IBM plans to downsize Watson supercomputer to pizza box

Published on July 17, 2014

IBM plans to downsize Watson supercomputer to pizza box

    A team of researchers from IBM is currently working on a project to significantly reduce server sizes. In fact, it is about the goal of reducing the size of high-performance systems like IBM Watson to the size of a pizza box.

    This project is carried out simultaneously with the five-year Dome project, a joint work of IBM and the Institute of Radio Astronomy (Netherlands). The miniaturization of high-performance systems is ideal for the task of creating the world's largest Square Kilometer Array telescope. Miniature production servers will process data received from this telescope.

    At present, the first results of the miniaturization project are ready: IBM has managed to combine 128 computers - which function as blades, into a single server. This server is equal in performance to servers whose sizes are 4-10 times larger. The energy consumption in this case is 55-60 watts, which is significantly lower than the energy consumption of similar in performance systems of a similar size.

    In the "compacted" server there are 1536 processor cores capable of working with 3072 threads simultaneously. Testing the operation of such a system was carried out with IBM DB2 software. The maximum amount of RAM in such a system can reach 6 TB, which can significantly increase the performance of applications that run in memory, for example, various DBMSs. Among other things, the authors of the project plan to use miniature high-performance systems to solve various kinds of analytical problems and work with cloud applications.

    Next year, IBM plans to release a server with a similar performance with an energy consumption of 30-35 watts.

    According to the head of the project, the main task of the project team at the present time is to significantly reduce the energy consumption of high-performance systems, as well as the size of such systems. Data centers consume megawatts of energy, and a new project will help reduce electricity bills.

    The board size of the new mini-server is 133 * 55 mm. The authors of the project claim that systems of similar performance are run on boards measuring 305 * 245 mm. The new servers have 12-core T4240 processors with PowerPC architecture.

    IBM plans to further reduce server sizes through the integration of various units, including the computing unit, system logic, memory controllers and storage unit. Such integration and reduced board size are important for reducing power consumption. This is because now about 98% of the energy is consumed to transfer data from point A to point B at the processor and board level. In this case, the data falls from block to block, passes through a number of channels. The smaller the board and blocks, the lower the energy costs in production systems.