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!

AI in the News: Rao in at Intel, Ng out at Baidu, Nvidia on at Tencent Cloud

March 26, 2017

Just as AI has become the leitmotif of the advanced scale computing market, infusing much of the conversation about HPC in commercial and industrial spheres, it also is impacting high-level management changes in the industry. Read more…

By Doug Black

Scalable Informatics Ceases Operations

March 23, 2017

On the same day we reported on the uncertain future for HPC compiler company PathScale, we are sad to learn that another HPC vendor, Scalable Informatics, is closing its doors. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Strategies in Biomedical Data Science’ Advances IT-Research Synergies

March 23, 2017

“Strategies in Biomedical Data Science: Driving Force for Innovation” by Jay A. Etchings is both an introductory text and a field guide for anyone working with biomedical data. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its assets. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HFT Firms Turn to Co-Location to Gain Competitive Advantage

High-frequency trading (HFT) is a high-speed, high-stakes world where every millisecond matters. Finding ways to execute trades faster than the competition translates directly to greater revenue for firms, brokerages, and exchanges. Read more…

Google Launches New Machine Learning Journal

March 22, 2017

On Monday, Google announced plans to launch a new peer review journal and “ecosystem” Read more…

By John Russell

Swiss Researchers Peer Inside Chips with Improved X-Ray Imaging

March 22, 2017

Peering inside semiconductor chips using x-ray imaging isn’t new, but the technique hasn’t been especially good or easy to accomplish. Read more…

By John Russell

LANL Simulation Shows Massive Black Holes Break ‘Speed Limit’

March 21, 2017

A new computer simulation based on codes developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is shedding light on how supermassive black holes could have formed in the early universe contrary to most prior models which impose a limit on how fast these massive ‘objects’ can form. Read more…

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its assets. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the campaign. Read more…

By John Russell

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Japanese Supercomputing Project Targets Exascale

March 14, 2017

Another Japanese supercomputing project was revealed this week, this one from emerging supercomputer maker, ExaScaler Inc., and Keio University. The partners are working on an original supercomputer design with exascale aspirations. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Debuts HGX-1 for Cloud; Announces Fujitsu AI Deal

March 9, 2017

On Monday Nvidia announced a major deal with Fujitsu to help build an AI supercomputer for RIKEN using 24 DGX-1 servers. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC4Mfg Advances State-of-the-Art for American Manufacturing

March 9, 2017

Last Friday (March 3, 2017), the High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) program held an industry engagement day workshop in San Diego, bringing together members of the US manufacturing community, national laboratories and universities to discuss the role of high-performance computing as an innovation engine for American manufacturing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular offerings such as Caffe, Theano, and Torch. Read more…

By John Russell

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the campaign. Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Read more…

By John Russell

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel and Trump Announce $7B for Fab 42 Targeting 7nm

February 8, 2017

In what may be an attempt by President Trump to reset his turbulent relationship with the high tech industry, he and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich today announced plans to invest more than $7 billion to complete Fab 42. Read more…

By John Russell

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