November 7, 2000

by Steven Witucki, assistant editor LIVEwire

Dallas, Texas — On August 22, 2000 the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) selected Compaq to build the world’s fastest and most powerful supercomputer, a 30+ TeraOPS system code-named ‘Q’-the latest advancement in the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI).

Richard Kaufmann, Technical Director for Compaq Computer Corporation’s High Performance Technical Computing Group, recently took the time to speak with HPCwire about Q and the state of high performance computing at Compaq.

HPCwire: Tell us about some of the challenges of developing a system to meet the ASCI requirements for the 30+ TeraOPS Q supercomputer.

KAUFMANN: The Q system will be the largest computer in the world when installed. It will push on all system parameters: scheduling, I/O, system management, MTBF, etc. It will be based on our AlphaServer SC technology. SC systems are installed at CEA (France), LANL, LLNL, ORNL, Pittsburgh Supercomputer Center, and others.

Compaq’s strategy (with guidance from Los Alamos) is to build Q out of approximately 375 of Compaq’s largest servers, the 32-CPU AlphaServer GS320. The GS320 is shipping to customers now, and has proven to be a very stable platform. The Q will use some planned upgrades for the GS320, available late 2001. The upgrades include faster CPUs and an updated I/O subsystem. Hardware stability is key to a successful deployment of Q, so using a solid server is very important.

Q will use the next version of the interconnect fabric from our AlphaServer SC series. The main changes are a different, faster host interface and increased network link bandwidth. Q will have eight rails (each rail is a separate network plane), and each GS320 will have at least 4 GB/s of message passing bandwidth.

375 nodes is a lot of nodes! Unless, of course, you compare Q with the NSF TCS-1 system to be installed at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center in 2001. Their system will consist of more than 600 quad-processor servers, and will be built with two rails of the AlphaServer SC fabric.

Q has a strong I/O requirement. An application must be able to dump all 12TB of memory to a global file store in ten minutes. This translates to more than 20GB/s of sustained parallel file system write bandwidth! We’re using a request forwarding mechanism to move I/O from the compute nodes to the file servers. This forwarding technology will first appear in the next few months in AlphaServer SC version 2.0, and we expect to spend significant time on this mechanism to ensure proper scaling.

We’re fortunate to have an incredibly solid compiler. It is easy to forget that modern processors are totally dependent on very smart compilers (not to mention compiler writers!), and Compaq’s Gem compiler technology has been one of our secret weapons. Some new technology will be added in Q’s timeframe to help with “NUMA” memory topologies. There will be a sneak peak of this technology during Jonathan Harris’ talk at Supercomputing.

There are nearly 12,000 Alpha processors in Q, and all of them will want to send MPI messages to each other. The virtual DMA technology of the AlphaServer SC fabric makes this practical, but we expect to spend a significant amount of time tackling application scaling. This is one of the key areas where the researchers at LANL will be working with us.

There are many other challenges in building Q! Just imagine this huge number of servers, each of which is six feet wide and five feet tall. There are more than 3,000 parallel fiber links from the servers to the switches, and an equal number of copper links tying together the cabinets for each switch. We’re building a special Q outpost in our manufacturing plant just to handle the first stage of system integration. The logistics required for this effort are pretty impressive.

HPCwire: Tell us about Compaq’s involvement with the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI).

KAUFMANN: Compaq (then DEC) has worked with ASCI since the ASCI Blue procurement in 1995. Our first successful procurement was ASCI PathForward. Under the PathForward program, Jim Tomkins (Sandia), Karl-Heinz Winkler (LANL) and Mark Seager (LLNL) worked with us to accelerate our interconnect program. PathForward is directly responsible for our relationship with Quadrics Supercomputers World, the supplier of the interconnect fabric in AlphaServer SC, and we wouldn’t have been able to bid on the 30T system without it.

Our discussions with the DoE labs over the past five years have profoundly influenced every aspect of our system design. Personnel from the DoE labs (as well as some other advanced customers, such as the French CEA) are involved in our design decisions right at the point of conception; quite often these researchers know about our future designs well before many of our own engineers!

HPCwire: What can you tell us about how the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will use Q?

KAUFMANN: Q will be used to push the state of the art of scientific modeling and simulation. The DoE will use the system to provide responsible stockpile stewardship, in an environment where nuclear testing is no longer acceptable. This need for reliable simulation is pushing not just computer companies, but also legions of algorithm and code designers – at the DoE, universities, and ISVs.

HPCwire: Does Compaq plan to continue to support governmental agencies like NNSA? If so, which agencies?

KAUFMANN: Compaq has long-standing relationships with the NSF, the intelligence community, the DoD, NASA, and others. Our HPTC organization works closely with these U.S. agencies, as well as other organizations outside the U.S.

If anything, we’re looking for ways to strengthen our relationships with these agencies. We call these accounts “lighthouse accounts” because we expect their needs to be a few years ahead of the wider market. It is working to satisfy the needs of these accounts that produces our technology for future generations of AlphaServer SC.

HPCwire: Will Compaq be building more 30+ TeraOPS systems, or will they be focussing on creating yet more powerful systems?

KAUFMANN: We’re deeply involved in design discussions for 100TF and beyond. However, we do expect to sell lots systems in the 0.002TF (aka a single CPU!) to the 30 TF range over the next few years. Just go to , and have your credit card ready!

HPCwire: Compaq recently reported record revenue for its third quarter this year. Do you think that the selection of Q by the NNSA contributed to this?

KAUFMANN: It’s our belief that the Q announcement (as well as some other major successes, described later) has sent a clear message that Compaq is in an incredibly strong position in HPTC. This undoubtedly has helped us in recent competitive situations, but significant revenue for the Q system itself won’t hit Compaq until 2001 and 2002. It’s great to work for a company that’s firing on all cylinders. Everything from the handheld iPaq to the 32-CPU AlphaServer GS320 are doing quite well, and the HPTC group is proud to do its part to help Compaq’s financial success.

HPCwire: Is there any other news regarding High performance computing at Compaq that you would like to talk about?

KAUFMANN: This has been a great year for us! In addition to Q, we’ve won the largest supercomputer program in Europe, CEA, the largest civilian supercomputer, the NSF Terascale system with Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, and very recently, the largest supercomputer in Japan, with the Japanese Atomic Research Institute. Our AlphaServers played a pivotal role in mapping the human genome earlier this year and at this moment are allowing researchers at Celera Genomics and many publicly funded institutions to complete the annotation of the genome and publish their findings. Blue Sky Studios, part of Fox, selected us to deliver the most powerful computing facility in the entertainment industry last spring. And in May, we began shipping our new GS series servers; high performance computing customers have been snapping them up at a record pace. So we’re on a very strong roll.

Looking forward, Compaq’s roadmap would be quite daunting to deliver, except for the excellent partners we’ve picked: Quadrics’ Elan network is the fabric of the AlphaServer SC series. This fabric has given us a very strong performance and capacity boost. We’re also lucky to be working with Etnus (TotalView), Pallas (Vampir SC), Platform Software (LSF), and Raytheon (integration help on Q).

By the way, if anyone out there would like to help, Compaq is busy hiring talented folks for its High Performance Technical Computing organization. Feel free to come and talk to us at Supercomputing!


Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

What’s New in Computing vs. COVID-19: Fugaku, Congress, De Novo Design & More

July 2, 2020

Supercomputing, big data and artificial intelligence are crucial tools in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Around the world, researchers, corporations and governments are urgently devoting their computing reso Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time last year, IBM announced open sourcing its Power instructio Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Career Notes: July 2020 Edition

July 1, 2020

In this monthly feature, we'll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high-performance computing community. Whether it's a promotion, new company hire, or even an accolade, we've got Read more…

By Mariana Iriarte

Supercomputers Enable Radical, Promising New COVID-19 Drug Development Approach

July 1, 2020

Around the world, innumerable supercomputers are sifting through billions of molecules in a desperate search for a viable therapeutic to treat COVID-19. Those molecules are pulled from enormous databases of known compoun Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPC-Powered Simulations Reveal a Looming Climatic Threat to Vital Monsoon Seasons

June 30, 2020

As June draws to a close, eyes are turning to the latter half of the year – and with it, the monsoon and hurricane seasons that can prove vital or devastating for many of the world’s coastal communities. Now, climate Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AWS Solution Channel

Maxar Builds HPC on AWS to Deliver Forecasts 58% Faster Than Weather Supercomputer

When weather threatens drilling rigs, refineries, and other energy facilities, oil and gas companies want to move fast to protect personnel and equipment. And for firms that trade commodity shares in oil, precious metals, crops, and livestock, the weather can significantly impact their buy-sell decisions. Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Supercomputing the Pandemic: Scientific Community Tackles COVID-19 from Multiple Perspectives

Since their inception, supercomputers have taken on the biggest, most complex, and most data-intensive computing challenges—from confirming Einstein’s theories about gravitational waves to predicting the impacts of climate change. Read more…

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This year is no different though the conversion of ISC to a digital Read more…

By John Russell

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This yea Read more…

By John Russell

Racism and HPC: a Special Podcast

June 29, 2020

Promoting greater diversity in HPC is a much-discussed goal and ostensibly a long-sought goal in HPC. Yet it seems clear HPC is far from achieving this goal. Re Read more…

Top500 Trends: Movement on Top, but Record Low Turnover

June 25, 2020

The 55th installment of the Top500 list saw strong activity in the leadership segment with four new systems in the top ten and a crowning achievement from the f Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ISC 2020 Keynote: Hope for the Future, Praise for Fugaku and HPC’s Pandemic Response

June 24, 2020

In stark contrast to past years Thomas Sterling’s ISC20 keynote today struck a more somber note with the COVID-19 pandemic as the central character in Sterling’s annual review of worldwide trends in HPC. Better known for his engaging manner and occasional willingness to poke prickly egos, Sterling instead strode through the numbing statistics associated... Read more…

By John Russell

ISC 2020’s Student Cluster Competition Winners Announced

June 24, 2020

Normally, the Student Cluster Competition involves teams of students building real computing clusters on the show floors of major supercomputer conferences and Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Hoefler’s Whirlwind ISC20 Virtual Tour of ML Trends in 9 Slides

June 23, 2020

The ISC20 experience this year via livestreaming and pre-recordings is interesting and perhaps a bit odd. That said presenters’ efforts to condense their comments makes for economic use of your time. Torsten Hoefler’s whirlwind 12-minute tour of ML is a great example. Hoefler, leader of the planned ISC20 Machine Learning... Read more…

By John Russell

At ISC, the Fight Against COVID-19 Took the Stage – and Yes, Fugaku Was There

June 23, 2020

With over nine million infected and nearly half a million dead, the COVID-19 pandemic has seized the world’s attention for several months. It has also dominat Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Steve Scott Lays Out HPE-Cray Blended Product Roadmap

March 11, 2020

Last week, the day before the El Capitan processor disclosures were made at HPE's new headquarters in San Jose, Steve Scott (CTO for HPC & AI at HPE, and former Cray CTO) was on-hand at the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. He was there to discuss the HPE-Cray transition and blended roadmap, as well as his favorite topic, Cray's eighth-gen networking technology, Slingshot. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers


Neocortex Will Be First-of-Its-Kind 800,000-Core AI Supercomputer

June 9, 2020

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC - a joint research organization of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh) has won a $5 million award Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU: Up to 2.5X the HPC, 20X the AI

May 14, 2020

Nvidia's first Ampere-based graphics card, the A100 GPU, packs a whopping 54 billion transistors on 826mm2 of silicon, making it the world's largest seven-nanom Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

TACC Supercomputers Run Simulations Illuminating COVID-19, DNA Replication

March 19, 2020

As supercomputers around the world spin up to combat the coronavirus, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is announcing results that may help to illumina Read more…

By Staff report

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This