Advancing the Power of Visualization

By Nicole Hemsoth

December 2, 2005

Finding “affordable visualization” with enough scalable horsepower to solve HPC's most demanding problems is often impossible for scientists and engineers who need visualization capabilities to analyze large data sets. Working to improve the accessibility and affordability of visualization solutions, HP introduced (November 15, 2005) the HP Scalable Visualization Array (SVA), a high-end scalable visualization solution that completes the company's Unified Cluster Portfolio's integration of computation, data management and visualization in a single, integrated cluster environment.

“Visualization,” explains Steve Briggs, HPCD's SVA product marketing manager, “is a critical capability enhancing the productivity and performance of HPC environments. To be of significant value to the HPC customer, visualization must be sharable, scalable, accessible, and affordable — attributes that were missing from the market until now.” 

HPCwire: What business problems are you solving with this product?

Briggs: Traditional large-scale visualization solutions are too expensive to maintain and upgrade and are built on proprietary technology. Small-scale visualization solutions are limited to single workstations that feature large memory but bounded rendering speeds. We believe high-performance computing customers – using visualization for oil and gas, scientific research, simulation, data mining applications – want Linux cluster capacity combined with the capability to run huge data sets at an affordable price. The SVA does that.

HPCwire: Hasn't visualization always been around for clusters? What's new about this?

Briggs: Clustered visualization is relatively new. In fact, it wasn't until the 1990s that WireGL addressed the rendering portions of the problem. And the seminal paper on compositing, “Parallel Volume Rendering Using Binary-Swap Image Composition” [Ma et al. 1994], was published just 11 years ago.

What's new is that HP's SVA is designed to do for high-performance visualization what clusters have done for supercomputing, which is make it affordable and accessible. Our solution distributes the rendering and provides for parallel compositing that eliminates bottlenecks that impede visualization and under-utilize the rendering engines. The use of industry-standard components drives affordability. And, as part of the Unified Cluster Portfolio, we complement the visualization technology with tools, applications and support to ensure successful production deployment.

Equally important to customers is the availability of applications that can take advantage of the visualization cluster technology. Applications  such as Wolfram Research's gridMathematica, Infiscape's VRJuggler, CEI's EnSight, Visenso's COVISE, open source Visualization TookKit (VTK), open source ParaView and others, offer users real comfort in working with well known, trusted applications, while obtaining performance that, just a few months ago, was either impossible to achieve or extremely expensive.

HPCwire: What products make up the SVA?

Briggs: The SVA consists of a cluster of HP workstations running Linux, commercially available, industry standard graphics cards and network adaptors, and an integrated software system. Each HP SVA node in the cluster contains a high performance HP workstation configured as either as a render or display node. Each workstation has one or more PCI Express 16x graphics cards. System software includes XC System Software, Scalable Visualization Array Software for configuration and job management, and optional HP StorageWorks Scalable File Share (HP SFS) software for scalable storage, and optional HP Remote Graphics Software.

One of SVA's strongest attributes is flexibility. The SVA scales to support diverse visualization workloads including multi-user, multi-tasking, and multi-sessions. It supports various visualization styles, models, and display systems including single screens, caves or walls.  By the way, the SVA technology can produce a vast, high resolution display wall of 100 million pixels and more.  HP's SVA works in three basic modes, as a cluster of independent workstations, as a cluster of synchronized workstations, as a sort-last compositing cluster, or as a combination of all three. Since the system offers job and resource management capability, customers aren't forced to choose a rigid configuration and can dynamically change their capabilities as their requirements change.

HPCwire: How is this solution different from competitive products?

Briggs: First, there is the flexibility that we just talked about. Second, the HP SVA is affordable because it is developed on state-of-the-art industry standards and open source technologies. This makes it the only off-the-shelf, high-performance visualization solution on the market. Third, the HP SVA is a true Linux cluster and integrates visualization, computation, and data management to solve the toughest HPC challenges, including offering remote visualization and visualization collaboration.

HPCwire: HP has a number of high performance visualization solutions, such as the SV7. What's new and different about SVA?

Briggs: The SVA builds on HP's decades of graphics expertise. (Editor's Note:  HP acquired Apollo Computer, one of the original graphics workstation vendors, in May 1989.) Visualization is not a case of one-solution-fits-all and HP is fortunate to have a broad portfolio of solutions. Our new graphics workstation, the xw9300 Workstation, is the first commercially available workstation to support two high-end 3D cards simultaneously. The HP Visualization Center, sv7, allows for accurate, real-time visualization of complete digital prototypes, permitting designers to visualize models with life-like 3D realism. So, while the sv7 has features suitable for CAD/CAM/workstation visualization, the SVA is suitable for a multi-user environment with graphic features suitable for scientific visualization, modeling and simulation, as well as geophysical exploration.

HPCwire: What are the scalability challenges with clusters and visualization? What's so different about SVA?

Briggs: From interconnects to pixel networks, these visualization clusters must not only scale but have the horsepower to scale quickly. The HP SVA scales up easily by simply increasing the number of nodes in the cluster. As an extension of standard Linux cluster, the SVA behaves like a cluster. The integrated clustering capability simplifies administration and improves distribution of resources to multiple users.

Scientists running visualization and computation applications generate huge datasets, requiring significant rendering power for visualizing that data. To handle those challenges, the HP SVA supports open source and commercial visualization software packages that drive high-resolution multi-tile displays and immersive environments, permit a mix of compute, render, and display nodes, and allows the use of computation steering to visualize while computing.

HPCwire: Is this only a solution for Linux clusters?

Briggs: At this time, yes. As Windows HPC becomes available, it'll make sense to support that, too.

HPCwire: How affordable is the SVA?

Briggs: The technology takes advantage of COTS components, open standards and open-source Linux – leveraging the tremendous advances made in readily available processors, graphics adaptors, interconnects, networks, clustering and middleware. The HP SVA costs about half of competitive products – and that includes installation. The architecture is modular, scalable and flexible, which not only gives significant technical benefits in solving grand-challenge problems but pragmatic benefits in terms of manageability, reliability, upgradeability and affordability.

HPCwire: What about performance?

Briggs: As you know, gaming is driving volumes of graphics cards. NVIDIA is using the physics of gaming to introduce improved floating point computations in the graphics cards. Graphics cards are doubling or tripling in performance every nine months making for vastly powerful performance in the HP SVA and guaranteeing improving performance in the future.

HPCwire: What's the downside? It can't be perfect.

Briggs: There are some rendering algorithms that are more suited to SMPs than clusters. HP, of course, offers a broad choice of SMPs as well as clusters.

HPCwire: Didn't you already announce this product a couple of years ago? What happened? Is this a different version?

Briggs:  You are probably thinking of the Sepia project, and about the work of HP's Collaboration and Competency Network (HP CCN). HP CCN is an on-going forum to facilitate wide-ranging collaboration, innovation, discovery, and competency-sharing between HP and high performance technical computing customers and partners. One of our topic areas is scalable visualization. There are opportunities at a variety of levels for interested parties to participate. For more information, visit

HPCwire: HP really promoted Sepia. What does Sepia add to this product? 

Briggs: Let me explain about Sepia. Sepia was a research program for the TriLabs (Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia), the ASC (Advanced Simulation and Computing) VIEWS (Visual Interactive Environment for Weapons Simulation) program. It challenged us to develop technology based on industry standard components, which would solve the problems of visualization which, at that time, required massive proprietary SMP machines. As our research on Sepia progressed, so did the performance of graphics chips, graphics cards, processors, and networks. Consequently, HP's development focus shifted to compositing with other technologies and developing industry-standard APIs for advanced compositing functions. CPU/GPU compositing handles spatial tiling, depth compositing, and alpha blending, meeting many of our customers' needs.

Eliminating the dedicated Sepia hardware card resulted in significant cost savings for customers. That said, our research on Sepia resulted in software and algorithms which helps to increase the SVA performance.

HPCwire: What are the HPC trends in visualization? What can we count on?

Briggs: What is true for HPC is true for visualization – that is “if more is better, too much is just right.” You can count on increased data sets, increased computational capacity, and an increased need to visually interpret terabytes to petabytes of data. That's why it is important to boost the value of visualization through increasing real-time interactivity, scalability, accessibility, and affordability.

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!

At SC19: What Is UrgentHPC and Why Is It Needed?

November 14, 2019

The UrgentHPC workshop, taking place Sunday (Nov. 17) at SC19, is focused on using HPC and real-time data for urgent decision making in response to disasters such as wildfires, flooding, health emergencies, and accidents. We chat with organizer Nick Brown, research fellow at EPCC, University of Edinburgh, to learn more. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

China’s Tencent Server Design Will Use AMD Rome

November 13, 2019

Tencent, the Chinese cloud giant, said it would use AMD’s newest Epyc processor in its internally-designed server. The design win adds further momentum to AMD’s bid to erode rival Intel Corp.’s dominance of the glo Read more…

By George Leopold

NCSA Industry Conference Recap – Part 1

November 13, 2019

Industry Program Director Brendan McGinty welcomed guests to the annual National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) Industry Conference, October 8-10, on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana (UIUC). One hundred seventy from 40 organizations attended the invitation-only, two-day event. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake, STEM-Trek

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing components with Intel Xeon, AMD Epyc, IBM Power, and Arm server ch Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel AI Summit: New ‘Keem Bay’ Edge VPU, AI Product Roadmap

November 12, 2019

At its AI Summit today in San Francisco, Intel touted a raft of AI training and inference hardware for deployments ranging from cloud to edge and designed to support organizations at various points of their AI journeys. The company revealed its Movidius Myriad Vision Processing Unit (VPU)... Read more…

By Doug Black

AWS Solution Channel

Making High Performance Computing Affordable and Accessible for Small and Medium Businesses with HPC on AWS

High performance computing (HPC) brings a powerful set of tools to a broad range of industries, helping to drive innovation and boost revenue in finance, genomics, oil and gas extraction, and other fields. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Help HPC Work Smarter and Accelerate Time to Insight


[Attend the IBM LSF & HPC User Group Meeting at SC19 in Denver on November 19]

To recklessly misquote Jane Austen, it is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a company in possession of a highly complex problem must be in want of a massive technical computing cluster. Read more…

SIA Recognizes Robert Dennard with 2019 Noyce Award

November 12, 2019

If you don’t know what Dennard Scaling is, the chances are strong you don’t labor in electronics. Robert Dennard, longtime IBM researcher, inventor of the DRAM and the fellow for whom Dennard Scaling was named, is th Read more…

By John Russell

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel AI Summit: New ‘Keem Bay’ Edge VPU, AI Product Roadmap

November 12, 2019

At its AI Summit today in San Francisco, Intel touted a raft of AI training and inference hardware for deployments ranging from cloud to edge and designed to support organizations at various points of their AI journeys. The company revealed its Movidius Myriad Vision Processing Unit (VPU)... Read more…

By Doug Black

IBM Adds Support for Ion Trap Quantum Technology to Qiskit

November 11, 2019

After years of percolating in the shadow of quantum computing research based on superconducting semiconductors – think IBM, Rigetti, Google, and D-Wave (quant Read more…

By John Russell

Tackling HPC’s Memory and I/O Bottlenecks with On-Node, Non-Volatile RAM

November 8, 2019

On-node, non-volatile memory (NVRAM) is a game-changing technology that can remove many I/O and memory bottlenecks and provide a key enabler for exascale. That’s the conclusion drawn by the scientists and researchers of Europe’s NEXTGenIO project, an initiative funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program to explore this new... Read more…

By Jan Rowell

MLPerf Releases First Inference Benchmark Results; Nvidia Touts its Showing

November 6, 2019, the young AI-benchmarking consortium, today issued the first round of results for its inference test suite. Among organizations with submissions wer Read more…

By John Russell

Azure Cloud First with AMD Epyc Rome Processors

November 6, 2019

At Ignite 2019 this week, Microsoft's Azure cloud team and AMD announced an expansion of their partnership that began in 2017 when Azure debuted Epyc-backed instances for storage workloads. The fourth-generation Azure D-series and E-series virtual machines previewed at the Rome launch in August are now generally available. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Launches Credit Card-Sized 21 TOPS Jetson System for Edge Devices

November 6, 2019

Nvidia has launched a new addition to its Jetson product line: a credit card-sized (70x45mm) form factor delivering up to 21 trillion operations/second (TOPS) o Read more…

By Doug Black

In Memoriam: Steve Tuecke, Globus Co-founder

November 4, 2019

HPCwire is deeply saddened to report that Steve Tuecke, longtime scientist at Argonne National Lab and University of Chicago, has passed away at age 52. Tuecke Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Supercomputer-Powered AI Tackles a Key Fusion Energy Challenge

August 7, 2019

Fusion energy is the Holy Grail of the energy world: low-radioactivity, low-waste, zero-carbon, high-output nuclear power that can run on hydrogen or lithium. T Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DARPA Looks to Propel Parallelism

September 4, 2019

As Moore’s law runs out of steam, new programming approaches are being pursued with the goal of greater hardware performance with less coding. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency is launching a new programming effort aimed at leveraging the benefits of massive distributed parallelism with less sweat. Read more…

By George Leopold

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour


Intel Confirms Retreat on Omni-Path

August 1, 2019

Intel Corp.’s plans to make a big splash in the network fabric market for linking HPC and other workloads has apparently belly-flopped. The chipmaker confirmed to us the outlines of an earlier report by the website CRN that it has jettisoned plans for a second-generation version of its Omni-Path interconnect... Read more…

By Staff report

Kubernetes, Containers and HPC

September 19, 2019

Software containers and Kubernetes are important tools for building, deploying, running and managing modern enterprise applications at scale and delivering enterprise software faster and more reliably to the end user — while using resources more efficiently and reducing costs. Read more…

By Daniel Gruber, Burak Yenier and Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud

Dell Ramps Up HPC Testing of AMD Rome Processors

October 21, 2019

Dell Technologies is wading deeper into the AMD-based systems market with a growing evaluation program for the latest Epyc (Rome) microprocessors from AMD. In a Read more…

By John Russell

Rise of NIH’s Biowulf Mirrors the Rise of Computational Biology

July 29, 2019

The story of NIH’s supercomputer Biowulf is fascinating, important, and in many ways representative of the transformation of life sciences and biomedical res Read more…

By John Russell

Xilinx vs. Intel: FPGA Market Leaders Launch Server Accelerator Cards

August 6, 2019

The two FPGA market leaders, Intel and Xilinx, both announced new accelerator cards this week designed to handle specialized, compute-intensive workloads and un Read more…

By Doug Black

When Dense Matrix Representations Beat Sparse

September 9, 2019

In our world filled with unintended consequences, it turns out that saving memory space to help deal with GPU limitations, knowing it introduces performance pen Read more…

By James Reinders

With the Help of HPC, Astronomers Prepare to Deflect a Real Asteroid

September 26, 2019

For years, NASA has been running simulations of asteroid impacts to understand the risks (and likelihoods) of asteroids colliding with Earth. Now, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are preparing for the next, crucial step in planetary defense against asteroid impacts: physically deflecting a real asteroid. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cerebras to Supply DOE with Wafer-Scale AI Supercomputing Technology

September 17, 2019

Cerebras Systems, which debuted its wafer-scale AI silicon at Hot Chips last month, has entered into a multi-year partnership with Argonne National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as part of a larger collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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