Top 10 Hits and Misses for 2009

By Michael Feldman

December 18, 2009

It was a tough year for HPC vendors  — well, any vendor actually. But in 2009, we also witnessed the acceleration of GPU computing, an increased acceptance of cloud computing for HPC, and the beginning of the post-quad-core era. There were also a number of other interesting developments in the HPC universe. Here are my top 10 picks of hits and misses for 2009.

Hit: NVIDIA Lights a Fire Under GPU Computing

For the past two years, NVIDIA has been steadily building an ecosystem of hardware and software partners around its GPU computing products. With the announcement of the Fermi architecture in September, NVIDIA clearly put itself in the GPGPU driver’s seat. The company’s new GPU for 2010 doubles as a vector processor, adding tons more double precision performance, ECC memory, and support for C++. Multi-petaflop machines with Fermi parts are already on the drawing board. A potential game changer.

Miss: Other Accelerators Hit the Brakes

The rise of the general-purpose GPU parallels the fall of other HPC accelerator wannabes. The high performance Cell processor (PowerXCell), which helped Roadrunner break the petaflop barrier, looks like it will be the last in its line. Apparently, IBM is no longer interested in an HPC Cell sequel. In concert with the PowerXCell demise, Intel has canceled the 2010 introduction of its manycore Larrabee processor. And finally, FP accelerator vendor ClearSpeed is now on life support and is not expected to make a recovery.

Hit: Government Stimulus to the Rescue

Stimulus money designed to blunt the economic recession injected some much-needed funds into supercomputing programs around the world. In the US, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) is funding a range of new work, including a new climate research collaboration NOAA and ORNL ($73.5 million), the 100 Gbps ESnet upgrade for the DOE ($62 million), the Jaguar supercomputer upgrade at ORNL ($19.9 million), and the DOE’s science cloud research project at Lawrence Berkeley and Argonne ($32 million). NASA and the NSF are also parceling out recovery money to HPC projects, generally in much smaller increments though. To date, NASA has spent $86 million, the NSF $92 Million, and DOE $1.58 billion of Recovery Act money, although only a portion of this is being applied to HPC. The good news is that this represents only a small fraction of the stimulus funds that are available to these agencies, so we can expect a lot more money to buoy the government and education segments in the coming years.

Hit and Miss: Cloud Computing in HPC

Along with the aforementioned DOE science cloud research project, a lot of HPC users are experimenting with the cloud concept, but commercial adoption is just getting started. HPC users point to the lack of high performance infrastructure, security concerns, and the cost of making applications cloud-friendly as barriers to adoption. But the prospect of buying HPC cycles and storage on-demand or using a SaaS model to broaden access is too appealing to ignore. Our HPC in the Cloud supplement we ran in November provides a good overview of this nascent delivery model.

Miss: Thinning the HPC Herd

While the HPC market was spared from the worst effects of the brutal economy, a number of vendors in the space were forced to shut their doors, while others were acquired by their healthier brethren. Sun Microsystems, SGI, SiCortex, Woven Systems, RapidMind, Cilk Arts, Interactive Supercomputing, DRC Computer, Quadrics, ClearSpeed, and Verari Systems all became victims of the Great Recession of 2009. Our feature article tells the tale.

Hit: Cray Defies Economic Gravity

In a tough economic climate, Cray has managed to pay off most of the company’s debt, and is looking to generate $285 million in revenue for 2009. The fact that the company is knee-deep in federal government work didn’t hurt of course. Global stimulus money helped fuel some big deals, such as the previously mentioned Jaguar upgrade. Whether Ungaro and company actually posts a profit for the year remains to be seen, but 2009 has essentially been a rebuilding year for the supercomputer maker. A lot of the effort went toward diversification: building out the CX1 deskside lineup and XT mid-range systems, as well as booting up its custom engineering business. Cray’s capture of the number one spot on the TOP500 list with the Jaguar super was largely symbolic, but was a fitting conclusion to a year of progress.

Hit and Miss: A Fickle Japanese Government

Just when it looked the like Project Keisoku would be scrapped, the Japanese government this week agreed to create a special $250 million earmark to continue funding the work. Project Keisoku is Japan’s next-generation supercomputer project that aims to field a 10-petaflop system in 2012 for the country’s science community. The project had its share of trouble in 2009, starting with the withdraw of contractors NEC and Hitachi in April. In November, a government review panel recommended to de-fund the project. With the re-commitment of the government to all this petafloppery, Japan’s science community is breathing a little easier.

Hit: InfiniBand Rising

Despite the commercial debut of many 10GbE offerings this year, InfiniBand adoption in HPC continued to grow in 2009. InfiniBand is deployed in 182 of the TOP500 supercomputers, representing a 28 percent year-over-year increase. Data from InterSect360 and anecdotal evidence points to a dominance of InfiniBand in new HPC deployments. With recent innovations like an MPI offload capability, a memory transfer offload for GPUs, and a performance roadmap that Ethernet can’t match, I suspect InfiniBand’s best days are still ahead of it.

Hit: Intel Nehalem

The debut of the Nehalem EP processor in March marked a milestone for Intel’s server lineup. Because the Nehalem architecture incorporated on-chip memory controllers and the QuickPath Interconnect (QPI), a point-to-point processor communication link comparable to AMD’s HyperTransport link, EP represented the first Intel chip that could go toe-to-toe with the Opterons. In fact, though, since the Nehalem chips were built on 45nm technology, had a larger L3 cache, and supported DDR3 memory, the EP chips outgunned their Opteron counterparts for many applications. AMD gets to counter all that with its upcoming Magny-Cours processor in 2010, but Intel’s next process shrink to 32nm is just around the corner.

Miss: The Joys of High Frequency Trading

In 2009 we learned about the questionable role of high frequency trading (HFT) in the financial markets. A series of mainstream media articles that surfaced in the summer questioned whether these HFT applications, which rely on low latency hardware and sophisticated algorithmic trading software, were doing anything but skimming money from long-term investors. It’s all perfectly legal, extremely profitable, and, thanks to the magic of high performance computing, marvelously efficient.

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!

Geospatial Data Research Leverages GPUs

August 17, 2017

MapD Technologies, the GPU-accelerated database specialist, said it is working with university researchers on leveraging graphics processors to advance geospatial analytics. The San Francisco-based company is collabor Read more…

By George Leopold

Intel, NERSC and University Partners Launch New Big Data Center

August 17, 2017

A collaboration between the Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), Intel and five Intel Parallel Computing Centers (IPCCs) has resulted in a new Big Data Center (BDC) that Read more…

By Linda Barney

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last week the cloud giant released deeplearn.js as part of that in Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Leveraging Deep Learning for Fraud Detection

Advancements in computing technologies and the expanding use of e-commerce platforms have dramatically increased the risk of fraud for financial services companies and their customers. Read more…

Spoiler Alert: Glimpse Next Week’s Solar Eclipse Via Simulation from TACC, SDSC, and NASA

August 17, 2017

Can’t wait to see next week’s solar eclipse? You can at least catch glimpses of what scientists expect it will look like. A team from Predictive Science Inc. (PSI), based in San Diego, working with Stampede2 at the Read more…

By John Russell

Microsoft Bolsters Azure With Cloud HPC Deal

August 15, 2017

Microsoft has acquired cloud computing software vendor Cycle Computing in a move designed to bring orchestration tools along with high-end computing access capabilities to the cloud. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Ships Supercomputer to Space Station, Final Destination Mars

August 14, 2017

With a manned mission to Mars on the horizon, the demand for space-based supercomputing is at hand. Today HPE and NASA sent the first off-the-shelf HPC system i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD EPYC Video Takes Aim at Intel’s Broadwell

August 14, 2017

Let the benchmarking begin. Last week, AMD posted a YouTube video in which one of its EPYC-based systems outperformed a ‘comparable’ Intel Broadwell-based s Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Thrives in Cancer Moonshot

August 8, 2017

The U.S. War on Cancer, certainly a worthy cause, is a collection of programs stretching back more than 40 years and abiding under many banners. The latest is t Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Raises the Bar for Distributed Deep Learning

August 8, 2017

IBM is announcing today an enhancement to its PowerAI software platform aimed at facilitating the practical scaling of AI models on today’s fastest GPUs. Scal Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Storage Breakthrough Paves Way for 330TB Tape Cartridges

August 3, 2017

IBM announced yesterday a new record for magnetic tape storage that it says will keep tape storage density on a Moore's law-like path far into the next decade. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Stuffs a Petaflops of Machine Intelligence into 20-Node Rack

August 1, 2017

With its Radeon “Vega” Instinct datacenter GPUs and EPYC “Naples” server chips entering the market this summer, AMD has positioned itself for a two-head Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

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

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Groq This: New AI Chips to Give GPUs a Run for Deep Learning Money

April 24, 2017

CPUs and GPUs, move over. Thanks to recent revelations surrounding Google’s new Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), the computing world appears to be on the cusp of Read more…

By Alex Woodie

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Engine (GCE) job. Sutherland ran the massive mathematics workload on 220,000 GCE cores using preemptible virtual machine instances. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Clears Path to 5nm with Silicon Nanosheets

June 5, 2017

Two years since announcing the industry’s first 7nm node test chip, IBM and its research alliance partners GlobalFoundries and Samsung have developed a proces Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Messina Update: The US Path to Exascale in 16 Slides

April 26, 2017

Paul Messina, director of the U.S. Exascale Computing Project, provided a wide-ranging review of ECP’s evolving plans last week at the HPC User Forum. Read more…

By John Russell

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