Intel CTO Tells HPC Crowd to Get a Second Life

By Michael Feldman

November 17, 2009

The opening address of the Supercomputing Conference had a surreal quality to it in more ways than one. Between talking avatars, physics-simulated sound, and a Larrabee demo running HPC-type codes, it was hard to separate reality from fantasy.

On Tuesday morning, Intel CTO and HPC aficionado Justin Rattner presented his vision of the future of high performance computing to the SC09 crowd in attendance. Rattner’s thesis: the 3D Web will be the technology driver that revitalizes the HPC business model. More precisely, the combination of HPC and cloud computing will make the 3D Web possible, and, more important to Intel’s bottom line, ubiquitous. “There is nothing more important to the long-term health of the HPC industry than the 3D Web,” said Rattner.

Why does high performance computing need revitalizing? Citing HPC server revenue projections from InterSect 360, Rattner noted that the trend showed a modest compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.6 percent into the foreseeable feature. “This is not a healthy business,” he complained. Of course, 3.6 percent is pretty healthy growth for some sectors, but for high-flying Silicon Valley chip vendors, apparently not good enough.

Rattner’s answer to HPC server woes is the invention of the 3D Web, a cloud platform which encompasses real-time simulations, multi-view animation, and immersive virtual environments. The idea is that the computational horsepower needed to accomplish this requires high performance computing technology, but the application set extends far beyond traditional HPC. For example, consumer applications like advanced multiplayer online games and virtual communities could help to make the 3D Web a mainstream computing platform.

Industrial applications, like apparel design, would also be able to take advantage of these capabilities. Rattner brought on Shenlei Winkler, the CEO of the Fashion Research Institute, who noted that the $1.7 trillion apparel industry is barely computerized, relying mostly on sketches and physical sampling to design fashion products. She went on to explain how her organization uses OpenSim, an open source virtual world, to slash design time by 75 percent and sample costs by 65 percent. With a more sophisticated 3D Web capability, consumers themselves will be able to design and order clothes. What she didn’t mention was that the trillion-dollar fashion industry would most likely shrink dramatically if this level of sophistication was available to fashion designers and consumers, given that a lot of human labor would be replaced by software.

Rattner also talked with Utah State biology researcher Aaron Duffy, who has created a simulation of a fern ecosystem. The trick here was that Duffy conversed with Rattner as an avatar that was surrounded in his virtual fern forest. The platform he used was called ScienceSim, a virtual world designed as sort of a Second Life for scientists.

This is all first-generation technology. The avatars look cartoonish, and the interactions between them and their virtual environments are limited. The goal, of course, is to provide much more refined visualization and enable a lot greater complexity in these virtual worlds. At one point, Rattner demonstrated a high-res simulation of cloth draped being across a surface. Another simulation of running water included its own sound based solely on the physics of the model. The problem is that these were replays of simulations that took hours to produce on a small cluster. To get to an interactive 3D Web experience, real-time simulations are required.

While giving a nod to his company’s Nehalem chips and even the latest GPUs as evidence of how performance is forging ahead on general-purpose chips, the real point of this exercise was to show how Intel’s upcoming Larrabee processors might fit into this story. What Rattner presented was a system in which Larrabee is attached as an accelerator to act as the heavy-duty computational engine, presumably for 3D Web duty. This is essentially the same model AMD and NVIDIA are using for their GPGPUs, where the GPU and CPU converse via the PCI bus. Apparently though, Intel thinks it can do an end-around the PCI bus and have the CPU and Larrabee talk directly through a “shared virtual memory” to allow for seamless data sharing.

There’s no evidence that Intel has built such a system, but Rattner did apparently have a Larrabee chip on hand to put it through its paces. Running SGEMM, a general matrix multiply subroutine in the Basic Linear Algebra Subprograms (BLAS) library, Larrabee delivered about 800 gigaflops, and just over 1 teraflop when they overclocked it. Keep in mind though, SGEMM is the single precession floating point version of the general matrix multiplication routine. A more modest 8 gigaflops was delivered by Larrabee on a couple of sparse matrix codes (QCD and FEM_CANT).

Considering Larrabee was being positioned strictly for graphics/visualization apps, the scientific benchmarking demo and the whole idea of associating the technology with HPC is yet another example of Intel’s split personality when it comes to this chip. It’s possible that NVIDIA’s recent Fermi GPU rollout has caused Intel to rethink its Larrabee strategy. In any case, when the first Larrabee products are released into the wild next year, we’ll know the answer.

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!

African Supercomputing Center Inaugurates ‘Toubkal,’ Most Powerful Supercomputer on the Continent

February 25, 2021

Historically, Africa hasn’t exactly been synonymous with supercomputing. There are only a handful of supercomputers on the continent, with few ranking on the global stage. Now, the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (U Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer-Powered Machine Learning Supports Fusion Energy Reactor Design

February 25, 2021

Energy researchers have been reaching for the stars for decades in their attempt to artificially recreate a stable fusion energy reactor. If successful, such a reactor would revolutionize the world’s energy supply over Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Japan to Debut Integrated Fujitsu HPC/AI Supercomputer This Spring

February 25, 2021

The integrated Fujitsu HPC/AI Supercomputer, Wisteria, is coming to Japan this spring. The University of Tokyo is preparing to deploy a heterogeneous computing system, called "Wisteria/BDEC-01," that will tackle simulati Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

President Biden Signs Executive Order to Review Chip, Other Supply Chains

February 24, 2021

U.S. President Biden signed an executive order late today calling for a 100-day review of key supply chains including semiconductors, large capacity batteries, pharmaceuticals, and rare-earth elements. The scarcity of ch Read more…

By John Russell

Xilinx Launches Alveo SN1000 SmartNIC

February 24, 2021

FPGA vendor Xilinx has debuted its latest SmartNIC model, the Alveo SN1000, with integrated “composability” features that allow enterprise users to add their own custom networking functions to supplement its built-in networking. By providing deep flexibility... Read more…

By Todd R. Weiss

AWS Solution Channel

Introducing AWS HPC Tech Shorts

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is excited to announce a new videos series focused on running HPC workloads on AWS. This new video series will cover HPC workloads from genomics, computational chemistry, to computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and more. Read more…

ASF Keynotes Showcase How HPC and Big Data Have Pervaded the Pandemic

February 24, 2021

Last Thursday, a range of experts joined the Advanced Scale Forum (ASF) in a rapid-fire roundtable to discuss how advanced technologies have transformed the way humanity responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in indelible ways. The roundtable, held near the one-year mark of the first... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Japan to Debut Integrated Fujitsu HPC/AI Supercomputer This Spring

February 25, 2021

The integrated Fujitsu HPC/AI Supercomputer, Wisteria, is coming to Japan this spring. The University of Tokyo is preparing to deploy a heterogeneous computing Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Xilinx Launches Alveo SN1000 SmartNIC

February 24, 2021

FPGA vendor Xilinx has debuted its latest SmartNIC model, the Alveo SN1000, with integrated “composability” features that allow enterprise users to add their own custom networking functions to supplement its built-in networking. By providing deep flexibility... Read more…

By Todd R. Weiss

ASF Keynotes Showcase How HPC and Big Data Have Pervaded the Pandemic

February 24, 2021

Last Thursday, a range of experts joined the Advanced Scale Forum (ASF) in a rapid-fire roundtable to discuss how advanced technologies have transformed the way humanity responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in indelible ways. The roundtable, held near the one-year mark of the first... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

IBM’s Prototype Low-Power 7nm AI Chip Offers ‘Precision Scaling’

February 23, 2021

IBM has released details of a prototype AI chip geared toward low-precision training and inference across different AI model types while retaining model quality within AI applications. In a paper delivered during this year’s International Solid-State Circuits Virtual Conference, IBM... Read more…

By George Leopold

IBM Continues Mainstreaming Power Systems and Integrating Red Hat in Pivot to Cloud

February 23, 2021

As IBM continues its massive pivot to the cloud, its Power-microprocessor-based products are being mainstreamed and realigned with the corporate-wide strategy. Read more…

By John Russell

Livermore’s El Capitan Supercomputer to Debut HPE ‘Rabbit’ Near Node Local Storage

February 18, 2021

A near node local storage innovation called Rabbit factored heavily into Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s decision to select Cray’s proposal for its CORAL-2 machine, the lab’s first exascale-class supercomputer, El Capitan. Details of this new storage technology were revealed... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ENIAC at 75: Celebrating the World’s First Supercomputer

February 15, 2021

With little fanfare, today’s computer revolution was arguably born and announced through a small, innocuous, two-column story at the bottom of the front page of The New York Times on Feb. 15, 1946. In that story and others, the previously classified project, ENIAC... Read more…

By Todd R. Weiss

Microsoft, HPE Bringing AI, Edge, Cloud to Earth Orbit in Preparation for Mars Missions

February 12, 2021

The International Space Station will soon get a delivery of powerful AI, edge and cloud computing tools from HPE and Microsoft Azure to expand technology experi Read more…

By Todd R. Weiss

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from Julialang.org. I Read more…

By John Russell

Esperanto Unveils ML Chip with Nearly 1,100 RISC-V Cores

December 8, 2020

At the RISC-V Summit today, Art Swift, CEO of Esperanto Technologies, announced a new, RISC-V based chip aimed at machine learning and containing nearly 1,100 low-power cores based on the open-source RISC-V architecture. Esperanto Technologies, headquartered in... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Azure Scaled to Record 86,400 Cores for Molecular Dynamics

November 20, 2020

A new record for HPC scaling on the public cloud has been achieved on Microsoft Azure. Led by Dr. Jer-Ming Chia, the cloud provider partnered with the Beckman I Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

NICS Unleashes ‘Kraken’ Supercomputer

April 4, 2008

A Cray XT4 supercomputer, dubbed Kraken, is scheduled to come online in mid-summer at the National Institute for Computational Sciences (NICS). The soon-to-be petascale system, and the resulting NICS organization, are the result of an NSF Track II award of $65 million to the University of Tennessee and its partners to provide next-generation supercomputing for the nation's science community. Read more…

Programming the Soon-to-Be World’s Fastest Supercomputer, Frontier

January 5, 2021

What’s it like designing an app for the world’s fastest supercomputer, set to come online in the United States in 2021? The University of Delaware’s Sunita Chandrasekaran is leading an elite international team in just that task. Chandrasekaran, assistant professor of computer and information sciences, recently was named... Read more…

By Tracey Bryant

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

Top500: Fugaku Keeps Crown, Nvidia’s Selene Climbs to #5

November 16, 2020

With the publication of the 56th Top500 list today from SC20's virtual proceedings, Japan's Fugaku supercomputer – now fully deployed – notches another win, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Gordon Bell Special Prize Goes to Massive SARS-CoV-2 Simulations

November 19, 2020

2020 has proven a harrowing year – but it has produced remarkable heroes. To that end, this year, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) introduced the Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Texas A&M Announces Flagship ‘Grace’ Supercomputer

November 9, 2020

Texas A&M University has announced its next flagship system: Grace. The new supercomputer, named for legendary programming pioneer Grace Hopper, is replacing the Ada system (itself named for mathematician Ada Lovelace) as the primary workhorse for Texas A&M’s High Performance Research Computing (HPRC). Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

At Oak Ridge, ‘End of Life’ Sometimes Isn’t

October 31, 2020

Sometimes, the old dog actually does go live on a farm. HPC systems are often cursed with short lifespans, as they are continually supplanted by the latest and Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Saudi Aramco Unveils Dammam 7, Its New Top Ten Supercomputer

January 21, 2021

By revenue, oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco is one of the largest companies in the world, and it has historically employed commensurate amounts of supercomputing Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Intel Xe-HP GPU Deployed for Aurora Exascale Development

November 17, 2020

At SC20, Intel announced that it is making its Xe-HP high performance discrete GPUs available to early access developers. Notably, the new chips have been deplo Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Teases Ice Lake-SP, Shows Competitive Benchmarking

November 17, 2020

At SC20 this week, Intel teased its forthcoming third-generation Xeon "Ice Lake-SP" server processor, claiming competitive benchmarking results against AMD's second-generation Epyc "Rome" processor. Ice Lake-SP, Intel's first server processor with 10nm technology... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

By John Russell

It’s Fugaku vs. COVID-19: How the World’s Top Supercomputer Is Shaping Our New Normal

November 9, 2020

Fugaku is currently the most powerful publicly ranked supercomputer in the world – but we weren’t supposed to have it yet. The supercomputer, situated at Japan’s Riken scientific research institute, was scheduled to come online in 2021. When the pandemic struck... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

MIT Makes a Big Breakthrough in Nonsilicon Transistors

December 10, 2020

What if Silicon Valley moved beyond silicon? In the 80’s, Seymour Cray was asking the same question, delivering at Supercomputing 1988 a talk titled “What’s All This About Gallium Arsenide?” The supercomputing legend intended to make gallium arsenide (GaA) the material of the future... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire