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!

US Exascale Computing Update with Paul Messina

December 8, 2016

Around the world, efforts are ramping up to cross the next major computing threshold with machines that are 50-100x more performant than today’s fastest number crunchers.  Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Dec. 8, 2016)

December 8, 2016

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

Qualcomm Targets Intel Datacenter Dominance with 10nm ARM-based Server Chip

December 8, 2016

Claiming no less than a reshaping of the future of Intel-dominated datacenter computing, Qualcomm Technologies, the market leader in smartphone chips, announced the forthcoming availability of what it says is the world’s first 10nm processor for servers, based on ARM Holding’s chip designs. Read more…

By Doug Black

Which Schools Produce the Top Coders in the World?

December 8, 2016

Ever wonder which universities worldwide produce the best coders? The answers may surprise you, at least as judged by the results of a competition posted yesterday on the HackerRank blog. Read more…

By John Russell

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. The pilots, supported in part by DOE exascale funding, not only seek to do good by advancing cancer research and therapy but also to advance deep learning capabilities and infrastructure with an eye towards eventual use on exascale machines. Read more…

By John Russell

DDN Enables 50TB/Day Trans-Pacific Data Transfer for Yahoo Japan

December 6, 2016

Transferring data from one data center to another in search of lower regional energy costs isn’t a new concept, but Yahoo Japan is putting the idea into transcontinental effect with a system that transfers 50TB of data a day from Japan to the U.S., where electricity costs a quarter of the rates in Japan. Read more…

By Doug Black

Infographic Highlights Career of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

December 5, 2016

Dr. Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was an early pioneer of computer science and one of the most famous women achievers in a field dominated by men. Read more…

By Staff

Ganthier, Turkel on the Dell EMC Road Ahead

December 5, 2016

Who is Dell EMC and why should you care? Glad you asked is Jim Ganthier’s quick response. Ganthier is SVP for validated solutions and high performance computing for the new (even bigger) technology giant Dell EMC following Dell’s acquisition of EMC in September. In this case, says Ganthier, the blending of the two companies is a 1+1 = 5 proposition. Not bad math if you can pull it off. Read more…

By John Russell

US Exascale Computing Update with Paul Messina

December 8, 2016

Around the world, efforts are ramping up to cross the next major computing threshold with machines that are 50-100x more performant than today’s fastest number crunchers.  Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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. The pilots, supported in part by DOE exascale funding, not only seek to do good by advancing cancer research and therapy but also to advance deep learning capabilities and infrastructure with an eye towards eventual use on exascale machines. Read more…

By John Russell

Ganthier, Turkel on the Dell EMC Road Ahead

December 5, 2016

Who is Dell EMC and why should you care? Glad you asked is Jim Ganthier’s quick response. Ganthier is SVP for validated solutions and high performance computing for the new (even bigger) technology giant Dell EMC following Dell’s acquisition of EMC in September. In this case, says Ganthier, the blending of the two companies is a 1+1 = 5 proposition. Not bad math if you can pull it off. Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Launches Massive 100 Petabyte ‘Sneakernet’

December 1, 2016

Amazon Web Services now offers a way to move data into its cloud by the truckload. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Seagate-led SAGE Project Delivers Update on Exascale Goals

November 29, 2016

Roughly a year and a half after its launch, the SAGE exascale storage project led by Seagate has delivered a substantive interim report – Data Storage for Extreme Scale. Read more…

By John Russell

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

HPE-SGI to Tackle Exascale and Enterprise Targets

November 22, 2016

At first blush, and maybe second blush too, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HPE) purchase of SGI seems like an unambiguous win-win. SGI’s advanced shared memory technology, its popular UV product line (Hanna), deep vertical market expertise, and services-led go-to-market capability all give HPE a leg up in its drive to remake itself. Bear in mind HPE came into existence just a year ago with the split of Hewlett-Packard. The computer landscape, including HPC, is shifting with still unclear consequences. One wonders who’s next on the deal block following Dell’s recent merger with EMC. Read more…

By John Russell

Why 2016 Is the Most Important Year in HPC in Over Two Decades

August 23, 2016

In 1994, two NASA employees connected 16 commodity workstations together using a standard Ethernet LAN and installed open-source message passing software that allowed their number-crunching scientific application to run on the whole “cluster” of machines as if it were a single entity. Read more…

By Vincent Natoli, Stone Ridge Technology

IBM Advances Against x86 with Power9

August 30, 2016

After offering OpenPower Summit attendees a limited preview in April, IBM is unveiling further details of its next-gen CPU, Power9, which the tech mainstay is counting on to regain market share ceded to rival Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Think Fast – Is Neuromorphic Computing Set to Leap Forward?

August 15, 2016

Steadily advancing neuromorphic computing technology has created high expectations for this fundamentally different approach to computing. 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

ARM Unveils Scalable Vector Extension for HPC at Hot Chips

August 22, 2016

ARM and Fujitsu today announced a scalable vector extension (SVE) to the ARMv8-A architecture intended to enhance ARM capabilities in HPC workloads. Fujitsu is the lead silicon partner in the effort (so far) and will use ARM with SVE technology in its post K computer, Japan’s next flagship supercomputer planned for the 2020 timeframe. This is an important incremental step for ARM, which seeks to push more aggressively into mainstream and HPC server markets. Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Debuts Power8 Chip with NVLink and Three New Systems

September 8, 2016

Not long after revealing more details about its next-gen Power9 chip due in 2017, IBM today rolled out three new Power8-based Linux servers and a new version of its Power8 chip featuring Nvidia’s NVLink interconnect. Read more…

By John Russell

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

Leading Solution Providers

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

HPE Gobbles SGI for Larger Slice of $11B HPC Pie

August 11, 2016

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) announced today that it will acquire rival HPC server maker SGI for $7.75 per share, or about $275 million, inclusive of cash and debt. The deal ends the seven-year reprieve that kept the SGI banner flying after Rackable Systems purchased the bankrupt Silicon Graphics Inc. for $25 million in 2009 and assumed the SGI brand. Bringing SGI into its fold bolsters HPE's high-performance computing and data analytics capabilities and expands its position... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Silicon Photonics Chip, Previews Next-Gen Phi for AI

August 18, 2016

At the Intel Developer Forum, held in San Francisco this week, Intel Senior Vice President and General Manager Diane Bryant announced the launch of Intel's Silicon Photonics product line and teased a brand-new Phi product, codenamed "Knights Mill," aimed at machine learning workloads. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

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

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

Micron, Intel Prepare to Launch 3D XPoint Memory

August 16, 2016

Micron Technology used last week’s Flash Memory Summit to roll out its new line of 3D XPoint memory technology jointly developed with Intel while demonstrating the technology in solid-state drives. Micron claimed its Quantx line delivers PCI Express (PCIe) SSD performance with read latencies at less than 10 microseconds and writes at less than 20 microseconds. Read more…

By George Leopold

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