RapidMind Looks to Tame the Multicore Beast

By Michael Feldman

May 11, 2007

Hot on the heels of PeakStream, RapidMind Inc. has launched its software development platform for multicore computing. On Monday the company announced RapidMind Platform v2.0, a software environment that targets GPUs from both NVIDIA and AMD/ATI as well as IBM's Cell processor. The company has also prototyped a version that will support multicore x86 processors from Intel and AMD.

Both PeakStream and RapidMind have launched platforms based on the same basic premise: HPC application developers want to be able to write hardware-agnostic code for multicore architectures. Considering the diverse range of multicore hardware that is beginning to populate HPC systems (e.g,, the Cell processors, NVIDIA/AMD GPUs, and Intel/AMD x86 chips), this seems like the right approach. The underlying proposition is that the current crop of multicore devices will rapidly evolve in both architecture and core count. With this type of volatility, software developers will be motivated to decouple their code from the hardware so that their applications can live on different types of architectures and automatically scale as new processor generations are introduced.

In talking with RapidMind's President and CEO Ray DePaul, and Chief Scientist and company co-founder Michael McCool, it's clear that their vision of delivering productivity to these multicore-based systems is to move beyond the thread model of parallelism. McCool said programmer-controlled thread management is fraught with problems. The scalability issue of mapping static application thread counts to processor cores is always a problem if application portability is a goal. Beyond that there are the inherent dangers of deadlocks and race conditions and load balancing problems when the thread workloads are asymmetric.

The RapidMind Platform uses existing C++ compilers and tools; developers just have to link in the RapidMind library to access the provided API. The library manages all the low-level parallelism and data streaming. The programming model presented to the user is independent of the number or cores or any other specific hardware attributes. The parallelism and data movement are managed in the internal layers of the software. According to McCool, this makes it impossible for developers to generate race conditions or deadlocks. He claims that the programming concepts involved can be learned within half an hour by any good software engineer.

The company has supposedly attracted over 1000 beta developers for applications that range from medical imaging to financial analysis and spam filtering. RTT USA is already using RapidMind's platform to develop commercial 3D real-time visualization applications for the automotive, aircraft and consumer-goods industries.

RapidMind's model, like PeakStream's, is geared for data-level parallelism. It's described as an SPMD (Single Program Multiple Data) stream processing model, where different cores execute the same instructions, with each core working on different data. Using the platform's API, developers define functions that are applied to data arrays. At runtime, the system software automatically distributes the data operations across the different processing elements.

The rationale for this approach has to do with the dichotomy between computation and memory performance. While it is relatively straightforward to add more cores as process technology shrinks, memory bandwidth to feed those cores is not increasing nearly as fast. McCool said the RapidMind software works very hard to optimize data movement so that memory latencies are hidden and RAM accesses are performed efficiently. The RapidMind system also includes load balancing to move work around so that all the cores are used efficiently.

“The system is highly tuned toward making sure that memory transfers overlap with computations, and that the data stays on-chip as long as possible and you get as much work done before the data goes off-chip again,” explained McCool.

Given the high level of parallelism inherent in processors like the Cell and GPUs, these architectures are particularly well-suited for this type of stream computing model. The Cell contains nine cores: a PowerPC core and eight Synergistic Processing Units (SPUs). And as long as you're not in the market for double-precision support, NVIDIA and AMD GPUS support even greater parallelism. The latest NVIDIA G80 device encompasses 128 cores. But as DePaul stated, “the challenge has always been how the developer can take advantage of these accelerator-type models.”

HPC programmers are all for removing complexity — as long as you don't remove the performance too. RapidMind presented some benchmarks to show they are delivering the expected performance when using GPUs for acceleration. Running an application based on the Black-Scholes algorithm, the company was able to show a 32x performance speedup on an NVIDIA 7900 GTX compared to the same application running on a Woodcrest Xeon workstation. They also showed a 2x performance increase for a BLAS routine SGEMM application, and 3x increase for an FFT workload. The results are not too surprising considering the single-precision floating point performance advantages of a high-end GPU versus a high-end CPU.

More impressive were the results they got when comparing a (Quaternion Julia Set) renderer application on the Cell processor. On code that was tuned by both IBM and RapidMind engineers for the same Cell platform, RapidMind outperformed the IBM's Cell SDK implementation by almost a factor of two. The renderer algorithm itself was relatively simple. The complex part, at least for the IBM developers, was targeting the code to the Cell platform.

DePaul noted this wasn't a matter of the developer not being good enough (we assume the IBM Cell programmers know how their own hardware works). He said there is so much complexity involved in making sure that the eight SPU cores, the DMA transfers and memory latency are all coordinated, that it's hard for mere humans to deal with all the interactions.

RapidMind currently supports the NVIDIA GeForce 6000, 7000 or 8000 cards, the NVIDIA Quadro card, and the ATI x1X00 family of cards. The Cell BE processor is supported on the IBM QS20/30 blade and the Sony PlayStation3 using Yellow Dog Linux. (If you've got an idle PlayStation3 lying around, you can download the RapidMind Developer Edition for free at http://www.rapidmind.net.)

Support for the Intel and AMD multicore x86 processors is in the works. A prototype of this software was able to achieve an 8x improvement in performance on a quad-core Intel Xeon versus a single-core implementation on the same platform. The interesting aspect here is that the RapidMind implementation was apparently able to double the application performance per core by exploiting parallelism that the compiler alone couldn't extract.

The company plans to use its recent $10 million funding infusion to bring the x86 multicore support capability to market and to expand the sales and marketing crew. Future plans to support other architectures will be based on customer demand.

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

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

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