SGI Colors New Shared Memory Machines Ultraviolet

By Michael Feldman

November 16, 2009

After what may be the longest development cycle ever for a supercomputer, SGI has unveiled the first commercial implementation of its Ultraviolet architecture. The company first announced “Project Ultraviolet” at SC03. Now six years later, it has launched Altix UV, the company’s first scale-up HPC system based on x86 technology. The Altix UV’s connection to the 2003 design is tenuous at best, but the new architecture does fulfill Ultraviolet’s original promise of delivering a shared memory architecture able to scale from a few sockets all the way up to a petascale supercomputer.

SGI Altix UV

Besides being simpler to program than distributed memory clusters, shared memory systems are especially well suited to I/O bound and memory-bound applications; codes that depend upon a lot of inter-processor communication; and any type of application that uses large — as in terabyte-sized — in-memory databases. These shared memory systems can also be used in conjunction with large clusters to provide an “analysis supernode.”

The two initial products, the Altix UV 1000 and Altix UV 100, are both based on Intel Nehalem-equipped blades, which are hooked together with SGI’s 5th generation NUMAlink fabric. The software stack includes everything from the OS on up, including the SGI Foundation Software, data management packages (XFS, CXFS, DMF), SGI’s ProPack and System Management tools, job schedulers (Altair PBSP and Moab) and developer tools and libraries. The machines come with either SUSE Linux Enterprise Server or Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

The blades themselves contain two eight-core Nehalem EX chips, each with a bank of four DDR3 memory channels. If a larger memory to core ratio is desired, there are 6- and 4-core options, as well as a single-socket configuration. An optional I/O riser allows for a choice of expansion slots or external I/O ports. Up to two PCIe slots are available on each blade and these can be used to plug in external storage (SGI or otherwise) or GPGPUs.

SGI’s secret sauce is the UV hub, which sits on each blade and acts as the node controller. The hub, along with the NUMAlink 5 interconnect, is the technology that makes the supersized shared memory possible. The new interconnect delivers sub-microsecond latencies and 15.0 GB/sec of aggregate bandwidth per blade. The hub itself manages data traffic between the local CPU resources and the rest of the system, arbitrating between the local QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) links and the NUMAlink fabric.

According to Jill Matzke, Altix product manager, the SGI engineers decided to limit themselves to two sockets per blade in order to avoid overtaxing the QPI bandwidth, which needs to feed the NUMAlink fabric and I/O. Since Nehalem EX is designed to support up to 8 sockets per board, one might wonder why SGI didn’t opt for the dual-socket-capable Nehalem EP chips. Apparently, EX was chosen because it offered more QPI and memory bandwidth, both of which were essential to the UV design. In any case, the Nehalem EP design does not lend itself to external node controllers, such as the UV hub.

The Altix UV 100 is aimed at the mid-range market, scaling from a single 3U rackmount unit containing two dual-socket blades, up to a 7 teraflop, 96-socket machine that fits into a couple of racks. The upper limit on memory capacity on this product is 6 TB. The UV 100 is aimed at users who need a moderate to large SMP environment for their x86 applications. At the maximum 96-socket configuration, 768 cores are available, which doubles to 1,536 threads thanks to Nehalem-style multithreading support.

The Altix UV 1000 is a cabinet solution that scales all the way to the top, that is, 256 sockets (yielding 2,048 cores or 4,096 threads) and 16 TB of memory. At the max configuration, this model delivers 18.6 peak teraflops in a 42U space. The 16 TB limit on the UV 1000 corresponds to the maximum memory reach of the Intel Nehalem processor. However, the UV 1000 design can actually scale beyond this limit by connecting multiple 256-socket systems in a 2-D torus topology. In this case, the system would be partitioned with multiple OS images but support a much larger shared global address space — up into petabytes. The upper limit supported by the UV hub is 32,768 sockets, which would equate to about 2 petaflops. SGI is certainly willing to help interested parties develop such systems, but the vast majority of customers will be able to fit their applications within the 256-socket, single system image machine.

Note the current Itanium-based Altix 4700 reaches to 128 GB because that CPU’s memory address is wider, although core count on those systems tops out at 1024. That said, just getting a handful of terabytes of global memory on an x86 platform is likely to be a big attraction for HPC users. “We are seeing people ordering many more terabytes of memory on UV than they ever did on Altix with Itanium, simply because of the overall capability and the price-performance,” says Matzke.

Although UV supports highly-scaled applications in a global memory model, today the majority of global memory applications scale to just 32 or maybe 64 threads. However, UV, like most shared memory machines, can also deliver great performance for MPI applications by properly exploiting the unified memory and the speed of the interconnect fabric. Moreover, an MPI offload engine has been incorporated into the UV hub to further accelerate this class of applications. SGI has demonstrated a 3X improvement in the HPCC GUPS benchmark with the offload engine enabled. According to Matzke, “70 percent of the people that buy these systems are running MPI, but have other application demands that make it really shine on this kind of an architecture.”

According to Geoffrey Noer, SGI’s senior director of product marketing, the company is currently taking orders for the new UV machines, with the first shipments expected by second quarter of 2010 (following Intel’s release of the Nehalem EX CPUs). Initial customers include the University of Tennessee (1024 cores, 4 TB memory), the North German Supercomputing Alliance, known as HLRN (two systems, 4,352 cores, 18 TB memory), CALMIP in France (128 cores, 1 TB memory), and the University of Hokkaido (180 cores, 360 GB memory). A number of UV systems have also been purchased by the federal government for certain “defense applications” (which shall remain nameless). SGI is not making UV pricing public, but potential buyers can always obtain a quote under NDA.

Although many customers using Itanium Altix systems will undoubtedly transition to the x86 UV platform, Noer says SGI will continue to offer the Altix 450 and 4700 systems. And even though they are not publicly divulging specific plans for future Itanium-based shared memory machines, Noer did have this to offer: “It’s important not to look at Altix UV as a direct replacement for the 4700…. We are working with Intel on next-generation processor technologies as well.  For those customers that are getting the benefits out of the larger address space and benefits with the 4700, they absolutely don’t need to switch to Altix UV.”

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 Quantum Update: Q System One Launch, New Collaborators, and QC Center Plans

January 10, 2019

IBM made three significant quantum computing announcements at CES this week. One was introduction of IBM Q System One; it’s really the integration of IBM’s existing 20-quibit platform into a more robust, self-contain Read more…

By John Russell

Intel at CES: Nervana; 10nm Server CPU; Cascade Lake

January 9, 2019

On the eve of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, Intel staged a launch event that covered a new version of its Nervana AI processor and a demonstration of the next-generation Xeon 10nm chip. The Read more…

By Staff

IBM’s New Global Weather Forecasting System Runs on GPUs

January 9, 2019

Anyone who has checked a forecast to decide whether or not to pack an umbrella knows that weather prediction can be a mercurial endeavor. It is a Herculean task: the constant modeling of incredibly complex systems to a high degree of accuracy at a local level within very short spans of time. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Systems With Intel Omni-Path: Architected for Value and Accessible High-Performance Computing

Today’s high-performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI) users value high performing clusters. And the higher the performance that their system can deliver, the better. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Data: The Key To Unlocking Modern Research

Research tackles the big questions, delving into uncharted territory in pursuit of knowledge that could change the world. Today’s research simulations are generating more data than ever before, a trend that shows no signs of slowing. Read more…

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.” This maxim Read more…

By Ben Criger

IBM Quantum Update: Q System One Launch, New Collaborators, and QC Center Plans

January 10, 2019

IBM made three significant quantum computing announcements at CES this week. One was introduction of IBM Q System One; it’s really the integration of IBM’s Read more…

By John Russell

IBM’s New Global Weather Forecasting System Runs on GPUs

January 9, 2019

Anyone who has checked a forecast to decide whether or not to pack an umbrella knows that weather prediction can be a mercurial endeavor. It is a Herculean task: the constant modeling of incredibly complex systems to a high degree of accuracy at a local level within very short spans of time. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer Read more…

By John Russell

HPCwire Awards Highlight Supercomputing Achievements in the Sciences

January 3, 2019

In November at SC18 in Dallas, HPCwire Readers’ and Editors’ Choice awards program commemorated its 15th year of honoring achievement in HPC, with categories ranging from Best Use of AI to the Workforce Diversity Leadership Award and recipients across a wide variety of industrial and research sectors. Read more…

By the Editorial Team

White House Top Science Post Filled After Two-Year Vacancy

January 3, 2019

Half-way into Trump's term, the Senate has confirmed a director for the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the agency that coordinates science poli Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Batswana Gems

December 20, 2018

Most who work in the high-performance computing (HPC) industry agree; people problems are far more complicated than technical challenges. As I wrote in a 2015 HPCwire feature titled, “Women in HPC: Revelations and Reckoning,” diversity, or the lack thereof, is the HPC industry’s current grand challenge. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake

HPC Reflections and (Mostly Hopeful) Predictions

December 19, 2018

So much ‘spaghetti’ gets tossed on walls by the technology community (vendors and researchers) to see what sticks that it is often difficult to peer through Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Computing Will Never Work

November 27, 2018

Amid the gush of money and enthusiastic predictions being thrown at quantum computing comes a proposed cold shower in the form of an essay by physicist Mikhail Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Unveils Shasta, Lands NERSC-9 Contract

October 30, 2018

Cray revealed today the details of its next-gen supercomputing architecture, Shasta, selected to be the next flagship system at NERSC. We've known of the code-name "Shasta" since the Argonne slice of the CORAL project was announced in 2015 and although the details of that plan have changed considerably, Cray didn't slow down its timeline for Shasta. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Sets Up for Epyc Epoch

November 16, 2018

It’s been a good two weeks, AMD’s Gary Silcott and Andy Parma told me on the last day of SC18 in Dallas at the restaurant where we met to discuss their show news and recent successes. Heck, it’s been a good year. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Leads Supercomputing with #1, #2 Systems & Petascale Arm

November 12, 2018

The 31st Supercomputing Conference (SC) - commemorating 30 years since the first Supercomputing in 1988 - kicked off in Dallas yesterday, taking over the Kay Ba Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

Contract Signed for New Finnish Supercomputer

December 13, 2018

After the official contract signing yesterday, configuration details were made public for the new BullSequana system that the Finnish IT Center for Science (CSC Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

SC 18 Virtual Booth Video Tour

Advania @ SC18 AMD @ SC18
ASRock Rack @ SC18
DDN Storage @ SC18
HPE @ SC18
IBM @ SC18
Lenovo @ SC18 Mellanox Technologies @ SC18
NVIDIA @ SC18
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

Nvidia’s Jensen Huang Delivers Vision for the New HPC

November 14, 2018

For nearly two hours on Monday at SC18, Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, presented his expansive view of the future of HPC (and computing in general) as only he can do. Animated. Backstopped by a stream of data charts, product photos, and even a beautiful image of supernovae... Read more…

By John Russell

HPE No. 1, IBM Surges, in ‘Bucking Bronco’ High Performance Server Market

September 27, 2018

Riding healthy U.S. and global economies, strong demand for AI-capable hardware and other tailwind trends, the high performance computing server market jumped 28 percent in the second quarter 2018 to $3.7 billion, up from $2.9 billion for the same period last year, according to industry analyst firm Hyperion Research. Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC Reflections and (Mostly Hopeful) Predictions

December 19, 2018

So much ‘spaghetti’ gets tossed on walls by the technology community (vendors and researchers) to see what sticks that it is often difficult to peer through Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Confirms 48-Core Cascade Lake-AP for 2019

November 4, 2018

As part of the run-up to SC18, taking place in Dallas next week (Nov. 11-16), Intel is doling out info on its next-gen Cascade Lake family of Xeon processors, specifically the “Advanced Processor” version (Cascade Lake-AP), architected for high-performance computing, artificial intelligence and infrastructure-as-a-service workloads. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Germany Celebrates Launch of Two Fastest Supercomputers

September 26, 2018

The new high-performance computer SuperMUC-NG at the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Garching is the fastest computer in Germany and one of the fastest i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Houston to Field Massive, ‘Geophysically Configured’ Cloud Supercomputer

October 11, 2018

Based on some news stories out today, one might get the impression that the next system to crack number one on the Top500 would be an industrial oil and gas mon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft to Buy Mellanox?

December 20, 2018

Networking equipment powerhouse Mellanox could be an acquisition target by Microsoft, according to a published report in an Israeli financial publication. Microsoft has reportedly gone so far as to engage Goldman Sachs to handle negotiations with Mellanox. Read more…

By Doug Black

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This