Another Company Takes Up Reconfigurable Computing

By Michael Feldman

March 12, 2009

The global economic system may be collapsing, but quantitative financial analysis will endure. At least, that’s what Kuberre Systems is hoping. Earlier this week, the Massachusetts-based firm launched HANSA (Hardware Accelerator for Numerical and Systems Analysis) , a new FPGA-based HPC platform intended to accelerate compute-hungry financial applications. The overall architecture is somewhat reminiscent of Convey Computer’s HC-1, inasmuch as it virtualizes the FPGA resources from the application developer.

If you haven’t heard of Kuberre before, that’s because this is its first big push into high performance computing. The company’s been around since 2001, primarily in the financial services arena, offering an array of investment management products and services. Its foray into HPC began a couple of years ago when it started thinking about a platform that could help quants speed up their risk analysis models. Kuberre settled on an FPGA-based architecture because of its flexibility and because of the company’s familiarity with FPGA technology.

Despite the meteoric rise of GPGPU computing — and to a lesser extent, Cell-based HPC — over the last couple of years, FPGAs have offered some unique attributes for HPC. “Accelerators of all types are growing in acceptance and have great potential in HPC,” notes Addison Snell of Tabor Research. “In particular, FPGAs seem well-suited to scalable applications that rely heavily on text or integer calculations, such as genomics, event processing in real-time data feeds, or ultra-scale business computing.”

Kuberre’s HANSA can house from 1-16 FPGA boards, each one containing four FPGAs and 16 GB of memory. The FPGAs are Altera’s Stratix II generation, and the company is already looking to upgrade the platform to the newer Stratix IV chips in the near future, which should provide about 50 percent greater computational capacity. A single dual-core x86 CPU on a separate board is used to run the OS — either Linux or Windows — and to talk with the outside world. The glue that ties the FPGA boards with the CPU is the APSC — the Algorithmic Processing and Switching Complex, which manages the considerable data traffic in the system.

A fully loaded HANSA box containing 64 FPGAs and 256 GB of memory fits in a 9U enclosure, and runs about $500,000. No benchmarks are yet published for the machine, but when I spoke with Kumar Metlapalli, Kuberre’s the CEO and founder, he said a 16-board system should hit at least 250 gigaflops on Linpack. According to the company’s press release, when compared to traditional CPU-based HPC machines, a HANSA setup will do the equivalent work at “1/3 the cost, with 2 percent of the energy requirements, and in 1 percent of the floor space.”

Thanks to the shape-shifting nature of FPGAs, the hardware can be configured as a cluster/grid of 768 “RISC” CPUs for a generic C/C++ programs, or as supercomputer with 1,536 double precision cores for FP-intensive numerical processing. The machine can also be split between some combination of the two.

The software stack consists of a set of C/C++ and Java APIs and what they call firmware building blocks. The building blocks present another set of APIs to access routines for ScaLAPACK operations, correlation matrices, interpolations, and Monte Carlo simulations. There’s an additional API that allows developers to integrate data streaming operations. For example, for a financial application, real-time market data from a WOMBAT feed could be captured and passed on to other software for further number crunching.

Metlapalli says if a user’s code is GNU compliant, they just have to recompile their C/C++ source for HANSA without making any modifications. These programs can then be run in concurrent fashion on multiple instances of the platform’s virtual grid of CPUs. On the other hand, if the user wants to take advantage of data-level parallelism afforded by the FPGAs, API library calls (e.g., ScaLAPACK) will have to be inserted in the code.

There’s an additional interface provided to partition the FPGA hardware into as many as 16 “contexts” for these different classes of operations. Again using the example of a financial application, a couple of FPGA boards could be devoted to capturing real-time market streams, while four other boards could be using ScaLAPACK for risk analysis, and a third set of boards could be doing Monte Carlo simulations for interest rate forecasts.

Besides financial services applications, Metlapalli says the architecture is well suited for bioinformatics searches and CFD. Beyond that, HANSA should be generally applicable to any app that has to deal with Eigen value problems, pattern recognition, image processing, and data encryption, to name a few. Again, the reconfigurable nature of FPGAs buys you quite a bit of versatility with applications.

Metlapalli says they’ve already seen some interest with HANSA from financial institutions on the buy-side (e.g., hedge fund firms) as well as sell-side (e.g., investment banks). Apparently, the U.S. DoD has also made some inquiries.

My first take on this is that it’s a pretty compelling story, especially if you’re willing to tap into the HANSA libraries that would take fuller advantage of the FPGAs. I think there’s definitely room for both GPGPU, Cell acceleration, and reconfigurable computing in the HPC ecosystem, but this is a tough economic climate to introduce innovation that doesn’t produce immediate bottom line savings in IT budgets. I hope companies like Kuberre can grab a few customer wins and help keep reconfigurable computing in the HPC mix.

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!

ISC19 Cluster Competition: Application Results, Finally!

July 15, 2019

Our exhaustive coverage of the ISC19 Student Cluster Competition continues as we discuss the application scores below. While the scores were typically high, some of the apps, like SWIFT and OpenFOAM, really pushed the st Read more…

By Dan Olds

Portugal Launches Its First Supercomputer

July 12, 2019

Portugal has officially inaugurated its first-ever supercomputer. The unassumingly named “Bob” supercomputer is housed in the Minho Advanced Computer Center (MACC) at the University of Minho.  Bob was announced i Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

What’s New in HPC Research: Traffic Simulation, Performance Variations, Scheduling & More

July 11, 2019

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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.

For 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

How AI Powers Up Data Management and Analytics

Companies are making more decisions based on data. However, the ability to intelligently process the growing volume of data is a bottleneck to extracting actionable insights. Read more…

Nvidia Expands DGX-Ready AI Program to 19 Countries

July 11, 2019

Nvidia’s DGX-Ready Data Center Program, announced in January and designed to provide colo and public cloud-like options to access the company’s GPU-powered servers for AI workloads, has expanded the program beyond th Read more…

By Doug Black

ISC19 Cluster Competition: Application Results, Finally!

July 15, 2019

Our exhaustive coverage of the ISC19 Student Cluster Competition continues as we discuss the application scores below. While the scores were typically high, som Read more…

By Dan Olds

Nvidia Expands DGX-Ready AI Program to 19 Countries

July 11, 2019

Nvidia’s DGX-Ready Data Center Program, announced in January and designed to provide colo and public cloud-like options to access the company’s GPU-powered Read more…

By Doug Black

Argonne Team Makes Record Globus File Transfer

July 10, 2019

A team of scientists at Argonne National Laboratory has broken a data transfer record by moving a staggering 2.9 petabytes of data for a research project.  The data – from three large cosmological simulations – was generated and stored on the Summit supercomputer at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF)... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia, Google Tie in Second MLPerf Training ‘At-Scale’ Round

July 10, 2019

Results for the second round of the AI benchmarking suite known as MLPerf were published today with Google Cloud and Nvidia each picking up three wins in the at Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Applied Materials Embedding New Memory Technologies in Chips

July 9, 2019

Applied Materials, the $17 billion Santa Clara-based materials engineering company for the semiconductor industry, today announced manufacturing systems enablin Read more…

By Doug Black

ISC19 Cluster Competition: HPCC Deep Dive

July 7, 2019

The biggest benchmark the student warriors tackled during the ISC19 Student Cluster Competition was the colossal HPC Challenge. This is a collection of benchmar Read more…

By Dan Olds

OLCF Bids Farewell to Its Titan Supercomputer

July 4, 2019

After seven years of faithful service, and a long reign as the United States' fastest supercomputer, the Cray XK7-based Titan supercomputer at the Oak Ridge Lea Read more…

By Staff report

Quantum Bits: Neven’s Law (Who Asked for That), D-Wave’s Steady Push, IBM’s Li-O2- Simulation

July 3, 2019

Quantum computing’s (QC) many-faceted R&D train keeps slogging ahead and recently Japan is taking a leading role. Yesterday D-Wave Systems announced it ha Read more…

By John Russell

High Performance (Potato) Chips

May 5, 2006

In this article, we focus on how Procter & Gamble is using high performance computing to create some common, everyday supermarket products. Tom Lange, a 27-year veteran of the company, tells us how P&G models products, processes and production systems for the betterment of consumer package goods. Read more…

By Michael Feldman

Cray, AMD to Extend DOE’s Exascale Frontier

May 7, 2019

Cray and AMD are coming back to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to partner on the world’s largest and most expensive supercomputer. The Department of Energy’s Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphene Surprises Again, This Time for Quantum Computing

May 8, 2019

Graphene is fascinating stuff with promise for use in a seeming endless number of applications. This month researchers from the University of Vienna and Institu Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Verifies Its Largest 7nm Chip Design in Ten Hours

June 5, 2019

AMD announced last week that its engineers had successfully executed the first physical verification of its largest 7nm chip design – in just ten hours. The AMD Radeon Instinct Vega20 – which boasts 13.2 billion transistors – was tested using a TSMC-certified Calibre nmDRC software platform from Mentor. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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

TSMC and Samsung Moving to 5nm; Whither Moore’s Law?

June 12, 2019

With reports that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TMSC) and Samsung are moving quickly to 5nm manufacturing, it’s a good time to again ponder whither goes the venerable Moore’s law. Shrinking feature size has of course been the primary hallmark of achieving Moore’s law... Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Competitors Stalk Nvidia

May 14, 2019

There is no shortage of processing architectures emerging to accelerate deep learning workloads, with two more options emerging this week to challenge GPU leader Nvidia. First, Intel researchers claimed a new deep learning record for image classification on the ResNet-50 convolutional neural network. Separately, Israeli AI chip startup Hailo.ai... Read more…

By George Leopold

Nvidia Embraces Arm, Declares Intent to Accelerate All CPU Architectures

June 17, 2019

As the Top500 list was being announced at ISC in Frankfurt today with an upgraded petascale Arm supercomputer in the top third of the list, Nvidia announced its Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

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

Top500 Purely Petaflops; US Maintains Performance Lead

June 17, 2019

With the kick-off of the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt this morning, the 53rd Top500 list made its debut, and this one's for petafl 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

Cray – and the Cray Brand – to Be Positioned at Tip of HPE’s HPC Spear

May 22, 2019

More so than with most acquisitions of this kind, HPE’s purchase of Cray for $1.3 billion, announced last week, seems to have elements of that overused, often Read more…

By Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Hardware That Powered the Black Hole Image

June 24, 2019

Two months ago, the first-ever image of a black hole took the internet by storm. A team of scientists took years to produce and verify the striking image – an Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Announcing four new HPC capabilities in Google Cloud Platform

April 15, 2019

When you’re running compute-bound or memory-bound applications for high performance computing or large, data-dependent machine learning training workloads on Read more…

By Wyatt Gorman, HPC Specialist, Google Cloud; Brad Calder, VP of Engineering, Google Cloud; Bart Sano, VP of Platforms, Google Cloud

Chinese Company Sugon Placed on US ‘Entity List’ After Strong Showing at International Supercomputing Conference

June 26, 2019

After more than a decade of advancing its supercomputing prowess, operating the world’s most powerful supercomputer from June 2013 to June 2018, China is keep Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

In Wake of Nvidia-Mellanox: Xilinx to Acquire Solarflare

April 25, 2019

With echoes of Nvidia’s recent acquisition of Mellanox, FPGA maker Xilinx has announced a definitive agreement to acquire Solarflare Communications, provider 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