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!

Data Vortex Users Contemplate the Future of Supercomputing

October 19, 2017

Last month (Sept. 11-12), HPC networking company Data Vortex held its inaugural users group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) bringing together about 30 participants from industry, government and academia t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Self-Training Goes Forward at Google DeepMind

October 19, 2017

DeepMind, Google’s AI research organization, announced today in a blog that AlphaGo Zero, the latest evolution of AlphaGo (the first computer program to defeat a Go world champion) trained itself within three days to play Go at a superhuman level (i.e., better than any human) – and to beat the old version of AlphaGo – without leveraging human expertise, data or training. Read more…

By Doug Black

Researchers Scale COSMO Climate Code to 4888 GPUs on Piz Daint

October 17, 2017

Effective global climate simulation, sorely needed to anticipate and cope with global warming, has long been computationally challenging. Two of the major obstacles are the needed resolution and prolonged time to compute Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Transforming Genomic Analytics with HPC-Accelerated Insights

Advancements in the field of genomics are revolutionizing our understanding of human biology, rapidly accelerating the discovery and treatment of genetic diseases, and dramatically improving human health. Read more…

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Cluster Competition coverage has come to its natural home: H Read more…

By Dan Olds

Data Vortex Users Contemplate the Future of Supercomputing

October 19, 2017

Last month (Sept. 11-12), HPC networking company Data Vortex held its inaugural users group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) bringing together ab Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Self-Training Goes Forward at Google DeepMind

October 19, 2017

DeepMind, Google’s AI research organization, announced today in a blog that AlphaGo Zero, the latest evolution of AlphaGo (the first computer program to defeat a Go world champion) trained itself within three days to play Go at a superhuman level (i.e., better than any human) – and to beat the old version of AlphaGo – without leveraging human expertise, data or training. Read more…

By Doug Black

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Read more…

By Dan Olds

Intel Delivers 17-Qubit Quantum Chip to European Research Partner

October 10, 2017

On Tuesday, Intel delivered a 17-qubit superconducting test chip to research partner QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The announcement marks a major milestone in the 10-year, $50-million collaborative relationship with TU Delft and TNO, the Dutch Organization for Applied Research, to accelerate advancements in quantum computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fujitsu Tapped to Build 37-Petaflops ABCI System for AIST

October 10, 2017

Fujitsu announced today it will build the long-planned AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI) which is set to become the fastest supercomputer system in Japan Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Intel Debuts Programmable Acceleration Card

October 5, 2017

With a view toward supporting complex, data-intensive applications, such as AI inference, video streaming analytics, database acceleration and genomics, Intel i Read more…

By Doug Black

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

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

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

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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 w Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

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

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

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

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

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