AMD Searches for an HPC Strategy

By Michael Feldman

February 15, 2008

Both Intel and NVIDIA have laid out a pretty clear strategy on how they’re going to attack the HPC market over the next year or so. Intel will continue to push out their 45nm Xeons, then the Nehalem processors, then Larrabee. NVIDIA will introduce 64-bit floating point support into their Tesla GPU computing line and continue to refine the CUDA programming environment. AMD, however, which is still reeling from a disastrous 2007, has seemed less focused on the high end of the market than ever before. The company’s stated mission to regain profitability in 2008 means it will refocus its energies on the volume market — desktop, laptop, mobile and embedded computing.

With that as a backdrop, I thought this might be a good time to talk with David Rich, director of marketing for HPC at AMD, and get a sense of the company’s strategy for high-end computing over the next year or two.

One of the first things that AMD would like to rectify this year is its visibility in the HPC community — or lack thereof. Rich admitted that they’ve been getting questions from people in the community wondering if they really care about HPC anymore. Not a good thing — especially when Intel is making a big push with its high performance Xeon processors, experimenting with 80-core teraflop processors and on-chip lasers, and just generally dominating the high-end computing conversation. “We recognize that we have not been as visible as we should have been [in the past], so we’re going to make an effort to be present at more HPC-oriented events,” says Rich.

Rich says they intend to make an extra effort to reconnect with HPC users this year, especially at the big conferences like the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC’08) in Dresden and the Supercomputing Expo and Conference (SC08) in Austin, Texas. AMD actually lucked out this year. Two of the companies big fabs are in Dresden, and Austin is a major business operations site. AMD is likely to use the home court advantage to have a larger than average contingent at the two biggest HPC events of the year.

One thing AMD still has going for it is the good will it has built up in the high performance computing community over the past few years due to the superior attributes of its Opteron processor. No doubt some of that good will has been eroded due to missteps in 2007, especially the failed Barcelona launch that left HPC OEMs looking longingly at Intel parts. Overall though, since 2005, better memory performance and scalability allowed Opterons to shine in the HPC realm when compared to their Xeon counterparts. Since most supercomputers, especially the top 10 variety, get planned two to four years in advance, AMD will still be able to ride this momentum at least until the end of the decade.

With the exception of SGI, every major HPC system vendor uses AMD chips today. Most vendors offer both Intel- and AMD-based systems, although Cray is AMD-only, at least until 2010. And despite Sun Microsystem’s embrace of Intel in 2007, the largest machines, like the TSUBAME supercomputer in Japan and the 500 teraflop system just deployed at TACC, are Opteron-based.

As I’ve written about before, though, the Opteron’s HPC advantage is about a year away from disappearing. In truth, the latest 45nm Xeons with the souped up front-side bus are already faster than the current 65nm Opterons on a range of technical computing applications. With Intel’s upcoming Nehalem processor family, scheduled to start rolling out in late 2008/early 2009, the company will be adding integrated memory controllers and QuickPath, a HyperTransport-like point-to-point interconnect that will replace Intel’s antiquated front-side bus. At that point, you have to ask how AMD intends to compete at the high end.

In the short-term, AMD expects Nehalem to initially be delivered in the 2P flavor for dual-socket systems. In that configuration, Intel will match up very well against the 2P Opterons. If AMD is still a process generation behind its rival, as it is now, Intel will almost certainly have the performance edge. In 2009, AMD plans to implement HyperTransport 3.0 on its processors, which, according to Rich, will allow them to retain a memory bandwidth advantage, at least in 4-socket servers.

“Then we’ll be in a situation that we’re actually already in,” says Rich. “Some applications will perform better on Intel [processors] and some will perform better on ours. People are really going to have to look at their applications to see where they get better performance. It’s going to be a neck and neck race.”

Although most people point to the Opteron as the area where AMD lost the high ground this year, the company’s ATI-derived GPU computing products for HPC got blind-sided by NVIDIA when it rolled out the Tesla product line and the associated CUDA GPU programming environment. AMD’s 64-bit FireStream stream processor was announced in November 2007 and is expected to be go to the market sometime this year. Rich says the FireStream hardware is a very competitive product, but admits they have been behind on the software front. According to him, though, they’re catching up quickly. For high-level development, AMD has developed Brook+, a tool that provides C extensions for stream computing on GPU hardware, and which is based on the Brook project at Stanford. Rich notes there are similarities with NVIDIA’s CUDA environment, but stopped short of saying that Brook+ would be CUDA compatible. When announced at the end of last year, AMD said the FireStream product would launch in Q1 of 2008, which is the same time frame targeted by NVIDIA for its 64-bit Tesla offering.

Going head-to-head against Intel and NVIDIA with CPU and GPU offerings, respectively, is a conservative strategy and maybe a problematic one, considering the economies of scale in play in the chip design and manufacturing business. But because AMD now owns both kinds of architectures, it should be able to use that advantage against its much larger rivals. That was certainly part of the rationale behind the ATI-AMD merger in 2006. If they ever intend to extract some synergy out of the CPU-GPU, now would be a good time to take the pole position. AMD’s CPU-GPU Fusion hybrid processor, now referred to as an accelerated processing unit (APU), is due out in the second half of 2009. But by this date, Intel may have its own version of a CPU-GPU processor.

Layered on top of the CPU, GPU, and APU product set is AMD’s Accelerated Computing strategy, which is intended to create a software stack for a heterogeneous computing environment. This will include elements such as drivers, APIs, compilers, and OS support. According to Rich, a lot of work has been going into this behind the scenes and AMD should be ready to elaborate on the strategy this spring, but it’s clear they intend to build on top of Torrenza, the first phase of AMD’s accelerated computing platform.

The big picture with accelerated computing is to create a system environment where different species of processors (CPUs, GPUs, FPGAs, and custom ASICs) can be brought together to provide a rich set of computational engines for application software. The acceleration effect is the result of mapping the different software components onto the most appropriate hardware. The software stack running on top of the hardware will provide a standard and, presumably, high-level way to access the underlying processors. More than anything, this sounds like a mainstream version of Cray’s Adaptive Computing vision, the supercomputer maker’s strategy to take HPC to the next level.

If AMD manages to deliver this new paradigm to the mass market, the company will have once again succeeded in making an end-run around its larger rivals. It wouldn’t be the first time.

—–

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!

ABB Upgrades Produce Up to 30 Percent Energy Reduction for HPE Supercomputers

June 6, 2020

The world’s supercomputers are currently allied in a common goal: defeating COVID-19. To analyze the billions upon billions of molecules that might produce helpful therapeutics (or even a vaccine), an unimaginable amou Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputers Take to the Solar Winds

June 5, 2020

The whims of the solar winds – charged particles flowing from the Sun’s atmosphere – can interfere with systems that are now crucial for modern life, such as satellites and GPS services – but these winds can be d Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPC in O&G: Deep Sea Drilling – What Happens Now   

June 4, 2020

At the beginning of March I attended the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. That seems a long time ago now. It’s a great event where oil and gas specialists join with compute veterans and the discussion tell Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

NCSA Wades into Post-Blue Waters Era with Delta Supercomputer

June 3, 2020

NSF has awarded the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) $10 million for its next supercomputer - named Delta – “which will kick-start NCSA’s next generation of supercomputers post-Blue Waters,” Read more…

By John Russell

Dell Integrates Bitfusion for vHPC, GPU ‘Pools’

June 3, 2020

Dell Technologies advanced its hardware virtualization strategy to AI workloads this week with the introduction of capabilities aimed at expanding access to GPU and HPC services via its EMC, VMware and recently acquired Read more…

By George Leopold

AWS Solution Channel

Join AWS, Univa and Intel for This Informative Session!

Event Date: June 18, 2020

More enterprises than ever are turning to HPC cloud computing. Whether you’re just getting started, or more mature in your use of cloud, this HPC Cloud webinar is an excellent opportunity to gain valuable insights and knowledge to help accelerate your HPC cloud projects. Read more…

Supercomputers Streamline Prediction of Dangerous Arrhythmia

June 2, 2020

Heart arrhythmia can prove deadly, contributing to the hundreds of thousands of deaths from cardiac arrest in the U.S. every year. Unfortunately, many of those arrhythmia are induced as side effects from various medicati Read more…

By Staff report

NCSA Wades into Post-Blue Waters Era with Delta Supercomputer

June 3, 2020

NSF has awarded the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) $10 million for its next supercomputer - named Delta – “which will kick-start NCS Read more…

By John Russell

Indiana University to Deploy Jetstream 2 Cloud with AMD, Nvidia Technology

June 2, 2020

Indiana University has been awarded a $10 million NSF grant to build ‘Jetstream 2,’ a cloud computing system that will provide 8 aggregate petaflops of comp 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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