Accelerating Knowledge Discovery

By Michael Feldman

May 12, 2006

As chief technology officer and senior vice president of SGI, Dr. Eng Lim Goh, has been the driver behind SGI's Project Ultraviolet, the incubator for the company's next-generation, computer platforms. He has been evangelizing the Ultraviolet technologies for some time now, most recently at the HPCC conference in March. With the release of the Altix 4700 platform last month, some of these advanced technologies are now commercially available.

One major focus of Project Ultraviolet is to address the problem of dealing with the enormous databases that are becoming commonplace in both government and industry. Databases in the multi-terabyte, and even petabyte range are no longer exceptional. In particular, a growing number of government agencies have a critical need to perform much more intensive knowledge discovery with these rapidly-growing datasets. But because of the sheer size of the datasets, current HPC systems have difficulty extracting knowledge from them in an efficient manner.

“Because of that, over the years we have been increasingly investing in what we call accelerated knowledge discovery,” said Goh. “We're employing a part of [the Ultraviolet technology] to target this particular problem.”

In April of this year, SGI began delivering their new Altix 4700 platform, which is capable of addressing these knowledge discovery challenges. They already have customers who are using their older systems for this capability, but will benefit greatly from the new Altix 4700 technology.

The basis of the new architecture is the inclusion of much larger amounts of memory, enough to accommodate these extremely large datasets. SGI will use its globally shared memory architecture to allow users to store entire databases — or very large subsets of them — in memory, enabling the data to be processed much more quickly by the system's processors.

“We are talking on the order of multi-terabyte memory, managed by a single operating system,” said Goh.

SGI has already shipped more than a dozen SGI systems with over a terabyte of memory and about a hundred systems of half a terabyte or larger. But the new Altix will have much larger memory capacities. The systems SGI has in mind will scale to tens of terabytes and beyond. In fact, a few SGI customers are already testing with systems in the 10-terabyte range. “The largest we have shipped is a 13-terabyte memory system for the Japan Atomic Energy Agency,” said Goh.

The new Altix 4700 increases the memory headroom significantly, scaling up to 128 terabytes of memory. According to Goh, the physical addressing capability of the Intel Itanium architecture, used on all Altix platforms, is a good fit for these large globally shared memory systems. The x86 class of processors, although they are 64-bit capable, have a 40-bit physical address limit which constrains them to a one terabyte memory reach.

“These x86 processors are ideal for clusters, because they only have to address memory for a single node, explained Goh. “But increasingly, our customers need to go way beyond that. They require every processor in our entire network to see all of the memory of all nodes. The Itanium is the only processor I know of that has enough physical addressing space to cover more than a terabyte.”

But it's not just a matter of big memory; high performing I/O is required as well. The standard Linux I/O performance of one gigabyte-per-second is not adequate. And even this performance level can be a stretch for a single instance of the Linux operating system.

“If you just do the math — ten terabytes at one gigabyte per second — it will take you about a day to fill that database,” said Goh.

To remove the I/O performance barriers in Linux, SGI transferred some of their IRIX OS software technology into the Linux OS kernel. These changes have been accepted by the open source community and are now included in the Linux 2.6 kernel. So with the Linux 2.6 running on SGI hardware, they were able to read and write data to a single file at 10 gigabytes per second. This is just the first step; with the introduction of the Altix 4700, they intend to move well beyond this level of performance.

Goh explained that the third goal of the new architecture, beyond increased memory and I/O bandwidth, is to keep costs in check. One way to do this is to allow memory and processors to scale independently.

“As we grow memory, the customer should not be forced to increase the number of processors — which is typically the case,” said Goh. “If you think of a cluster, once you max out the memory in a node, in order to get more memory, you have to add more nodes.”

For these large database applications, which usually don't require as much computational performance as a typical HPC application, a standard cluster architecture is unbalanced. To make matters worse, since cluster memory is fragmented, not shared, applications can't access the database as a unified object, contributing to software complexity.

“We allow for the ability of the memory to scale independently of the number of processors,” explained Goh. “The way we do it is to put the [intelligence] in the chipset, the things between processors and the memory. So you could have nodes with memory below them, but no processors above them.”

Once users have this big memory capacity and the ability to feed it fast, SGI had to ensure that the memory was reliable. As memory capacity increases to the order of terabytes, hardware errors become statistically more likely, at least for commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) memory. But to keep costs reasonable, the memory needs to be COTS; multi-terabytes of special memory with superior reliability is not economical.

“The customer will not tolerate COTS-class reliability,” said Goh. “If the application has already invested a few minutes or tens of minutes reading the database from disk into memory, the user wants to avoid reloading the data because of memory failures that happen while the application is running.”

So what SGI has done is add extra logic to its chipset to improve memory reliability. The key technology used is a proactive memory scrubber, which is implemented on the HUB chip of the Altix chipset. While the application is running, the scrubber stress-tests portions of memory that the processor is not currently using. If a memory cell is close to failure, the stress-test will actually force a failure, causing the system to deallocate that memory page. This shrinks the available memory pool slightly, but the running application is barely inconvenienced. This solution allows SGI to use COTS hardware to scale out memory.

The increased memory capacity, I/0 bandwidth and memory reliability form the basis of the new Altix 4700 platform. In addition, the new system will be implemented with a blade architecture — instead of the older generation's brick form factor — and include an updated chipset. The 4700 supports a maximum of 512 processor cores within a single node and is able to link up to 8000 cores with SGI's proprietary NUMAlink interconnect. The blade form factor allows very fine-grained configuration options for compute, memory and I/O resources and also substantially improves system density.

Initially, the Altix 4700s will be shipped with the Intel Itanium Madison 9M processors, but will be socket-upgradable to dual-core Montecito processor. According to Goh, there is a huge pent-up demand for the new platform and SGI is working to assure as large a supply as possible with the transition to Montecito.

The Altix 4700 also features FPGA capability with a RASC blade and brings new I/O options including PCI-Express. Other advanced technology features that are part of Project Ultraviolet, such as the processor-in-memory (PIM) technology and vector data movement logic, will not be implemented in the Altix 4700 but will be included in the next-generation platform, scheduled for 2008.

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!

Discovering Alternative Solar Panel Materials with Supercomputing

May 23, 2020

Solar power is quickly growing in the world’s energy mix, but silicon – a crucial material in the construction of photovoltaic solar panels – remains expensive, hindering solar’s expansion and competitiveness wit Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia Q1 Earnings Top Expectations, Datacenter Revenue Breaks $1B

May 22, 2020

Nvidia’s seemingly endless roll continued in the first quarter with the company announcing blockbuster earnings that exceeded Wall Street expectations. Nvidia said revenues for the period ended April 26 were up 39 perc Read more…

By Doug Black

TACC Supercomputers Delve into COVID-19’s Spike Protein

May 22, 2020

If you’ve been following COVID-19 research, by now, you’ve probably heard of the spike protein (or S-protein). The spike protein – which gives COVID-19 its namesake crown-like shape – is the virus’ crowbar into Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Using HPC, Researchers Discover How Easily Hurricanes Form

May 21, 2020

Hurricane formation has long remained shrouded in mystery, with meteorologists unable to discern exactly what forces cause the devastating storms (also known as tropical cyclones) to materialize. Now, researchers at Flor Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Lab Behind the Record-Setting GPU ‘Cloud Burst’ Joins [email protected]’s COVID-19 Effort

May 20, 2020

Last November, the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC) set out to break some records with a moonshot project: over a couple of hours, they bought time on as many cloud GPUS as they could – 51,000 – Read more…

By Staff report

AWS Solution Channel

Computational Fluid Dynamics on AWS

Over the past 30 years Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) has grown to become a key part of many engineering design processes. From aircraft design to modelling the blood flow in our bodies, the ability to understand the behaviour of fluids has enabled countless innovations and improved the time to market for many products. Read more…

HPC in Life Sciences 2020 Part 1: Rise of AMD, Data Management’s Wild West, More 

May 20, 2020

Given the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive enlistment of major HPC resources to fight the pandemic, it is especially appropriate to review the state of HPC use in life sciences. This is somethin Read more…

By John Russell

HPC in Life Sciences 2020 Part 1: Rise of AMD, Data Management’s Wild West, More 

May 20, 2020

Given the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive enlistment of major HPC resources to fight the pandemic, it is especially appropriate to re Read more…

By John Russell

Microsoft’s Massive AI Supercomputer on Azure: 285k CPU Cores, 10k GPUs

May 20, 2020

Microsoft has unveiled a supercomputing monster – among the world’s five most powerful, according to the company – aimed at what is known in scientific an Read more…

By Doug Black

AMD Epyc Rome Picked for New Nvidia DGX, but HGX Preserves Intel Option

May 19, 2020

AMD continues to make inroads into the datacenter with its second-generation Epyc "Rome" processor, which last week scored a win with Nvidia's announcement that Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Hacking Streak Forces European Supercomputers Offline in Midst of COVID-19 Research Effort

May 18, 2020

This week, a number of European supercomputers discovered intrusive malware hosted on their systems. Now, in the midst of a massive supercomputing research effo Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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

Wafer-Scale Engine AI Supercomputer Is Fighting COVID-19

May 13, 2020

Seemingly every supercomputer in the world is allied in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic – but not many of them are fresh out of the box. Cerebras S Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Startup MemVerge on Memory-centric Mission

May 12, 2020

Memory situated at the center of the computing universe, replacing processing, has long been envisioned as instrumental to radically improved datacenter systems Read more…

By Doug Black

In Australia, HPC Illuminates the Early Universe

May 11, 2020

Many billions of years ago, the universe was a swirling pool of gas. Unraveling the story of how we got from there to here isn’t an easy task, with many simul 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

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

Fujitsu A64FX Supercomputer to Be Deployed at Nagoya University This Summer

February 3, 2020

Japanese tech giant Fujitsu announced today that it will supply Nagoya University Information Technology Center with the first commercial supercomputer powered Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

SC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

AMD
AMD
ASROCK RACK
ASROCK RACK
AWS
AWS
CEJN
CJEN
CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
IBM
IBM
MELLANOX
MELLANOX
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
SIX NINES IT
SIX NINES IT
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL
WEKAIO
WEKAIO

Tech Conferences Are Being Canceled Due to Coronavirus

March 3, 2020

Several conferences scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, including Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC) and the Strata Data + AI conference, have Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Exascale Watch: El Capitan Will Use AMD CPUs & GPUs to Reach 2 Exaflops

March 4, 2020

HPE and its collaborators reported today that El Capitan, the forthcoming exascale supercomputer to be sited at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and serve Read more…

By John Russell

‘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

Cray to Provide NOAA with Two AMD-Powered Supercomputers

February 24, 2020

The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last week announced plans for a major refresh of its operational weather forecasting supercomputers, part of a 10-year, $505.2 million program, which will secure two HPE-Cray systems for NOAA’s National Weather Service to be fielded later this year and put into production in early 2022. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

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

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

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