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IBM TechU 2016 – An attendees view

The IBM Power Systems & Storage Technical University rolled into Hammersmith in London this week, and it has not disappointed! We’re in full flow right now and, similar to previous events the week has been excellent.

The ‘TechU’ is a great opportunity to network and meet like-minded people, learn about the latest technology, and sharpen your knowledge in the many sessions led by IBM product and industry experts. It’s also a great opportunity to share amongst peers different methods for achieving what you want to do in the field of Power Systems and Storage. I’ve been involved in exciting solutions with a number of customers in my work with OCF so have enjoyed being able to learn about even more cool new technology (and methods for implementing these) at the TechU.

So what’s the coolest and latest I hear you ask?! Here’s my summary:

  • OpenPOWER offerings and hardware

Offering Power hardware at an extremely competitive price point. We were talking prices and the OpenPOWER and LC line kit will be at a directly comparable level to x86 kit with similar memory/storage but with much more memory bandwidth. With both community and enterprise level little-endian Linux installers available and actively developed, there has never been a better time to transition – and means your data is much more easily interchangeable with your x86 kit.

  • Blockchain on Power

Blockchain (and the hyperledger project) makes managing any kind of ledger more streamlined, reducing human overhead to ensure a consistent, faster, fully auditable and secure way to carry out transactions of multiple assets.

  • Accelerators and how they work with Power Systems (i.e. GPUs)

Acceleration unlocks a range of opportunities. One of the case studies we listened to was how a motorsport team leverages this technology to significantly improve their performance. GPU acceleration is being leveraged in many applications on Power, some of which are below… and this is set to continue.

  • Apache Spark on Power Storage and Systems

We looked at performance benefits versus both MapReduce and x86 hardware. Apache Spark allows you to manipulate both structured and unstructured data, allowing you to do complex analytics to deliver business value. It is of particularly useful in Big Data installs where to manipulate data you will also need a lot of compute power. We listened to details of how Spectrum Scale can be leveraged against this to improve the performance even more.

  • Kinetica

Kinetica leverages GPUs to provide hyper parallelism on database queries, often resulting in a much faster and more scalable database. An example demonstrated highlighted a 4x simultaneous query throughput boost vs. traditional database systems – Very exciting technology!

  • KVM on Power

There were discussions on future plans for KVM on Power and best practices for installation and maintenance. This enables great virtualised environments for consolidation of kit (without having to necessarily consider OpenStack or containers to do so, however, it will also support this technology and is a great bridging step).

  • New scale up and scale out methodologies using Power hardware

Whether its super dense compute, accelerated nodes with GPUs, an enterprise class chassis, or any mixture of these, Power is suitable for all kinds of requirements and there are a lot of exciting developments customised for multiple use cases.

  • Compiler toolchain improvements

XLC and XLF compilers were also covered, as well as how to get the most out of your code on Power hardware to get the very best performance for your apps and making use of features not available on other hardware.


There are some really great minds here, and being able to bounce thoughts off each other is fantastic. I really enjoy how it throws up some interesting opportunities for collaboration or even brand-new ways of doing things that previously weren’t considered based on what people have been working on separately in their own areas of expertise. Stay tuned for more information on this!

You may be thinking that these types of events are just for engineers. They’re not; they are essential for helping decision makers to get a different perspective on what is out there in order to make informed decisions about where their next system is going.

It has never been easier to transition from x86 to Power – and back, or even to run side-by-side to get the BEST system for the use case – and that trend is set to continue with many Power Systems tailored to use cases.

I would strongly encourage anyone interested in Power Systems (or even looking for an alternative to x86 to keep their options open and prevent vendor lock-in) to attend these types of events.

Did you attend the TechU? If so, I’d love to hear what you thought. Also, if you are interested in test-driving some of the latest Power System technology, please get in touch.