Velocity Micro Makes an HPC Play

By Michael Feldman

October 9, 2008

The GPGPU phenomenon is continuing to attract lots of attention in the high performance computing community and is starting to bring some new players into the market. The introduction of commodity GPU processors offering teraflop-level performance suggests supercomputing can now be had for near-PC prices. The current challenge is to package those GPUs so that their power can be tapped by the average HPC practitioner.

The latest attempt at this comes from Velocity Micro, which until this week was known for its bleeding-edge PCs and desktop systems for power users, especially gaming enthusiasts. On Monday, the company jumped into the HPC market by launching a new line of NVIDIA Tesla GPU-accelerated HPC workstations. The products consist of customizable desktop systems based on Intel CPUs and NVIDIA’s newest C1060 card. The C1060 is based on NVIDIA’s 10-series GPU, which offers almost a teraflop of peak single precision performance (and around 100 gigaflops of double precision). With 4 GB of local memory, the C1060 has more than twice the capacity of NVIDIA’s first generation C870.

The Velocity workstations, which range in price from $3,995 to $16,995, come preloaded with the CUDA SDK (NVIDIA’s C programming framework for GPU computing), along with either Window XP or Fedora Core 8. The hardware is available in three basic configurations: an entry level system containing a dual- or quad-core Intel Core 2 processor and an optional C1060 Tesla card; a mid-level system with almost the same Intel CPU options, but up to two C1060s; and a high-end box with single- or dual-socket Xeon quad-core CPUs and up to three C1060s. The company rates the three configurations at 1, 2 and 3 teraflops, respectively, with the GPU card or cards providing most of the horsepower. NVIDIA Quadro GPUs are also available to drive video, enabling GPU computing and visualization to take place simultaneously.

The three-teraflop configuration with dual qual-core Xeons, three Tesla cards and a Quadro GPU, consumes plenty of juice. In an attempt to max out the system, the Velocity engineers have been able to drive power consumption up to 950 watts, and that’s probably the most a real-world application would consume. The systems are all air-cooled, presumably very effectively, since hot chips are standard gear on most Velocity systems. In fact, for the company’s high-end consumer boxes, overclocking is fairly common, although not for the HPC product line.

The GPU-equipped machines are designed for typical HPC end-users: scientists, engineers and other technical analysts. Since HPC is new territory for Velocity, the company has partnered with James River Technical (JRT), a reseller that specializes in the HPC market. JRT facilitates deals for vendors like SGI, especially for the higher education and government markets. The Velocity-JRT partnership is an especially nice fit here since the lowest hanging fruit for these new workstations is likely to be researchers at universities and government labs.

These types of users have already shown a lot of interest in GPU-accelerated computing and are on the lookout for production-ready systems. According to JRT president Tom Mountcastle, many of their customers are constrained more by budget, than imagination. “This appeals to the research community because they like being out there on the edge,” he said.

On the other hand, since the machines will be on people’s desktops, the big government labs and the universities aren’t interested in inexpensive systems that lack vendor support, which chews up a lot of system administration time. In this area, Velocity has a good track record. Over the years, the company has collected numerous award for craftsmanship, service and reliability from the likes of PC Magazine, CNET, and PC World.

The company is also among the first, if not the first, to take advantage of the latest hardware technology for its consumer products. In that sense, it sees the new Tesla hardware and CUDA as a game-changer for HPC. From Velocity’s perspective, NVIDIA’s introduction of the more powerful 10-series GPUs and the maturity of the CUDA software stack indicate that the technology pieces are now in place for a commercially-viable high performance PC. “We’ve determined there is a hole in the market for entry-level high performance computing and that’s where our product will be focused,” said Randy Copeland, Velocity Micro’s CEO and president.

CUDA, in particular, seems to have reached a critical mass. A quick tour of NVIDIA’s CUDA site reveals dozens of academic codes and a smattering of commercial applications and libraries that have been accelerated. Application areas include the usual HPC verticals: finance, life sciences, oil & gas, EDA, digital content creation and basic science research. A number of bindings and libraries are also now available so that Python, MATLAB, and other environments can tap into GPGPU.

Now with the 10-series Tesla products due to be released this month, OEMs and integrators can construct GPU-equipped servers and desktop boxes with double-precision floating point support. Presumably, workstation vendors like Dell and HP could build accelerated HPC desktop systems, but since the demand for these machines is still largely unknown, these firms will probably be content to watch more specialized companies like Velocity from the sidelines. Likewise, IBM could develop an equivalent Cell-BE based workstation, but the market for such a system is likely to be much more constrained than ones based on the more ubiquitous GPU.

It was less than a month ago that Cray introduced its own entry-level supercomputer, the CX1. Whereas the Velocity offering is essentially an SMP machine with GPU accleration, the CX1 is the more traditional cluster architecture, but scaled down for personal use. JRT, which sells both systems, seems to be covering its bases here. It’s quite possible both machines can find their own niches — the CX1 for more traditional MPI-based applications and the Velocity boxes for more global address apps that lend themselves to acceleration. The CX1 is also in a higher price band, with the least expensive configuration starting at $25,000 — about $10,000 more than the top-of-the-line Velocity machine.

Even though the first Velocity systems just hit the streets this week, the company already has a second generation in the works. They intend to quickly move to four-socket CPU configurations, and will incorporate the Nehalem processor when it becomes available later this year. Further down the road, it may be possible to hook the workstations together for applications requiring greater scale.

If Velocity Micro can make a go of this, the “Attack of the Killer Micros” saga will have added a new chapter. Instead of just commodity microprocessor hardware invading HPC’s turf, PC vendors themselves could start eating into the market from the bottom up. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if any other desktop vendors are tempted to jump into the HPC arena.

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!

Is Data Science the Fourth Pillar of the Scientific Method?

April 18, 2019

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang revived a decade-old debate last month when he said that modern data science (AI plus HPC) has become the fourth pillar of the scientific method. While some disagree with the notion that statistic Read more…

By Alex Woodie

At ASF 2019: The Virtuous Circle of Big Data, AI and HPC

April 18, 2019

We've entered a new phase in IT -- in the world, really -- where the combination of big data, artificial intelligence, and high performance computing is pushing the bounds of what's possible in business and science, in w Read more…

By Alex Woodie with Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

Google Open Sources TensorFlow Version of MorphNet DL Tool

April 18, 2019

Designing optimum deep neural networks remains a non-trivial exercise. “Given the large search space of possible architectures, designing a network from scratch for your specific application can be prohibitively expens Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture: How to Power a Cloud

Learn how HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture provide critical infrastructure for leading Nordic HPC provider’s HPCFLOW cloud service.

powercloud_blog.jpgFor decades, HPE has been at the forefront of high-performance computing, and we’ve powered some of the fastest and most robust supercomputers in the world. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Bridging HPC and Cloud Native Development with Kubernetes

The HPC community has historically developed its own specialized software stack including schedulers, filesystems, developer tools, container technologies tuned for performance and large-scale on-premises deployments. Read more…

Interview with 2019 Person to Watch Michela Taufer

April 18, 2019

Today, as part of our ongoing HPCwire People to Watch focus series, we are highlighting our interview with 2019 Person to Watch Michela Taufer. Michela -- the General Chair of SC19 -- is an ACM Distinguished Scientist. Read more…

By HPCwire Editorial Team

At ASF 2019: The Virtuous Circle of Big Data, AI and HPC

April 18, 2019

We've entered a new phase in IT -- in the world, really -- where the combination of big data, artificial intelligence, and high performance computing is pushing Read more…

By Alex Woodie with Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

Interview with 2019 Person to Watch Michela Taufer

April 18, 2019

Today, as part of our ongoing HPCwire People to Watch focus series, we are highlighting our interview with 2019 Person to Watch Michela Taufer. Michela -- the Read more…

By HPCwire Editorial Team

Intel Gold U-Series SKUs Reveal Single Socket Intentions

April 18, 2019

Intel plans to jump into the single socket market with a portion of its just announced Cascade Lake microprocessor line according to one media report. This isn Read more…

By John Russell

BSC Researchers Shrink Floating Point Formats to Accelerate Deep Neural Network Training

April 15, 2019

Sometimes calculating solutions as precisely as a computer can wastes more CPU resources than is necessary. A case in point is with deep learning. In early stag Read more…

By Ken Strandberg

Intel Extends FPGA Ecosystem with 10nm Agilex

April 11, 2019

The insatiable appetite for higher throughput and lower latency – particularly where edge analytics and AI, network functions, or for a range of datacenter ac Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia Doubles Down on Medical AI

April 9, 2019

Nvidia is collaborating with medical groups to push GPU-powered AI tools into clinical settings, including radiology and drug discovery. The GPU leader said Monday it will collaborate with the American College of Radiology (ACR) to provide clinicians with its Clara AI tool kit. The partnership would allow radiologists to leverage AI techniques for diagnostic imaging using their own clinical data. Read more…

By George Leopold

Digging into MLPerf Benchmark Suite to Inform AI Infrastructure Decisions

April 9, 2019

With machine learning and deep learning storming into the datacenter, the new challenge is optimizing infrastructure choices to support diverse ML and DL workfl Read more…

By John Russell

AI and Enterprise Datacenters Boost HPC Server Revenues Past Expectations – Hyperion

April 9, 2019

Building on the big year of 2017 and spurred in part by the convergence of AI and HPC, global revenue for high performance servers jumped 15.6 percent last year Read more…

By Doug Black

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

Why Nvidia Bought Mellanox: ‘Future Datacenters Will Be…Like High Performance Computers’

March 14, 2019

“Future datacenters of all kinds will be built like high performance computers,” said Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang during a phone briefing on Monday after Nvidia revealed scooping up the high performance networking company Mellanox for $6.9 billion. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ClusterVision in Bankruptcy, Fate Uncertain

February 13, 2019

ClusterVision, European HPC specialists that have built and installed over 20 Top500-ranked systems in their nearly 17-year history, appear to be in the midst o Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Reportedly in $6B Bid for Mellanox

January 30, 2019

The latest rumors and reports around an acquisition of Mellanox focus on Intel, which has reportedly offered a $6 billion bid for the high performance interconn Read more…

By Doug Black

It’s Official: Aurora on Track to Be First US Exascale Computer in 2021

March 18, 2019

The U.S. Department of Energy along with Intel and Cray confirmed today that an Intel/Cray supercomputer, "Aurora," capable of sustained performance of one exaf Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Looking for Light Reading? NSF-backed ‘Comic Books’ Tackle Quantum Computing

January 28, 2019

Still baffled by quantum computing? How about turning to comic books (graphic novels for the well-read among you) for some clarity and a little humor on QC. The Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Quantum Update: Q System One Launch, New Collaborators, and QC Center Plans

January 10, 2019

IBM made three significant quantum computing announcements at CES this week. One was introduction of IBM Q System One; it’s really the integration of IBM’s Read more…

By John Russell

Deep500: ETH Researchers Introduce New Deep Learning Benchmark for HPC

February 5, 2019

ETH researchers have developed a new deep learning benchmarking environment – Deep500 – they say is “the first distributed and reproducible benchmarking s Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 18 Virtual Booth Video Tour

Advania @ SC18 AMD @ SC18
ASRock Rack @ SC18
DDN Storage @ SC18
HPE @ SC18
IBM @ SC18
Lenovo @ SC18 Mellanox Technologies @ SC18
NVIDIA @ SC18
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

IBM Bets $2B Seeking 1000X AI Hardware Performance Boost

February 7, 2019

For now, AI systems are mostly machine learning-based and “narrow” – powerful as they are by today's standards, they're limited to performing a few, narro Read more…

By Doug Black

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer Read more…

By John Russell

Arm Unveils Neoverse N1 Platform with up to 128-Cores

February 20, 2019

Following on its Neoverse roadmap announcement last October, Arm today revealed its next-gen Neoverse microarchitecture with compute and throughput-optimized si Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

France to Deploy AI-Focused Supercomputer: Jean Zay

January 22, 2019

HPE announced today that it won the contract to build a supercomputer that will drive France’s AI and HPC efforts. The computer will be part of GENCI, the Fre Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Cascade Lake Xeons with Up to 56 Cores

April 2, 2019

At Intel's Data-Centric Innovation Day in San Francisco (April 2), the company unveiled its second-generation Xeon Scalable (Cascade Lake) family and debuted it Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Oil and Gas Supercloud Clears Out Remaining Knights Landing Inventory: All 38,000 Wafers

March 13, 2019

The McCloud HPC service being built by Australia’s DownUnder GeoSolutions (DUG) outside Houston is set to become the largest oil and gas cloud in the world th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Reflections and (Mostly Hopeful) Predictions

December 19, 2018

So much ‘spaghetti’ gets tossed on walls by the technology community (vendors and researchers) to see what sticks that it is often difficult to peer through Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Extends FPGA Ecosystem with 10nm Agilex

April 11, 2019

The insatiable appetite for higher throughput and lower latency – particularly where edge analytics and AI, network functions, or for a range of datacenter ac Read more…

By Doug Black

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