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!

Fluid HPC: How Extreme-Scale Computing Should Respond to Meltdown and Spectre

February 15, 2018

The Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities are proving difficult to fix, and initial experiments suggest security patches will cause significant performance penalties to HPC applications. Even as these patches are rolled o Read more…

By Pete Beckman

Intel Touts Silicon Spin Qubits for Quantum Computing

February 14, 2018

Debate around what makes a good qubit and how best to manufacture them is a sprawling topic. There are many insistent voices favoring one or another approach. Referencing a paper published today in Nature, Intel has offe Read more…

By John Russell

Brookhaven Ramps Up Computing for National Security Effort

February 14, 2018

Last week, Dan Coats, the director of Director of National Intelligence for the U.S., warned the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia was likely to meddle in the 2018 mid-term U.S. elections, much as it stands accused of doing in the 2016 Presidential election. Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Safeguard Your HPC Environment with the World’s Most Secure Industry Standard Servers

Today’s organizations operate in an environment with ever-evolving threats, and in order to protect themselves they must continuously bolster their security strategy. Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Intel® are addressing modern security challenges with the world’s most secure industry standard servers powered by the latest generation of Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors. Read more…

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended to make it easier, faster and cheaper to train and run machi Read more…

By Doug Black

Fluid HPC: How Extreme-Scale Computing Should Respond to Meltdown and Spectre

February 15, 2018

The Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities are proving difficult to fix, and initial experiments suggest security patches will cause significant performance penal Read more…

By Pete Beckman

Brookhaven Ramps Up Computing for National Security Effort

February 14, 2018

Last week, Dan Coats, the director of Director of National Intelligence for the U.S., warned the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia was likely to meddle in the 2018 mid-term U.S. elections, much as it stands accused of doing in the 2016 Presidential election. Read more…

By John Russell

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Food Industry’s Next Journey — from Mars to Exascale

February 12, 2018

Global food producer and one of the world's leading chocolate companies Mars Inc. has a unique perspective on the impact that exascale computing will have on the food industry. Read more…

By Scott Gibson, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Singularity HPC Container Start-Up – Sylabs – Emerges from Stealth

February 8, 2018

The driving force behind Singularity, the popular HPC container technology, is bringing the open source platform to the enterprise with the launch of a new vent Read more…

By George Leopold

Dell EMC Debuts PowerEdge Servers with AMD EPYC Chips

February 6, 2018

AMD notched another EPYC processor win today with Dell EMC’s introduction of three PowerEdge servers (R6415, R7415, and R7425) based on the EPYC 7000-series p Read more…

By John Russell

‘Next Generation’ Universe Simulation Is Most Advanced Yet

February 5, 2018

The research group that gave us the most detailed time-lapse simulation of the universe’s evolution in 2014, spanning 13.8 billion years of cosmic evolution, is back in the spotlight with an even more advanced cosmological model that is providing new insights into how black holes influence the distribution of dark matter, how heavy elements are produced and distributed, and where magnetic fields originate. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

V100 Good but not Great on Select Deep Learning Aps, Says Xcelerit

November 27, 2017

Wringing optimum performance from hardware to accelerate deep learning applications is a challenge that often depends on the specific application in use. A benc Read more…

By John Russell

2017 Gordon Bell Prize Finalists Named

October 23, 2017

The three finalists for this year’s Gordon Bell Prize in High Performance Computing have been announced. They include two papers on projects run on China’s Read more…

By John Russell

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