John Rollwagen Returns to High Performance Computing

By Nicole Hemsoth

January 5, 2007

SiCortex, a development-stage firm whose power- and space-saving Linux cluster architecture drew attention at SC06, recently named HPC industry veteran John Rollwagen as chairman of the board. Rollwagen, the former chairman and CEO of Cray Research, Inc., is now an investor and business advisor specializing in information technology. HPCwire asked Rollwagen what attracted him to SiCortex.

HPCwire: How did you link up with SiCortex?

Rollwagen: John Mucci, SiCortex's founding CEO, called me one day last summer. We'd met when he was at Thinking Machines. He said the board had been “trying to find someone to help lead the company like that John Rollwagen person who used to run Cray Research.” Finally, they decided to approach me directly. I visited the company, which turned out to be in the original Digital Equipment headquarters building in Maynard, Massachusetts. I had interviewed with Ken Olson in that building more than 40 years ago, before deciding to accept a job offer from another small computer company, Control Data. We talked over a period of time; and ultimately, I agreed to join the SiCortex board as chairman.

HPCwire: You were chairman of Cray Research from the time when it truly was a little start-up like SiCortex through the years when the company ruled the HPC market. Do you see any parallels with SiCortex?

Rollwagen: History doesn't repeat itself in exactly the same way because the context changes, but SiCortex does remind me of Cray Research when I first joined the company. Back then, when I read the first description of what the Cray-1 was going to be, I said to myself, “Of course. Computers should have been designed like this from the beginning. If you want to compute fast, keep the wires short and deal with the power and cooling issues.”

The SiCortex machines are designed from the ground up to overcome the limitations of the past 20 years of clusters. Standard microprocessors are physically large and produce a lot of heat. The SiCortex chips reduce the area by about 50 times, cut power consumption by two orders of magnitude, and even include the interconnect circuitry to increase overall performance dramatically.

HPCwire: Any other parallels to Cray Research as a start-up?

Rollwagen: Yes. SiCortex also has a very credible team. These are the guys who designed the Alpha microprocessor. They know what they're doing because they're done this before. I like these people. Like Cray Research when I first got there, SiCortex has the machine assembled but not quite operational yet. It's at the same stage. That also resonated with me.

HPCwire: What are the company's biggest priorities?

Rollwagen: The biggest one is to get the machine up and running. In the first quarter of 2007, we expect to have a pre-serial one machine. In Q2, we'll have the first fully functional machine. With that accomplished, we can get in front of customers.

HPCwire: What can you say about the SiCortex machines?

Rollwagen: They come in two versions, a larger one and a smaller one. The big one packs 5.8 teraflops and 8 terabytes of memory into a single cabinet. It runs on just 20 kilowatts of ordinary wall power. The smaller version provides more than half a teraflop.

HPCwire: How standard are the machines from a programmer's or a user's standpoint?

Rollwagen: They're standard MPI Linux machines.

HPCwire: How is the SiCortex architecture related to current HPC trends?

Rollwagen: These machines are purpose-built for HPC. They respond to issues with standard microprocessors and clusters that have gotten critical. There are growing problems with power consumption and with space, in the sense of both facility space for the machine and machine density for faster computation.

The SiCortex processor packs six MIPS processors on a die. The processors are very small, because these are RISC machines. In Intel processors, more than half the real estate is devoted not to logic, but to predicting the next memory references, and they include a lot of instructions scientists and engineers don't need. The SiCortex processor is almost entirely devoted to logic and was designed expressly for HPC users.

HPCwire: Who do you see as SiCortex's main competitors?

Rollwagen: The status quo, meaning companies that are fielding cluster products built with technologies designed for markets other than HPC. Clusters have done very well in the HPC market by leveraging the economies-of-scale of components sold in larger markets, but it's no secret that clusters have major limitations for HPC. Electricity bills and construction costs are quickly getting out of hand, not to mention the performance constraints that are inherent in machines with long wires. There need to be alternative designs for HPC.

HPCwire: What's the company's market strategy?

Rollwagen: We can enter at a level that's small as a percentage of the market. To start with, we'll aim primarily at the low-hanging fruit out there, customers with budgets in the $2-3 million range.

HPCwire: How confident are you that SiCortex will succeed?

Rollwagen: I'm very optimistic. I understand, though, that we still have important challenges ahead of us. First and foremost, we have to build the product so that it performs as promised.

—–

John Rollwagen serves as a principal of Quatris Fund, an affiliate fund of St. Paul Venture Capital, and on several public and private company boards. He was a founding member of the Computer Systems Policy Project (CSPP), an organization of chief executive officers of the 12 leading computer systems companies in the U.S., created in 1989 to identify and advocate industry positions on trade and technology policy. In 1987, he was appointed by President Reagan as a member of the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN). He was reappointed to this position by the first President Bush.

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!

Supercomputer Modeling Shows How COVID-19 Spreads Through Populations

May 30, 2020

As many states begin to loosen the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders that have forced most Americans inside for the past two months, researchers are poring over the data, looking for signs of the dreaded second peak of t Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

SODALITE: Towards Automated Optimization of HPC Application Deployment

May 29, 2020

Developing and deploying applications across heterogeneous infrastructures like HPC or Cloud with diverse hardware is a complex problem. Enabling developers to describe the application deployment and optimising runtime p Read more…

By the SODALITE Team

What’s New in HPC Research: Astronomy, Weather, Security & More

May 29, 2020

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DARPA Looks to Automate Secure Silicon Designs

May 28, 2020

The U.S. military is ramping up efforts to secure semiconductors and its electronics supply chain by embedding defenses during the chip design phase. The automation effort also addresses the high cost and complexity of s Read more…

By George Leopold

COVID-19 HPC Consortium Expands to Europe, Reports on Research Projects

May 28, 2020

The COVID-19 HPC Consortium, a public-private effort delivering free access to HPC processing for scientists pursuing coronavirus research – some utilizing AI-based techniques – has expanded to more than 56 research Read more…

By Doug Black

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…

What’s New in Computing vs. COVID-19: IceCube, TACC, Watson & More

May 28, 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

COVID-19 HPC Consortium Expands to Europe, Reports on Research Projects

May 28, 2020

The COVID-19 HPC Consortium, a public-private effort delivering free access to HPC processing for scientists pursuing coronavirus research – some utilizing AI Read more…

By Doug Black

$100B Plan Submitted for Massive Remake and Expansion of NSF

May 27, 2020

Legislation to reshape, expand - and rename - the National Science Foundation has been submitted in both the U.S. House and Senate. The proposal, which seems to Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Boosts Deep Learning Accuracy on Memristive Chips

May 27, 2020

IBM researchers have taken another step towards making in-memory computing based on phase change (PCM) memory devices a reality. Papers in Nature and Frontiers Read more…

By John Russell

Hats Over Hearts: Remembering Rich Brueckner

May 26, 2020

HPCwire and all of the Tabor Communications family are saddened by last week’s passing of Rich Brueckner. He was the ever-optimistic man in the Red Hat presiding over the InsideHPC media portfolio for the past decade and a constant presence at HPC’s most important events. Read more…

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 Read more…

By Doug Black

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

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

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

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

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

Contributors

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

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

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

‘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

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

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