IBM Ups SoftLayer's Computational Chops With Nvidia GPUs

IBM introduced ultra-fast Nvidia graphics processors to SoftLayer on Wednesday, adding a new stratum of computational capabilities it can offer through the public cloud.

The high-performance option made possible by the Tesla K80 boards, available to provision only on bare-metal servers, is intended for firms doing advanced analytics. IBM is the first to bring the K80 GPU to market through the cloud.

Jerry Gutierrez, global HPC sales leader for SoftLayer, told CRN that IBM started beta testing the K80s in-house at the start of the year, and continued that process over the past few months with customers.

[Related: IBM Pushing OpenStack Services To SoftLayer Public Cloud]

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The GPUs bring remote visualization and computation capabilities not previously possible for cloud users, according to the company. In fact, IBM customers with HPC workloads were some of the last to move from on-premise machines to the cloud, Gutierrez said, "because frankly there wasn't really a solution for them out there.’

But customers using those types of applications also wanted the benefits of the cloud, such as flexibility, rapid scaling and ease of testing and upgrading. The new offering will allow those end users to switch from a CapEx to OpEx model for the first time, he said.

IBM expects the K80-enabled machines to appeal to businesses across many verticals, from oil and gas, to media, entertainment and gaming companies. They are also expected to be well-received by small companies using machine-learning and analytics tools.

"For startups to go build their own HPC clusters is very expensive, so it typically wasn't in the cards for them," Gutierrez said. "What this really does is opens the door for the small startups. The machine learning and big data-type startups."

IBM is now starting to recruit partners to bring the K80 machines to market. It will be a high-margin product with a strong reseller component, he said, but it's still new enough that the company's channel hasn't yet gotten involved.

"We have partners that are interested in it and we're actively pursuing those," he said.

"The channel's going to bring a lot of expertise, especially when it comes to the HPC space. It's so specialized, it can go a long way for our channel partners," Gutierrez told CRN.