Shifting Alliances

By Michael Feldman

January 26, 2007

The big IT news this week is the blossoming romance between Sun and Intel. This new alliance will ripple through many parts of the industry, including HPC. If the Valentine on Jonathan Schwartz’s blog is any indication of things to come, this could be a real sweetheart deal for both organizations. But once the swooning is over, Sun and Intel will have to deliver in the marketplace.

There should be lots of opportunities to do so. As reported in our feature article this week, Sun and Intel have agreed to work together to build Xeon-based servers and enhance support of Solaris on Xeon platforms. Intel gets to sell chips into Sun boxes and expand its opportunities with the Solaris/Xeon platform. Sun gets to tap into Intel accounts, achieve an equal footing with the other chip-agnostic OEMs selling both Intel and AMD hardware, and also expand its opportunities with the Solaris/Xeon platform.

Perhaps one of the more interesting results from the alliance will be an eight socket Xeon server. Although the first Sun Xeon-based servers planned for 2007 will be one, two and four sockets, the intention is to eventually deliver an eight socket system. At that point, Sun would achieve parity with it current Opteron-based Sun Fire line-up. This won’t be as easy to accomplish with Intel’s front side bus technology as it was with AMD’s coherent HyperTransport technology, but scaling up systems is one of Sun’s recognized talents.

Intel seems genuinely excited to have Sun build such a machine, since none of the other Tier 1 OEMs have shown much interest. Presumably HP would not do it because an eight socket Xeon would bump into their higher end Integrity line based on the Itanium processor. IBM would also see a “Big Iron” Xeon platform as a threat to its mainframe offerings. And currently Dell has no aspirations to mainframe-level computing.

Intel itself has to maneuver carefully here. Its high-end Itanium processors are targeted for mission critical enterprise systems that require high performance, high reliability and high availability. But OEMs like Sun and Fabric7 are starting to build x86-based systems that aspire to these same capabilities. If users can’t make a clear distinction between scaled up 64-bit x86 SMP systems and Itanium systems, then Intel’s got a problem.

Sun has no such conflict. Being able to sell an eight socket Xeon system alongside the current Opteron counterpart — the Sun Fire X4600 — just expands options for Sun’s customers looking for scaled up SMP machines and fat node clusters based on x86 hardware. With the fat node model, the Tokyo Institute of Technology deployed 655 Sun Fire X4600 servers to create one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. An Intel version may be possible in the not-too-distant future.

The good news at Sun barely paused for a breath this week. On Tuesday, the company announced its first quarterly profits in more than a year, due mainly to strong Opteron server sales and increased uptake of Solaris. And if that wasn’t enough, the announcement of a $700 million equity investment by KKR Private Equity Investors reflected a solid endorsement from the investor community.

AMD Returns to Earth

Meanwhile, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) was heading in the opposite direction. The Intel rival posted a $574 million loss in Q4 as a result of acquisition costs related to the ATI merger and dropping revenue on its x86 processor sales. The company actually sold more volume, but a “price war” with Intel narrowed margins significantly. The announcement of the Sun-Intel alliance completed a somber week for the folks at AMD.

A few IT analysts were already dumping on AMD for its poor financial performance, but if you remove the ATI merger expenses, the company would have netted a $63 million profit in Q4. The company’s real challenge is to regain the momentum on the processor front. The quad-core ‘Barcelona’ chip could give AMD a boost when it’s delivered in the second half of 2007. In the long run, AMD has to make the ATI merger work. One thing to look forward to is the upcoming Fusion processor, an architecture that will incorporate x86 and GPU cores on a single die. This would present an asymmetric challenge to Intel processors, and would also be resistant to x86 price warfare. The first Fusion implementation is planned for 2009.

Many-Core Startup

This week, an Israeli company, Plurality Ltd, announced that they’re developing a 64-core RISC (SPARC) processor. The evaluation hardware consists of a 16-core processor implemented on an FPGA chip; it comes with a software development kit that includes a compiler, simulator and debugger. The company claims that their Task Oriented Programming model enables developers to easily convert their applications to take advantage of the multi-core hardware. However, the company’s website states: “The only requirement from the programmer is to do a simple partitioning of the algorithm into tasks.” Of course. What could be easier?

The product appears to be targeted for high performance embedded apps such as communications, signal processing, HD video processing, robotics, medical imaging, automotive systems, etc. The 64-core commercial version is due out in the third quarter of this year, with a later version sporting 256 cores.

Wyoming Goes Super

The high plains of Wyoming might seem like an unlikely place for a supercomputing center, but this is just what the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has in mind. Boulder-based NCAR, along with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), is partnering with the University of Wyoming and the state government to build a new supercomputing center in Cheyenne.

The facility will provide hundreds of teraflops of capability, which will be devoted mostly to climate and weather modeling applications. Spare cycles will be used to perform options pricing on Dick Cheney’s stock portfolio once he retires to his home state of Wyoming in 2009. Just joking. I kid the Vice President.

—–

As always, comments about HPCwire are welcomed and encouraged. Write to me, Michael Feldman, at [email protected].

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!

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

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

Leveraging Exaflops Performance to Remediate Nuclear Waste

November 12, 2019

Nuclear waste storage sites are a subject of intense controversy and debate; nobody wants the radioactive remnants in their backyard. Now, a collaboration between Berkeley Lab, Pacific Northwest National University (PNNL Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Using HPC and Machine Learning to Predict Traffic Congestion

November 12, 2019

Traffic congestion is a never-ending logic puzzle, dictated by commute patterns, but also by more stochastic accidents and similar disruptions. Traffic engineers struggle to model the traffic flow that occurs after accid Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Mira Supercomputer Enables Cancer Research Breakthrough

November 11, 2019

Dynamic partial-wave spectroscopic (PWS) microscopy allows researchers to observe intracellular structures as small as 20 nanometers – smaller than those visible by optical microscopes – in three dimensions at a mill Read more…

By Staff report

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

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 (quantum annealing) – ion trap technology is edging into the QC 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

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. Th Read more…

By Jan Rowell

MLPerf Releases First Inference Benchmark Results; Nvidia Touts its Showing

November 6, 2019

MLPerf.org, 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 ins 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

Spending Spree: Hyperscalers Bought $57B of IT in 2018, $10B+ by Google – But Is Cloud on Horizon?

October 31, 2019

Hyperscalers are the masters of the IT universe, gravitational centers of increasing pull in the emerging age of data-driven compute and AI.  In the high-stake Read more…

By Doug Black

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

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

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

Intel Debuts Pohoiki Beach, Its 8M Neuron Neuromorphic Development System

July 17, 2019

Neuromorphic computing has received less fanfare of late than quantum computing whose mystery has captured public attention and which seems to have generated mo 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

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