orleans, IBM is partnering with the UK’s Hartree centre to encourage British businesses to use HPC to tackle their big data challenges while, in Germany, IBM is working with NVIDIA and the Jülich Supercomputing Centre, to create and optimise research codes on GPU-accelerated OpenPOWER compatible systems.

In the UK, as a new report highlights skills shortages as the biggest barrier to exploiting Big Data, businesses can now get help solving complex data challenges with the use of HPC and advanced data analytics for big data. As result of the collaboration between IBM and the UK’s Science & Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Hartree Centre, a big-data innovation hub is being set up, using IBM technology for Big Data analytics and the HPC resources and expertise provided by the STFC.

Following the success of its High Performance Computing (HPC) initiative in addressing science challenges, the STFC is looking to further stimulate the UK economy by helping organisations make the most use out of technology and techniques in Big Data Analytics. In partnership with Scientific Computing World, it is organising a one-day conference on the industrial applications of HPC to extend the Machine Evaluation Workshop (MEW) which has traditionally taken a more academic approach to HPC. The conference HPC in Industry will be held at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on 4 December.

The STFC is one of the UK’s seven publicly funded Research Councils responsible for supporting, coordinating and promoting research, innovation and skills development. Lee Hannis, Business Development Manager, Hartree Centre, STFC said: ‘We have a great track record of delivering high performance computing services to industry -- developing algorithms and complex models that are used to create new products faster and cheaper. This collaboration in data analytics provides an obvious and exciting extension, opening up our skills to a wider audience of businesses. This toolset will allow any company to accelerate their understanding of data and its value within their business.’

At the heart of STFC’s IBM Big Data and Analytics environment is IBM’s Infosphere BigInsights, offering enterprise grade Hadoop for data processing, warehousing and analytics. This service can help organisations make sense of large, complex data sets.

Complementing BigInsights within the Hartree Centre environment are Infosphere Streams for real-time analytics with microsecond latency: IBM Watson Explorer for Big Data exploration and search IBM Business Analytics for predictive analytics; and Big Data reporting and visualisation.

The Hartree Centre provides access to highly skilled data scientists to customers looking to tackle their Big Data and Analytics challenges.

The access to data scientists may be a critical contribution by the Hartree Centre, in the light of a recent report highlighting a lack of skilled personnel as the most important obstacle to British businesses successfully managing and exploiting the potential opportunities afforded by Big Data.

Talend, a big data integration specialist, found that ‘two out of every five (39 per cent) organisations surveyed cited a lack of skills or a lack of time as the main type of difficulty.’ Yves de Montcheuil, VP Marketing, Talend said: ‘The skills issue is one of the biggest “brakes” on business benefiting from Big Data today. As the Big Data environment has evolved, the technology required to navigate it has become increasingly complex and the pool of engineers capable of using it or even understanding it has not followed suit.’

The research found that many organisations were reluctant to embrace strategies to deal with big data due to a lack of staff trained with the advanced tools needed to manage big data workflows.

Talend have begun offering the Talend Big Data Sandbox, which it hopes will provide an answer to the Big Data skills gap by delivering a preconfigured virtual environment designed to quickly get Big Data projects off the ground through real-world use cases and interactive learning tools.

IBM’s partnership with NVIDIA and the Jülich Supercomputing Centre, the POWER Acceleration and Design Centre, was born out of the OpenPOWER Foundation. The OpenPOWER Foundation is an open development community formed in late 2013, now with over 70 members, to create a new ecosystem based on the POWER architecture.

Dave Turek, Vice President of Technical Computing OpenPOWER for IBM said: ‘The opening of this new centre reinforces IBM’s commitment to foster an open collaboration environment and is our next step in expanding the software ecosystem around OpenPOWER. Teaming with NVIDIA and the Jülich Supercomputing Centre allows us to leverage each of our strengths to extend innovation.’