Supermicro launches partner-focused GPU test drive program around NVIDIA NVLink and high-end Supermicro platforms

The program involves seven Supermicro partners, two in Europe and five in North America, but Supermicro sees this kind of AI-focused work is something that will become widely used, so represents a key partner opportunity.

San Jose-based ODM Supermicro Computer has announced the launch of STEP — Supermicro Test drive Engagement with Partners. The new GPU test drive program lets partners work with customers to remote drive two high-end Supermicro systems —  the  2U HGX A100 4-GPU system, or the 4U HGX A100 8-GPU system with NVIDIA’s 3rd Generation NVLink technology.

“This is the kind of program we run on occasion,” said Michael McNerney, VP of Marketing and Network Security at Supermicro. “The AI GPU space is particularly well suited for this. The systems we are offering as part of the program are very high-end training systems. These are highly optimized systems, not servers with a couple of GPUs. They also aren’t something that is that easy for customers to get their hands on. So it presents a fairly unique opportunity for customers to come  and work with partners on these systems that aren’t typically easily available.”

Seven partners with advanced skills in AI have been selected for the program. The two in EMEA are both from the UK, Boston Ltd., and Broadberry Data Systems. North American partners involved are Sunnyvale CA-based Colfax International, Fremont-CA based Exxact Corporation, Plymouth MA-based Microway, Boston MA-based Thinkmate, and Fremont-based AMAX.

“We have worked with these partners and NVIDIA to put these systems online for  the partners,” McNerney said. “Online access is key in the pandemic. These partners will be able to have these test drive systems for their customers to use. Because the program is very partner focused, it also lets partners add their own value into these solutions.”

McNerney emphasized that these kinds of demos are particularly important in high-end AI situations.

“When you look at these AI workloads and the expertise that’s required, it’s an environment where the partner can use expertise to assist the customer greatly,” he said. “A typical AI conversation starts with talking about having data scientists do this – and what if the customer doesn’t have any data scientists. This is one of those rare opportunities for partners to add clear value. We all agree on the eventual pervasiveness of AI – but its about getting there.”

McNerney noted that only a limited number of partners were chosen for STEP, but that doesn’t mean that only a limited number of partners can develop expertise in the particular platforms that are part of the program.

“With tech, everything constantly moves up the stack,” he said. “What was unique and boutique 10 years ago, you can now buy transactionally on Amazon. When you look at the AI space, the eventual destination is so pervasive, and every industry will have some element of AI in it. For partners who can figure out how to add value, the opportunity is tremendous.”

On the simplest level, there is still opportunity.

“If you look at these systems from a traditional perspective, they are still challenging – with power , cooling and networking issues. If a customer wants to put 10 of these boxes in a data centre, they will likely need some help – so there is traditional value-add there.”

McNerney emphasized however, that the  channel can’t get stuck seeing the  HGX A100 and HGX A100  as niche systems.

“They are certainly higher end, but looking at them as niche is shortsighted because of the size of this market,” he said. “While it can look niche today, that computing power will get applied by somebody. There’s a risk for partners in not understanding how to leverage this technology.”