Canadian HPC Lab Maintains Warm Relationship with Sun

By John West

February 18, 2009

Canada’s High Performance Computing Virtual Laboratory (HPCVL) is a virtual HPC organization spread out over the campuses of eight universities in Ontario. Fully half of the Laboratory’s $200 million (CAD) 10-year budget is provided by investments from its industrial partner, Sun. HPCwire spoke with the HPCVL’s executive director, Ken Edgecombe about the HPCVL, what it does, and why Sun is so committed to making this effort a success.

The HPCVL is spread out over eight campuses in Ontario, Canada — Carleton University, Queen’s University, The Royal Military College of Canada, the University of Ottawa, Ryerson University, St. Lawrence College, Seneca College, and Loyalist College — and provides services and expertise to over 800 Canadian researchers using a collection of high end servers and storage from Sun Microsystems.

The HPCVL provides computational services for a fairly traditional set of HPC applications, including everything from biomedical research to computational fluid dynamics. The center has a staff of 13, including 4 who provide user support and education and also assistance with applications. Each user group pays an access fee of $2,000 (CAD) that helps the organization defray unexpected expenses, but they aren’t required to pay for the computational hours they consume (or bytes stored). This model helps ensure that those who need the HPCVL’s resources to drive their research forward can afford the resources they need.

One of the key tasks for the laboratory’s staff is to match users and their applications to a particular set of resources in HPCVL’s hardware offering. The HPCVL has a cluster of 8 Sun SPARC Enterprise M9000 servers, each with 64 quad-core 2.52 GHz Sparc64 VII processors supporting two hardware threads per core, for compute intensive jobs with large memory requirements. There is also a cluster of 7 Sun Fire 25000 servers, each of which has 72 dual-core UltraSPARC-IV+ processors, aimed at a similar (but perhaps less demanding) workload. HPCVL’s Victoria Falls cluster is built from 73 Sun SPARC Enterprise T5140 Servers, each of which has two UltraSparc T2 chips with 8 cores apiece, each supporting 8 hardware threads. At full capacity this cluster can support just over 9,300 threads, and the system provides a throughput compute platform for HPCVL’s users. All of the systems use Sun’s Grid Engine workload management tool, and run Solaris.

Something that struck me as unusual for an academic computer center is HPCVL’s focus on security. Their Web page calls it “one of Canada’s leading secure HPC environments,” and Edgecombe referred to security issues several times in the first few minutes of our conversation. Why the focus on security, when university compute environments are typically thought of as a little more relaxed? Edgecombe explains that when the laboratory was started, a key goal was to grow HPC use among non-traditional users. One of the groups they targeted was medical and pharmaceutical industry researchers, who in addition to  having regulatory issues around data preservation and protection, also have serious concerns about the protection of intellectual property. “And the integrity of the data itself is a core issue for every researcher,” Edgecombe points out.

Although it is comprised of many individual institutions, the HPCVL is a center of Queens University, which provides a funding channel for the organization. The laboratory is funded by grants from a variety of public institutions, including the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation. Its relationship with Sun forms the private part of this public/private partnership. Edgecombe says that the laboratory’s 10-year budget is $200 million (CAD), and fully half of that comes from Sun in the form of funding and in kind donations.

So, just why is Sun so committed to the work that the HPCVL is doing? I talked with Sun’s Michael Schulman, who is in charge of HPC marketing, to get a better feel for how relationships like these fit in with Sun’s strategy.

Schulman points out that Sun has traditionally had strong relationships with the academic community, pointing to TACC and the Tokyo Institute of Technology as other current examples. For Sun, these academic environments are often great places to find what Schulman calls “launch partners” — customers willing to accept the very first instance of new gear to help Sun flush out the kinks. According to Schulman, TACC’s Ranger incorporated five new technologies, and both Tokyo Tech and HPCVL have also deployed first-of-its-kind Sun technology.

Schulman says that Sun lets these relationships develop organically, rather than building them on a specific schedule or quota. In HPCVL’s case, Edgecombe has long been a customer of Sun, and Sun’s relationship with the organization has grown over time. Of particular advantage for Sun in HPCVL’s case is that the lab has deployed Sun’s chip multithreading products for traditional HPC at a time when most in the market are going x86-64. This difference gives Sun the opportunity to evaluate the performance of these products on the wide variety of applications that HPCVL’s users are running, and then bring that feedback back into the design process.

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!

IBM Launches Commercial Quantum Network with Samsung, ORNL

December 14, 2017

In the race to commercialize quantum computing, IBM is one of several companies leading the pack. Today, IBM announced it had signed JPMorgan Chase, Daimler AG, Samsung and a number of other corporations to its IBM Q Net Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TACC Researchers Test AI Traffic Monitoring Tool in Austin

December 13, 2017

Traffic jams and mishaps are often painful and sometimes dangerous facts of life. At this week’s IEEE International Conference on Big Data being held in Boston, researchers from TACC and colleagues will present a new Read more…

By HPCwire Staff

AMD Wins Another: Baidu to Deploy EPYC on Single Socket Servers

December 13, 2017

When AMD introduced its EPYC chip line in June, the company said a portion of the line was specifically designed to re-invigorate a single socket segment in what has become an overwhelmingly two-socket landscape in the d Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Explore the Origins of Space with COSMOS and Memory-Driven Computing

From the formation of black holes to the origins of space, data is the key to unlocking the secrets of the early universe. Read more…

Microsoft Wants to Speed Quantum Development

December 12, 2017

Quantum computing continues to make headlines in what remains of 2017 as several tech giants jockey to establish a pole position in the race toward commercialization of quantum. This week, Microsoft took the next step in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Launches Commercial Quantum Network with Samsung, ORNL

December 14, 2017

In the race to commercialize quantum computing, IBM is one of several companies leading the pack. Today, IBM announced it had signed JPMorgan Chase, Daimler AG, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Wins Another: Baidu to Deploy EPYC on Single Socket Servers

December 13, 2017

When AMD introduced its EPYC chip line in June, the company said a portion of the line was specifically designed to re-invigorate a single socket segment in wha Read more…

By John Russell

Microsoft Wants to Speed Quantum Development

December 12, 2017

Quantum computing continues to make headlines in what remains of 2017 as several tech giants jockey to establish a pole position in the race toward commercializ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Iron, Soft, Data, People – It Takes an Ecosystem!

December 11, 2017

Cutting edge advanced computing hardware (aka big iron) does not stand by itself. These computers are the pinnacle of a myriad of technologies that must be care Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft Spins Cycle Computing into Core Azure Product

December 5, 2017

Last August, cloud giant Microsoft acquired HPC cloud orchestration pioneer Cycle Computing. Since then the focus has been on integrating Cycle’s organization Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE In-Memory Platform Comes to COSMOS

November 30, 2017

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is on a mission to accelerate space research. In August, it sent the first commercial-off-the-shelf HPC system into space for testing Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This