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IBM aims to disrupt supercomputing market with cloud enticements

Joab Jackson | July 24, 2014
IBM's SoftLayer cloud will offer supercomputer-friendly InfiniBand as an interconnect option.

SoftLayer started to court supercomputer users in 2012 by offering customers the ability to add graphical processing units to their bare metal servers.

GPUs are favored among supercomputer users because they can process large blocks of data in parallel, speeding job completion while cutting power costs.

Beyond supercomputing, IBM also sees InfiniBand as appealing for other workloads, Jones said. Media companies might find value in the service for duties such as large-scale animation jobs or video format transcoding. Oil and gas companies, looking for more sources of fuel, have a lot of data to analyze as well.

"We're also seeing enterprises that have significant requirements for analyzing large data sets, and they want to do that faster and with lower latency," Jones said.

IBM SoftLayer has a number of other tools to help manage these jobs. Large amounts of data can be stored in the company's Elastic Storage service. IBM also has some software for managing complex multinode workloads, IBM Platform LSF or Platform Symphony.

The supercomputing practice of IBM will also use the SoftLayer cloud as an option for its clients.

HPC is one of many specific markets the company hopes to move to the cloud.

IBM has spent considerable resources in ramping up its cloud services this year.

After its US$2 billion acquisition of SoftLayer last year, the company started investing $1.2 billion in building out data centers, working to bring the total to 40 around the globe by 2015. IBM is also investing an additional $1 billion to round out its Bluemix portfolio of services, and now offers over 100 software-based services from its cloud.

Pricing for the InfiniBand option has not been established, though Jones said it will be a paid option on SoftLayer's service for running bare metal servers, which is billed on a monthly basis.

 

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