ORNL Closes In On Petascale Computing

By Nicole Hemsoth

July 13, 2007

As a Department of Energy leadership computing facility, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) employs some of some of the most powerful supercomputers on the planet. Buddy Bland, project director of ORNL’s Leadership Computing Facility, discusses the challenges of computing at very large scale — with “peta” around the corner and “exa” on the distant horizon.

HPCwire: Oak Ridge’s “Jaguar” system is now number two on the Top500 list, compared to number ten last November. That’s a big performance leap. How is this helping your users?

Bland: The huge leap in “Jaguar’s” effective computing power is giving scientists the tools they need to solve really big, important problems — scientifically important problems and, through the industrial portion of the DOE INCITE program, economically important problems as well. That’s the whole reason for the leadership computing initiative that Dr. Orbach put forward and that ORNL won in 2004.

Climate scientists are using the system to develop the next generation of the Community Climate System Model (CCSM). Peter Gent of NCAR [National Center for Atmospheric Research], who is chair of the CCSM Scientific Steering Committee, said that the performance of CCSM on Jaguar was “out of our dreams” at a blistering 40 simulated years per day. He said recent improvement to the simulation of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation in CCSM is the most impressive new result in ten years.

Fusion researchers are using “Jaguar” to simulate the multinational ITER fusion reactor, a device that will bring the world closer to a clean, abundant energy source by heating an ionized gas ten times hotter than the sun. The AORSA fusion application has achieved 87.5 teraflops on “Jaguar” for the dominant computational kernel. This is 74 percent of the system’s theoretical peak.

On the industrial side, a team led by Jihui Yang of General Motors is using the system to perform first-principles calculations of thermoelectric materials capable of turning waste heat into electricity. The team’s goal is to help automakers capture that 60 percent of the energy generated by an automobile’s engine that is currently lost through waste heat and to use it to boost fuel economy. These calculations would not have been possible if the scientists had not had access to the leadership computing resources of the Energy Department. This is another great example of how computational simulation can contribute to scientific advances and energy security. There are many more examples.

HPCwire: You serve a relatively small number of users who have really big problems, meaning codes that exploit a large fraction of your systems. What special things do you do to serve these high-end users?

Bland: It takes a lot of personal attention. Computers at the scale of the top five of the Top500 list are so much larger than what most people have ever had access to. To increase the ease of use and productivity, we established our Scientific Computing Group, led by Dr. Ricky Kendall. Members of this group act as liaisons between the computer center and the computational projects. They have Ph.D.’s in relevant scientific disciplines and many years of experience working with high-performance computers. They help users port, tune and optimize their codes. This includes and often requires modification, augmentation or a change of algorithms and implementations. Only a modest number of existing codes have parallelized the I/O, so getting data in and out of the computers can be a serious issue. Providing this kind of expert assistance to each code team and working closely with them is one of the real keys to making these leadership-class machines productive.

Equally important is our User Assistance and Outreach Group, led by Dr. Julia White. This group is intimately familiar with the day-to-day functioning of the machines. Group members help our users fix broken code and ensure the codes are behaving as intended. These two groups and their dedication to delivering successful science for LCF users are especially important because state-of-the-art supercomputers, like all high-performance machines, can be very unforgiving.

HPCwire: There’s a Cray Center of Excellence at ORNL. What role does that play?

Bland: Cray’s John Levesque heads this center, which Cray established in collaboration with ORNL to accomplish several things. The center’s most important function is working closely with the users and with Ricky Kendall’s group to port, tune and optimize the codes, and to understand the algorithms. John Levesque and his colleagues take what they learn from this process back to Cray’s computer designers, who use it to design future-generation computers that can run these problems even faster, along with solving new and different problems. The goal is to create a better mapping between the algorithms and the machines and reduce overall time to solution. Another important contributor is Luis DeRose, Cray’s head of tools who’s also on the staff of the Center of Excellence. He studies how well the Cray tools work and what others tools are needed by our user community. Cray acts as a true partner, not just a manufacturer of the computers.

HPCwire: What are your current plans for getting to a peak petaflop?

Bland: Cray’s code name for the follow-on to the XT series is “Baker.” We have a contract for a “Baker” system, which is expected in late 2008 or early 2009. It will be first in a series of Cray machines based on technology that will go into the “Cascade” system Cray is developing under the DARPA HPCS [High Productivity Computing Systems] program. “Baker” will be a peak petaflops machine.

HPCwire: Rumor has it that ORNL surveyed its user community to identify which codes would be the best candidates for 250 teraflops and 1 petaflops performance. Can you say more about this?

Bland: One important thing in bringing these machines to readiness is that any time a very large machine comes on line, it takes some time from delivery through acceptance. During this time, we run a suite of applications to understand how well the machine is working. But we don’t only want to run problems we already know the answers to. We also need a suite of applications we can use to accomplish new science. We are working with users in the DOE and other agencies through the INCITE process to identify applications that are early candidates for these machines and that have the potential to accomplish groundbreaking science. We are seeing which applications have technical readiness and need access to these large machines. Technical readiness means that the algorithms are likely to work at tens or hundreds of thousands of cores. We have a number of applications today that are exploiting all 23,000 “Jaguar” cores with good scaling. There’s a reasonable chance these will run well on even larger machines.

HPCwire: Will some of these candidate codes come from industry?

Bland: DOE’s INCITE program provides access to leadership-class machines for users from government, academia and industry. Codes from all of these areas will be eligible.

HPCwire: In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges to achieving sustained petaflops performance on real-world applications?

Bland: An incredible amount of parallelism needs to be found and exploited to effectively use sustained petaflops machines with tens or hundreds of thousands of cores. Combining MPI with OpenMP on an SMP machine involves a relatively low level of programming. The real challenge is finding appropriate programming models, such as the HPCS languages or others. Another major problem is going to be fault tolerance at this scale. Some applications will need weeks or more to run. We need a way to generate correct answers even when some components are not fully functional. This is a major research topic today. The DOE is investing a lot in research on fault-tolerant computing.

HPCwire: Your “Jaguar” system is an Opteron-based Cray XT3/XT4, and your “Phoenix” system is a Cray X1E vector machine. How is this hybrid approach working?

Bland: The combination works very well. “Phoenix” is relatively small compared to machines at the top of the Top500, although it’s in the top 100. Its vector processors run certain applications exceptionally well, including some fusion calculations that exploit the memory bandwidth of this machine, and some climate modeling codes. There’s a need to maintain vector machines. Cray’s strategy of integrating many different processor types in a common infrastructure — multithreaded, vector, maybe also special purpose as well as scalar processors — is interesting. We’ll be working closely with Cray on how best to apply hybrid computers like this to scientific applications.

HPCwire: Have you encountered any surprises in running codes or benchmarks at very large scale?

Bland: Running Linpack to get to number two on the Top500 list took approximately 18 hours. The first time we ran it, we got a residual number that was very large. We had seen problems before with running Linpack and suspected a hardware problem. We spent a couple of days trying to diagnose this and found we had broken the Linpack benchmark code. We had exceeded the periodicity of the 32-bit random number generator in Linpack. It wasn’t a big deal for Linpack, in the sense that Jack Dongarra is modifying the sample code to correct this. What happened is more important as a reminder that when you’re dealing with very large calculations, it’s critically important to pay close attention to the mathematical techniques you use, to make sure you end up with mathematical results that are reasonable.

HPCwire: In sum, how is ORNL’s evolution into a leadership-class computing facility working out in practice?

Bland: Very well. The work with the Scientific Computing Group has turned out to be a critical aspect of being able to use these very large machines and allocations. Our partnership with DOE for INCITE has been very effective. Ray Orbach started this at NERSC and it worked well, but the demand for time has always exceeded the supply, so creating the DOE leadership centers and making these machines available to both DOE and non-DOE users has been a very good thing. The quality of the machines is high, and the applications are running well and getting great results.

HPCwire: What’s next for ORNL?

Bland: The DOE Office of Science recently held a series of workshops on exascale computing at ORNL, Argonne and Berkeley. We’re all trying to understand the challenges and the issues. We’re very interested in how to continue this exploration.

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 Research Reveals Star Cluster Born Outside Our Galaxy

July 11, 2020

The Milky Way is our galactic home, containing our solar system and continuing into a giant band of densely packed stars that stretches across clear night skies around the world – but, it turns out, not all of those st Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Max Planck Society Begins Installation of Liquid-Cooled Supercomputer from Lenovo

July 9, 2020

Lenovo announced today that it is supplying a new high performance computer to the Max Planck Society, one of Germany's premier research organizations. Comprised of Intel Xeon processors and Nvidia A100 GPUs, and featuri Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Xilinx Announces First Adaptive Computing Challenge

July 9, 2020

A new contest is challenging the computing world. Xilinx has announced the first Xilinx Adaptive Computing Challenge, a competition that will task developers and startups with finding creative workload acceleration solutions. Xilinx is running the Adaptive Computing Challenge in partnership with Hackster.io, a developing community... Read more…

By Staff report

Reviving Moore’s Law? LBNL Researchers See Promise in Heterostructure Oxides

July 9, 2020

The reality of Moore’s law’s decline is no longer doubted for good empirical reasons. That said, never say never. Recent work by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers suggests heterostructure oxides may b Read more…

By John Russell

President’s Council Targets AI, Quantum, STEM; Recommends Spending Growth

July 9, 2020

Last week the President Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met (webinar) to review policy recommendations around three sub-committee reports: 1) Industries of the Future (IotF), chaired be Dario Gil (d Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Solution Channel

Best Practices for Running Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Workloads on AWS

The scalable nature and variable demand of CFD workloads makes them well-suited for a cloud computing environment. Many of the AWS instance types, such as the compute family instance types, are designed to include support for this type of workload.  Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Supercomputing the Pandemic: Scientific Community Tackles COVID-19 from Multiple Perspectives

Since their inception, supercomputers have taken on the biggest, most complex, and most data-intensive computing challenges—from confirming Einstein’s theories about gravitational waves to predicting the impacts of climate change. Read more…

Penguin Computing Brings Cascade Lake-AP to OCP Form Factor

July 7, 2020

Penguin Computing, a subsidiary of SMART Global Holdings, Inc., announced yesterday (July 6) a new Tundra server, Tundra AP, that is the first to implement the Intel Xeon Scalable 9200 series processors (codenamed Cascad Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Max Planck Society Begins Installation of Liquid-Cooled Supercomputer from Lenovo

July 9, 2020

Lenovo announced today that it is supplying a new high performance computer to the Max Planck Society, one of Germany's premier research organizations. Comprise Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

President’s Council Targets AI, Quantum, STEM; Recommends Spending Growth

July 9, 2020

Last week the President Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met (webinar) to review policy recommendations around three sub-committee reports: Read more…

By John Russell

Google Cloud Debuts 16-GPU Ampere A100 Instances

July 7, 2020

On the heels of the Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU launch in May, Google Cloud is announcing alpha availability of the A100 “Accelerator Optimized” VM A2 instance family on Google Compute Engine. The instances are powered by the HGX A100 16-GPU platform, which combines two HGX A100 8-GPU baseboards using... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Q&A: HLRS’s Bastian Koller Tackles HPC and Industry in Germany and Europe

July 6, 2020

In this exclusive interview for HPCwire – sadly not face to face – Steve Conway, senior advisor for Hyperion Research, talks with Dr.-Ing Bastian Koller about the state of HPC and its collaboration with Industry in Europe. Koller is a familiar figure in HPC. He is the managing director at High Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS) and also serves... Read more…

By Steve Conway, Hyperion

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This yea Read more…

By John Russell

Racism and HPC: a Special Podcast

June 29, 2020

Promoting greater diversity in HPC is a much-discussed goal and ostensibly a long-sought goal in HPC. Yet it seems clear HPC is far from achieving this goal. Re Read more…

Top500 Trends: Movement on Top, but Record Low Turnover

June 25, 2020

The 55th installment of the Top500 list saw strong activity in the leadership segment with four new systems in the top ten and a crowning achievement from the f 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

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

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

Neocortex Will Be First-of-Its-Kind 800,000-Core AI Supercomputer

June 9, 2020

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC - a joint research organization of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh) has won a $5 million award Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

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

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

‘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

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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

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

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

$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

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