Westmere Ushers in the Second Coming of Multicore

By Michael Feldman

March 18, 2010

The Intel launch of the Westmere EP processors managed to dominate most of my attention this week. But with the debut of AMD’s Magny-Cours chips less than two weeks away and the upcoming release of the first NVIDIA Fermi Tesla products just around the corner, it’s shaping up to be an interesting year for HPC users looking to buy new gear.

With the 6-core Westmere EP (Xeon 5600), 8-core Nehalem EX (Xeon 7500), and 12-core Magny-Cours (Opteron 6100) CPUs all soon to be available at your local server outlet, x86 users will all of the sudden be looking at double-digit core counts on mainstream dual-socket servers and workstations. As I mentioned in a blog a couple of weeks ago, one of the results of the post quad-core era will be a renewed attraction to desktop or deskside machines that can run HPC jobs that previously had to be shipped off to small clusters. That would represent a big change in how bite-sized technical computing applications get serviced.

An article this week in Cadalyst, talked about how next-gen workstations could dramatically change the workflow for industries relying on HPC:

In years past, these technical and creative professionals — in fields as diverse as oil and gas exploration, architecture, product development, and animation — were valued for their expertise, but often placed in advisory or support roles. They were consulted to analyze, prove, or finish existing projects or designs but not considered part of the mainstream production or design process. In effect, these valuable team members were treated as consultants in their own companies. Why? Because their work was so compute-intensive it would interrupt the project workflow if mainstreamed. Their computer requirements were expensive and thus used sparingly…. The increased need for processing power is one reason many of these specialists are outside the production workflow. Their demands on existing IT are so great that their work would slow down other work processes.

Since virtualization technology is now ubiquitous and more intimately supported in the latest x86 silicon, these mini-SMP workstations can even act as multiple machines. The Cadalyst piece describes a scenario in which a geophysicist could run a Linux session and a Windows session concurrently on the same platform, taking advantage of different software tools for geophysical visualization and analysis. You can do that in a cluster as well, but the real-time interaction is the feature that makes this sort of thing so valuable to the end user.

HPC system vendors have already glommed on to the Westmere parts and have announced the upgrades to their personal HPC machines. In particular, both Cray and SGI are moving up to the Xeon 5600 parts in their CX1 and Octane III deskside supers, respectively. AMAX is also moving up to the Westmere generation in its HPC lineup, including its workstations. BOXX, a company that specializes in high-end visualization workstations, has also announced it’s offering Westmere CPUs in its renderBOXX modules and 3DBOXX workstations. In fact, it’s fairly certain that any HPC vendor with Nehalem-based gear will transition to Westmere at some point.

And while March 2010 may mark the beginning of the end for the quad-core CPU era, the other shoe is about to drop. According to reliable sources, NVIDIA is on track to begin taking orders for Fermi Tesla 20-series products in “early Q2,” which, if you haven’t glanced at a calendar lately, is less than two weeks away. (The first non-HPC Fermi products, the GTX 470 and 480, are slated to be released next week according to the NVIDIA.) Fermi, of course, is NVIDIA’s latest CUDA processor architecture that brings loads more double-precision capability, ECC memory, and C++ support into the GPGPU computing realm. And none of this 6-, 8-, and 12-core stuff. Fermi scales to 512 cores.

Since virtually all system vendors that sell personal HPC systems also offer a Tesla option, these new double-digit-core x86 workstations and mini-clusters will soon have some serious GPGPU company. Westmere-Fermi workstations with teraflop power — and I’m talking double precision here — could soon be standard office gear for scientists and engineers.

That’s not to say high performance computing clusters are on their way out. Large-scale technical computing still relies on scaled-out clusters, and those types of problems tend to gobble up any expansion in computational capability. High-fidelity global climate simulations aren’t likely to be done on a souped-up workstation anytime soon. Also, there are still HPC applications that don’t map all that well to the GPU, and others that don’t take kindly to the widening gap between CPU cores and memory. In those cases, it’s better to spread memory and, perhaps more importantly, memory bandwidth, across larger numbers of relatively low-core-count CPUs with a cluster architecture.

The chip vendors, for their part, are working hard to overcome these obstacles. Fermi will likely be the most programmer-friendly GPU ever to come along, and is designed to act more like a general-purpose vector processor than a graphics processor retro-fitted for HPC duty. Likewise, Intel and AMD are working to pump up the memory support on their latest silicon. Although the Westmere is basically a 32nm process shrink of Nehalem, it also includes a tweaked memory controller that supports more bandwidth and capacity as well as lower powered DDR3 DIMMs. Meanwhile, AMD bumped Magny-Cours to four memory channels to keep up with the increased core count.

All this wonderful new silicon won’t transform high performance computing overnight. It’s a slow process to migrate end-user applications onto new architectures. ISVs and their clients have become comfortable with the traditional cluster-workstation separation. This latest generation of CPUs and GPUs is going to shake that up.

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!

SRC Spends $200M on University Research Centers

January 16, 2018

The Semiconductor Research Corporation, as part of its JUMP initiative, has awarded $200 million to fund six research centers whose areas of focus span cognitive computing, memory-centric computing, high-speed communicat Read more…

By John Russell

US Seeks to Automate Video Analysis

January 16, 2018

U.S. military and intelligence agencies continue to look for new ways to use artificial intelligence to sift through huge amounts of video imagery in hopes of freeing analysts to identify threats and otherwise put their Read more…

By George Leopold

URISC@SC17 and the #LongestLastMile

January 11, 2018

A multinational delegation recently attended the Understanding Risk in Shared CyberEcosystems workshop, or URISC@SC17, in Denver, Colorado. URISC participants and presenters from 11 countries, including eight African nations, 12 U.S. states, Canada, India and Nepal, also attended SC17, the annual international conference for high performance computing, networking, storage and analysis that drew nearly 13,000 attendees. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake, STEM-Trek Nonprofit

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and NREL Take Steps to Create a Sustainable, Energy-Efficient Data Center with an H2 Fuel Cell

As enterprises attempt to manage rising volumes of data, unplanned data center outages are becoming more common and more expensive. As the cost of downtime rises, enterprises lose out on productivity and valuable competitive advantage without access to their critical data. Read more…

When the Chips Are Down

January 11, 2018

In the last article, "The High Stakes Semiconductor Game that Drives HPC Diversity," I alluded to the challenges facing the semiconductor industry and how that may impact the evolution of HPC systems over the next few years. I thought I’d lift the covers a little and look at some of the commercial challenges that impact the component technology we use in HPC. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

SRC Spends $200M on University Research Centers

January 16, 2018

The Semiconductor Research Corporation, as part of its JUMP initiative, has awarded $200 million to fund six research centers whose areas of focus span cognitiv Read more…

By John Russell

When the Chips Are Down

January 11, 2018

In the last article, "The High Stakes Semiconductor Game that Drives HPC Diversity," I alluded to the challenges facing the semiconductor industry and how that may impact the evolution of HPC systems over the next few years. I thought I’d lift the covers a little and look at some of the commercial challenges that impact the component technology we use in HPC. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

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

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

ANL’s Rick Stevens on CANDLE, ARM, Quantum, and More

January 8, 2018

Late last year HPCwire caught up with Rick Stevens, associate laboratory director for computing, environment and life Sciences at Argonne National Laboratory, f Read more…

By John Russell

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

The @hpcnotes Predictions for HPC in 2018

January 4, 2018

I’m not averse to making predictions about the world of High Performance Computing (and Supercomputing, Cloud, etc.) in person at conferences, meetings, causa Read more…

By Andrew Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leading Solution Providers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nvidia, Partners Announce Several V100 Servers

September 27, 2017

Here come the Volta 100-based servers. Nvidia today announced an impressive line-up of servers from major partners – Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM Read more…

By John Russell

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

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