FEATURES & COMMENTARY
Richmond, VA. — Representatives of the nation’s leading supercomputer users – government organizations, major industrial firms and university-based research centers – have launched a plan to create more-rigorous performance tests for this most powerful class of computers. The improved tests are needed to support advanced scientific research, industrial engineering and classified government work, all of which rely heavily on supercomputers.
At the first annual meeting of the HPC (High Performance Computing) User Forum, organized by research analyst firm IDC, members heard the plan outlined by Robert Lucas, head of HPC Research at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC). The plan calls for a team that includes Lucas, “World’s Top500 Supercomputer Sites” co-author Erich Strohmaier, and others to select applications to be used in the benchmark suite, test and adapt them to run on various systems, develop and release the test suite and then collect performance results after the benchmarks are run on supercomputer (HPC) systems from various vendors. The results would then be analyzed to see if the initial objectives were met.
The new test suite is intended to supplement limited standard tests such as Linpack, on which the semi-annual “Top500” ranking of supercomputers is based, and to eliminate the need to rely on theoretical “peak performance” figures, which may be nearly meaningless in practice.
“The new benchmark suite must be simple enough to be usable and maintained, complex enough to reflect the influence of all system attributes of interest, and scalable to utilize resources in a variety of system sizes over a ten-year period,” according to Erich Strohmaier, who publishes the “Top500” list with Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee, and Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim (Germany). “Linpack is a pure CPU benchmark and was not designed to measure other system attributes that may contribute significantly to real-world performance, including internal memory speed, disks and external networks.”
The HPC User Forum represents key Defense and Energy department programs, including the Defense Modernization Program and DOE’s ASCI Program; firms such as Ford and Dupont; national supercomputing centers; and other major supercomputer users. Also represented in the user-directed organization are HPC vendors API, Cray, Compaq, Essential, Etnus, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, SGI, SRC, Sun and others.
The HPC User Forum ( http://www.idc.com/hpc ) is an initiative organized by IDC at the request of high-performance computing users in industry, government and academia. The Forum believes that ensuring the long-term health of the HPC industry is crucial for scientific and industrial progress. IDC is the world’s leading provider of information technology (IT) industry analysis, market data and insight, and strategic and tactical guidance to builders, providers and users of information technology. IDC provides global research with local content through more than 600 analysts in 43 countries worldwide. IDC is a division of IDG, the world’s leading IT media, research, and exposition company.