UK Scientists Choose Cray for HECToR

By Christopher Lazou

March 30, 2007

The UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) completed the procurement of a new large-scale computer system named 'HECToR' when it signed two contracts on 15 February 2007, each lasting 6 years. Cray Inc. in partnership with the University of Edinburgh-led HPCx Ltd is to provide the technical solution (hardware) and service operation; while the computational science and engineering (CSE) support service for academic users is to be provided by NAG Ltd. The process for identifying the requirements for HECToR took about three years and consisted of several phases involving the scientific community, such as defining user requirements, developing benchmarks and finally going to open tender.

As part of a series of reviews, there was an international evaluation of research using HPC in the UK. The international panel was chaired by Dr Horst Simon from NERSC and included eminent scientists from Europe, the USA and Japan. They published their findings in December 2005 and these were their recommendations:

1. Create a more balanced HPC infrastructure between computational technologies and intellectual resources.

2. Strengthen the computational infrastructure at universities by a) systematically deploying leading-edge capability systems, large-scale capacity computing systems and other resources; b) supporting and developing a state-of-the-art applications software infrastructure encompassing algorithms, data management and analysis, visualization, and best practices software engineering.

3. Develop human resources in HPC as the future of CSE depends critically on the availability of highly specialised experts. Because of its interdisciplinary nature, research using HPC requires specialists who have received additional education and training beyond traditional academic disciplinary programmes.

4. Bridge disciplines and build a computational science community by increasing interactions between disciplinary groups nationally and internationally.

The panel noted that: “while there are several examples of excellent collaborations in individual disciplines, an all embracing computational science community (in the sense of an 'academic community') does not yet exist in the UK. The panel recommends taking proactive steps towards the creation of such a computational science community….”

As the panel states in their executive summary: “Computational science, the scientific investigation of physical processes through modelling and simulation on computers, has become generally accepted as the third pillar of science, complementing and extending theory and experimentation”.

The writers of this report were right to claim that this view of computational science as the third pillar of science probably evolved in the mid-1980s, as those of us involved in supercomputing used it as our mantra at the time. It grew out of an impressive list of accomplishments in such diverse areas as astrophysics, aeronautics, chemistry, climate modelling, combustion, cosmology, earthquake prediction, imaging, materials, neuroscience, oil exploration, and weather forecasting. These accomplishments were achieved thanks to the Cray vector system of the time, which enabled the scientific community to perform meaningful modelling in their scientific field.

Back to the future. The HECToR system will be housed at the University of Edinburgh's Advanced Computing Facility (ACF). Because of the need for building modifications prior to the installation of this system, the HECToR service is expected to start in October 2007, with an 'Early Bird' service for selected users commencing in September 2007.

A one teraflop system for early test and development is to be delivered in May 2007 and will be used for porting codes. The main system comes in several phases over the next three years.

Initial installation will be a 60 teraflop Cray XT4 MPP later this year, followed by successive upgrades that will take the installation to approximately 270 teraflops in the late 2009 timeframe. The upgraded system will be a hybrid supercomputer that combines Cray's scalar MPP and vector architectures.

It may have surprised some that Cray won HECToR, the largest European HPC tender, but this contract award confirms that the HPC community is buying into the Cray vision of adaptive supercomputing. This procurement also highlights the capability prowess of the Cray system on offer, with its balanced, tightly integrated scalar-vector architecture that is the centrepiece of the Cray adaptive supercomputing vision. It is a true capability system, as befits a “capability-type” investment.

As I understand it, although I haven't seen the detailed report, Cray won based on a number of complex criteria, not only performance (and when I say performance I mean sustained performance for real applications, not peak or Linpack results). In addition, Cray was able to demonstrate scaling of some of the benchmarks to over five thousand cores. Note also that the Cray proposal for phase II of HECToR contains future (2009) technology that is also included in the Cray DARPA proposal.

The HECToR contract also includes two other components, a Cray support model with 3-4 people located onsite at the University of Edinburgh and a Cray centre of excellence (CoE).

As part of HECToR, Cray committed to establish a centre of excellence, which will directly link into Cray Research & Development and will last for the entire duration of the project. The Cray HECToR CoE joins three other such centres located at ORNL, KMA and NERSC. These centres will all interoperate to:

  • Accelerate the pace of innovation in supercomputing technology for technologies and applications that are relevant for the users;
  • Maximise usage of the computational resources;
  • Train and educate the next generation of interdisciplinary computational researchers to enhance the science delivery;
  • Provide a direct interface to Research and Development in Cray for any kind of engineering design change request or any other topic that may need the attention of the Engineering Division of Cray; and
  • Foster a climate of information exchange and collaboration between Cray HPC users.

The members of the Cray CoE will directly engage with scientific users of HECToR and will work closely with CSE (NAG Ltd.) and HPCx. This CoE is in addition to the on-site Cray support staff for the Cray supercomputer system. The CoE sits comfortably with the findings of the international review panel described above.

Like its predecessors, the CSAR and HPCx, systems purchased by EPSRC, HECToR is the flagship capability system for UK academic research.

The CSE support service for HECToR, to be provided by NAG Ltd, will operate differently from previous services on its predecessor systems such as CSAR and HPCx. A small central 'core' CSE support team will provide a limited level of assistance to users. In depth CSE support will be provided by a 'distributed' CSE support team. This distributed CSE support team will be based locally within the user research consortium, as agreed by NAG Ltd and the grant holder. Calls will be issued on a regular basis for research consortia to apply for distributed support of three months to up to two years.

The NAG service model is a textbook copy of the first recommendation of the International review of UK research report. It states: “…HPC platforms generally can be utilized more effectively if users have access to intellectual resources, for example experts in code optimisation, parallel algorithms, etc., who can work with the researchers as consultants or collaborators. A relatively small group of such experts, for example associated with HECToR, can achieve high productivity gains if they are leveraged across multiple users. The productivity gains are obtained by more rapid insertion of new technology into applications codes and by realization of technology transfer between research groups”.

Access to the HECToR service is allocated by requesting time on research proposals and is open to all EPSRC and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) eligible researchers. These applications will be accepted for consideration from May 2007. Full details of the application process will be available on the EPSRC Website by May 2007.

It is expected that a different process will be set up for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) supported researchers, as the process used by NERC to allocate time on HECToR differs from that of EPSRC and BBSRC.

HECToR, one of the largest and most ambitious high performance computing (HPC) initiatives in Europe, costing £113 million over six years, is funded largely from the UK large facilities capital fund, established to ensure UK scientists have access to leading edge, large-scale experimental projects and facilities. EPSRC, NERC and BBSRC are also contributing financially, emphasising the breadth of science that will be supported.

As innovation in information technology is gathering pace, opportunities for computational science multiply. HECToR is the latest acquisition in this continually evolving area of HPC. When HECToR comes on stream, scientists from all areas of the UK science base will have the best possible computer facilities, enabling them to carry out cutting edge research and remain at the forefront of research internationally.

UK science has a long history of collaboration. This philosophy was enshrined in the Collaborative Computational Projects (CCPs) enacted in the late 1970s, and it persists to this day in parallel with the newer consortium approach adopted in the 1990s. Taking a glance at the 2006 issue of CSE Frontiers, the annual report of the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC) CSE department, one can see what tremendously important work is produced under these collaborative schemes. Be it in astrophysical and laser-produced plasmas, under CCP2; helicopter rotor wakes simulations, electronic structure of semiconductor quantum dots, materials chemistry, superconductivity under extreme pressure, valence transitions in nickelates, and state-of-the art software for experimental determination of protein structures, under CCP4; or nano-objects in supercritical media and molecular dynamics study of radiation hard materials, e.g. radiation damage in pyrochlores. The list is long, almost endless.

As an illustration, the Collaborative Computational Project No. 4 (CCP4) was set up in 1979 to coordinate the efforts of UK protein crystallographers who were writing software to help with the structure determination steps. Since then, the project has grown considerably, and now is the leading provider of PX software worldwide. The CCP4 suite includes around 200 programs covering all aspects of structure solution by protein crystallography. The programs are typically accessed via a graphical interface that controls project organization, job submission and display of results.

The purchase of HECToR chimes well with the European Forward Look initiative and also dovetails with the concepts enshrined in the 7th European R&D Framework Programme (FP7) where Europe plans to spend over 50 billion Euros in the next six years on research and development, including a strong element on HPC infrastructure. The recent announcement of setting up a European Institute of Technology (EIT) is but one example. EIT aims to fund 10 Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs), 4,000 to 5,000 scientists, 6,000 Master's students and 4,000 PhD candidates in the next eight years at an annual cost of 2 billion Euros to enhance new interdisciplinary educational training and develop human resources.

The KICs will operate across Europe and will cover such strategic topics as climate change, renewable energy, information society, health science and technology, nano-technologies, and so on. The KICs will be funded for between seven and fifteen years, giving them ample time to demonstrate their mettle.

There is also a provision in FP7 for Europe to acquire three to four systems in the petaflops range at the earliest possible time to be used by scientific researchers across Europe to boost innovation capability and improve European economic competitiveness.

In summary, for UK scientists, HECToR should enable them to maintain their position amongst the leaders in advanced computational science and engineering worldwide. Cray was selected by EPSRC for promising a capability system of scalable and balanced architecture with high-sustained performance, a centre of excellence, and in 2009, a scalar-vector, next generation MPP technology.

As Ulla Thiel, Cray Vice President for Europe, put it: “For Cray Inc. this sale highlights Cray's rapidly increasing presence in the European HPC community and will serve as an excellent showcase for Cray's most advanced computing concepts, bringing to bear the capabilities of Adaptive Supercomputing to address the demanding needs of leading-edge scientific research”.

—–

Copyright (c) Christopher Lazou, HiPerCom Consultants, Ltd., UK. March 2007. Brands and names are the property of their respective owners.

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