3Leaf Launches Virtual SMP Platform

By Michael Feldman

November 3, 2009

Startup 3Leaf Systems has launched its first product offering, the Dynamic Data Center Server (DDC-Server). It is a combination of silicon and software that pools server CPU and memory into dynamically-sized virtual servers. Essentially it aggregates hardware resources so that a cluster farm can be turned into one or more SMP systems. The 3Leaf solution consists of a proprietary ASIC and a set of software that can be inserted into standard x86 server technology.

It is designed to solve multiple problems in the datacenter, including under-utilization of infrastructure and limitations of existing virtualization schemes. Target markets include traditional enterprise customers as well as eCommerce, social media, and high performance computing users — essentially anyone with a need for scaled up x86 machines. And since the technology enables the cluster nodes to be dynamically split and recombined according to application requirements, it can appeal to organizations that now maintain multiple systems to run different types of workloads.

The company is marketing the technology as an enabler of the “dynamic cloud,” but overall, the 3Leaf offering delivers a solution similar to that of ScaleMP’s vSMP technology, in that it enables a number of commodity x86 servers to be aggregated into a large shared memory SMP system that runs a single OS image. The idea is to be able to replace much more expensive proprietary SMP machines by using commodity building blocks. However unlike ScaleMP, which uses a software/firmware-only solution, 3Leaf uses a combination of hardware and software to achieve SMP virtualization.

In the case of 3Leaf, their ASIC is placed on the motherboard and enables distributed memory coherence across the cluster’s fabric of choice, either Ethernet or InfiniBand. Essentially, the chip acts as a memory coherence controller. The fact that low-latency interconnect switches and adapters are now just commodity server components, rather than custom parts, opens the door to the type of solution 3Leaf is offering.

The downside is that the 3Leaf ASIC must be present on each server in the cluster, so it’s not the plug-and-play experience that you would get with a software-only solution. The first 3Leaf product set supports AMD’s HyperTransport architecture, where the 3Leaf ASIC is plugged into the Socket F interface. The server being shipped today is built on a two-socket Opteron motherboard supplied by Supermicro. With this solution, up to 16 nodes (192 cores) and 1 TB of memory can be aggregated into a single virtual SMP system. Next year, 3Leaf will offer an Intel version, based on the company’s Quick Path Interconnect (QPI) 1.1 and the “Sandy Bridge” processors. That product set will be able to scale up to 32 nodes, many hundreds of cores, and 64 TB of memory.

According to Bob Quinn, 3Leaf founder, chairman and CTO, the rationale for using hardware rather than just software to create a virtual SMP has to do with performance. The ASIC allows a memory page to be read and written simultaneously by an application on two different nodes, since the coherency is hardware enforced at the level of a 64-byte cache line. In a software solution, the OS must get involved, stopping and then restarting one thread to allow another thread to access the same memory page.

“In the case of 3Leaf, we behave like a big old expensive IBM, or SGI, or Sun system,” says Quinn. “It really is a traditional cache-coherent shared memory system, with the difference being it’s not all custom-designed hardware. It’s using existing switches to provide the equivalent of a custom-designed backplane.”

But it’s not all about just building big SMP machines. The 3Leaf software, which is delivered in firmware, is used to control the way the cluster resources are divvied up. There are three flavors: DDC-Pool, DDC-Range, DDC-Flex. DDC-Pool is for building static SMP systems at the granularity of the cluster node. In this case, resizing the SMP requires a reconfiguration and reboot. DDC-Range is also a static solution, but offers the granularity of allocating compute resources down to the level of an individual core. With this software, a virtual SMP machine can be constructed from various sized slices of one or more physical servers. DDC-Flex provides the granularity of the DDC-Range, but allows the user to reconfigure the cluster while running, rather than requiring a reboot. DDC-Flex is not yet available, but is planned to be released sometime in 2010.

The ability to slice and dice a moderate sized cluster into one or more virtual servers means that users can use a single set of hardware as a platform for heterogenous workloads. For example, in the oil and gas business, seismic data analysis works fine with vanillas clusters in a distributed memory environment, but advanced reservoir simulations are often better run in large shared memory environments. With 3Leaf technology, both applications can be served by the same cluster hardware. That model, says Quinn, can be applied across many application domains.

For the past year, the product has been in the hands of beta customers, including a number of HPC users. Jim Lupo, a researcher at LSU, has been testing the 3Leaf platform with hurricane storm surge prediction and molecular dynamics codes. According to him, performance was comparable to other HPC systems, but since the technology supports both shared memory and distributed memory environments, the 3Leaf system was more flexible and required less admin and programming support.

Although 3Leaf is building the initial AMD-based systems today, the company’s market strategy involves partnerships with OEMs and system integrators. The idea is to get vendors like HP, IBM and Dell to take this technology to market as an addition to their x86 server lineups. Quinn says they are currently engaged with all the tier 1 OEMs and a number of tier 2 and 3 OEMs as well.

The challenge here is many system vendors already offer their own proprietary top-of-the-line SMP machines, like the HP Superdome 9000, IBM Power 595, and the SGI Altix 4700. While these are not x86-based machines, they’re still aimed at the kind of high-end applications 3Leaf has in its sights. The company is betting that all the major OEMs are looking to offer big x86 shared memory machines, and is hoping that partnering with them will be the most attractive path to get there.

In the HPC space, SGI’s upcoming “Ultraviolet” product line, which will move the company’s NUMAflex shared memory architecture onto an Intel x86 platform, would perhaps be the most directly threatened by 3Leaf-based platforms. It may come down to a price-performance calculation, but since neither of these products is in the field yet, it’s impossible to say how they might match up.

In general, 3Leaf wants to put a lot of daylight between the cost of one of its setups and an equivalent proprietary shared memory system. Pricing on the 3Leaf DDC-Server products shipping today vary from $99,000 for a low-end model (256 GB of shared memory, 96 cores of 2.4 GHz Istanbul processors, and 4 TB of storage) up to $250,000 for a maximum configuration (1 TB shared memory, 192 cores of 2.8 GHz Istanbul processors, and 8 TB of storage). The price includes the InfiniBand switch, cables, Linux operating system, and 3Leaf’s DDC-Pool software.

Anyone curious to see 3Leaf systems in action this month can attend the upcoming Supercomputing Conference (SC09) in Portland, Ore., where the company will be demonstrating its technology.

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!

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Jan. 12, 2017)

January 12, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

NSF Seeks Input on Cyberinfrastructure Advances Needed

January 12, 2017

In cased you missed it, the National Science Foundation posted a “Dear Colleague Letter” (DCL) late last week seeking input on needs for the next generation of cyberinfrastructure to support science and engineering. Read more…

By John Russell

NSF Approves Bridges Phase 2 Upgrade for Broader Research Use

January 12, 2017

The recently completed phase 2 upgrade of the Bridges supercomputer at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) has been approved by the National Science Foundation (NSF) making it now available for research allocations to the national scientific community, according to an announcement posted this week on the XSEDE web site. Read more…

By John Russell

Clemson Software Optimizes Big Data Transfers

January 11, 2017

Data-intensive science is not a new phenomenon as the high-energy physics and astrophysics communities can certainly attest, but today more and more scientists are facing steep data and throughput challenges fueled by soaring data volumes and the demands of global-scale collaboration. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Remote Visualization: An Integral Technology for Upstream Oil & Gas

As the exploration and production (E&P) of natural resources evolves into an even more complex and vital task, visualization technology has become integral for the upstream oil and gas industry. Read more…

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

UberCloud Cites Progress in HPC Cloud Computing

January 10, 2017

200 HPC cloud experiments, 80 case studies, and a ton of hands-on experience gained, that’s the harvest of four years of UberCloud HPC Experiments. Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch and Burak Yenier

A Conversation with Women in HPC Director Toni Collis

January 6, 2017

In this SC16 video interview, HPCwire Managing Editor Tiffany Trader sits down with Toni Collis, the director and founder of the Women in HPC (WHPC) network, to discuss the strides made since the organization’s debut in 2014. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

FPGA-Based Genome Processor Bundles Storage

January 6, 2017

Bio-processor developer Edico Genome is collaborating with storage specialist Dell EMC to bundle computing and storage for analyzing gene-sequencing data. Read more…

By George Leopold

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

UberCloud Cites Progress in HPC Cloud Computing

January 10, 2017

200 HPC cloud experiments, 80 case studies, and a ton of hands-on experience gained, that’s the harvest of four years of UberCloud HPC Experiments. Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch and Burak Yenier

A Conversation with Women in HPC Director Toni Collis

January 6, 2017

In this SC16 video interview, HPCwire Managing Editor Tiffany Trader sits down with Toni Collis, the director and founder of the Women in HPC (WHPC) network, to discuss the strides made since the organization’s debut in 2014. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Fast Rewind: 2016 Was a Wild Ride for HPC

December 23, 2016

Some years quietly sneak by – 2016 not so much. It’s safe to say there are always forces reshaping the HPC landscape but this year’s bunch seemed like a noisy lot. Among the noisemakers: TaihuLight, DGX-1/Pascal, Dell EMC & HPE-SGI et al., KNL to market, OPA-IB chest thumping, Fujitsu-ARM, new U.S. President-elect, BREXIT, JR’s Intel Exit, Exascale (whatever that means now), NCSA@30, whither NSCI, Deep Learning mania, HPC identity crisis…You get the picture. Read more…

By John Russell

AWI Uses New Cray Cluster for Earth Sciences and Bioinformatics

December 22, 2016

The Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), headquartered in Bremerhaven, Germany, is one of the country's premier research institutes within the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, and is an internationally respected center of expertise for polar and marine research. In November 2015, AWI awarded Cray a contract to install a cluster supercomputer that would help the institute accelerate time to discovery. Now the effort is starting to pay off. Read more…

By Linda Barney

Addison Snell: The ‘Wild West’ of HPC Disaggregation

December 16, 2016

We caught up with Addison Snell, CEO of HPC industry watcher Intersect360, at SC16 last month, and Snell had his expected, extensive list of insights into trends driving advanced-scale technology in both the commercial and research sectors. Read more…

By Doug Black

KNUPATH Hermosa-based Commercial Boards Expected in Q1 2017

December 15, 2016

Last June tech start-up KnuEdge emerged from stealth mode to begin spreading the word about its new processor and fabric technology that’s been roughly a decade in the making. Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Beats Azure to K80 General Availability

September 30, 2016

Amazon Web Services has seeded its cloud with Nvidia Tesla K80 GPUs to meet the growing demand for accelerated computing across an increasingly-diverse range of workloads. The P2 instance family is a welcome addition for compute- and data-focused users who were growing frustrated with the performance limitations of Amazon's G2 instances, which are backed by three-year-old Nvidia GRID K520 graphics cards. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Vectors: How the Old Became New Again in Supercomputing

September 26, 2016

Vector instructions, once a powerful performance innovation of supercomputing in the 1970s and 1980s became an obsolete technology in the 1990s. But like the mythical phoenix bird, vector instructions have arisen from the ashes. Here is the history of a technology that went from new to old then back to new. Read more…

By Lynd Stringer

Container App ‘Singularity’ Eases Scientific Computing

October 20, 2016

HPC container platform Singularity is just six months out from its 1.0 release but already is making inroads across the HPC research landscape. It's in use at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where Singularity founder Gregory Kurtzer has worked in the High Performance Computing Services (HPCS) group for 16 years. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell EMC Engineers Strategy to Democratize HPC

September 29, 2016

The freshly minted Dell EMC division of Dell Technologies is on a mission to take HPC mainstream with a strategy that hinges on engineered solutions, beginning with a focus on three industry verticals: manufacturing, research and life sciences. "Unlike traditional HPC where everybody bought parts, assembled parts and ran the workloads and did iterative engineering, we want folks to focus on time to innovation and let us worry about the infrastructure," said Jim Ganthier, senior vice president, validated solutions organization at Dell EMC Converged Platforms Solution Division. 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

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

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

Leading Solution Providers

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. 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

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Genomics Pipeline Combines AWS, Local HPC, and Supercomputing

September 22, 2016

Declining DNA sequencing costs and the rush to do whole genome sequencing (WGS) of large cohort populations – think 5000 subjects now, but many more thousands soon – presents a formidable computational challenge to researchers attempting to make sense of large cohort datasets. Read more…

By John Russell

Beyond von Neumann, Neuromorphic Computing Steadily Advances

March 21, 2016

Neuromorphic computing – brain inspired computing – has long been a tantalizing goal. The human brain does with around 20 watts what supercomputers do with megawatts. And power consumption isn’t the only difference. Fundamentally, brains ‘think differently’ than the von Neumann architecture-based computers. While neuromorphic computing progress has been intriguing, it has still not proven very practical. Read more…

By John Russell

The Exascale Computing Project Awards $39.8M to 22 Projects

September 7, 2016

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) hit an important milestone today with the announcement of its first round of funding, moving the nation closer to its goal of reaching capable exascale computing by 2023. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell Knights Landing Machine Sets New STAC Records

November 2, 2016

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, commonly known as STAC, has released a new report characterizing the performance of the Knight Landing-based Dell PowerEdge C6320p server on the STAC-A2 benchmarking suite, widely used by the financial services industry to test and evaluate computing platforms. The Dell machine has set new records for both the baseline Greeks benchmark and the large Greeks benchmark. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Deep Learning Paves Way for Better Diagnostics

September 19, 2016

Stanford researchers are leveraging GPU-based machines in the Amazon EC2 cloud to run deep learning workloads with the goal of improving diagnostics for a chronic eye disease, called diabetic retinopathy. The disease is a complication of diabetes that can lead to blindness if blood sugar is poorly controlled. It affects about 45 percent of diabetics and 100 million people worldwide, many in developing nations. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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