HPC Innovator’s Work Spans Two Continents

By Nicole Hemsoth

May 28, 2010

Over the past two decades, Dr. Ashwini Nanda has been at the center of some of the most cutting-edge HPC projects and initiatives in the world.  At IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center, in New York, Dr. Nanda led the development of the Cell processor-based  systems (QS20, QS21, and QS22 blades) and software technologies for high performance computing. That work culminated in the construction of the Roadrunner supercomputer for Los Alamos National Laboratory. Later, as the head of Computational Research Laboratories (CRL) in Pune, India, he directed the development of the “Eka” HPC cluster that, in 2007, held the title of Asia’s fastest supercomputer. He also established the shared memory systems group at IBM Research, worked on the Amazon superscalar architecture at Texas Instruments, and developed parallel computers for India’s missile defense systems at Wipro, Bangalore.

Recently he moved back to India, where he founded HPC Links, a company that offers parallel programming software tools and services for the global high performance computing community. We got the opportunity to ask Dr. Nanda about how he sees the HPC industry today, how it’s changing, and what led him to start up his company.

HPCwire: Maybe we can start with some of your thoughts about the development of high performance computing in India. What are the principal challenges in building the country’s HPC capability? And how do you see the way forward for HPC and supercomputing in India — for both vendors and users?
 
Ashwini Nanda: India has less than 1 percent of the compute power in the global TOP500 supercomputing list today. This tiny share of the pie is not indicative of the financial and high-tech might of India. The gap indicates there is significant room for growth in HPC infrastructure in the country. The gap one sees today is perhaps due to the lack of broad awareness of the benefits of HPC to scientific/technical research and to business enterprises. This is despite the commendable progress made by organizations such as CDAC, CRL, SERC/IISc and HiPC in spreading HPC awareness in the country.

India’s per capita spending in high performance computing is negligible compared to the US, Japan and Germany, and for that matter compared even to China, Spain and Russia. The Unique ID (Adhaar) project of the government will likely fuel growth in HPC related to data mining, consummer security and national security. The government has procured quite a few HPC clusters for weather and climate prediction which would foster research and application development in these areas. India has very successful government enterprises in nuclear energy, space and defence, which would benefit tremendously from the use of HPC. The US counterparts in these sectors are the prime movers of the HPC industry there. The Indian government has the financial strength and must spend heavily in HPC in order to make these sectors globally competitive.
 
India has vibrant pharmaceutical, financial, entertainment and manufacturing industries, all of whom would gain significant productivity and competitiveness by using HPC. We built the Eka machine at CRL soley with private investment from Tata. The other industrial powerhouses in India have the financial means, and they will likely follow suit once they see the benefits of HPC to their business. Talking to leaders from government, academia and industry across the country, one can sense a growing awareness of the potential of HPC, which I believe will translate into a faster pace of growth in HPC infrastructure and services during the next five years or so in India. When that happens, it will benefit the multinational vendors as well as the local vendors.

HPCwire: What do you think will be the role of cloud computing for HPC users in India?

Nanda: Culturally, and economically, reuse and sharing of resources are well accepted in the Indian society. Once the users discover the utility of HPC, I think sharing resources through cloud platforms will come naturally to them, especially the small and medium scale users of HPC. But more importantly, India could also become a key global host of cloud computing infrastructure and services due to attractive low-cost operations and highly skilled technical manpower.

HPCwire: You had a rather prominent role in the development of Cell processor-based systems and software at IBM. The Cell helped usher in the petaflop era, but overall it looks like the impact of this technology in supercomputing is going to be relatively limited. What do you think the Cell brought to the HPC space and what lessons were learned?

Nanda: The Cell based systems from IBM made two important contributions to HPC technology, besides helping cross the petaflop barrier. First they set the new trend of using hybrid multicore clusters — with CPU-GPU combinations — to build the most cost-effective, power-efficient and best-performing supercomputers. Secondly, creating a software ecosystem to harness the compute power of a revolutionary processor like Cell seemed prohibitive in the beginning. But the Cell systems effort at IBM Research showed that an effective collaboration of government, academia and industry can indeed build a respectable software ecosystem for a new architecture.

It’s true that the momentum around Cell has has been lost, but credit should go to IBM for laying the foundations of a new era that would see the proliferation of hybrid multicore CPU-GPU combination clusters in solving key HPC problems. We are already seeing glimpses of this through the momentum building around such offerings from AMD, Intel and NVIDIA.

HPCwire: In HPC, which hardware and software technologies do you see becoming increasing important over the next, say, five years?

Nanda: I believe in terms of hardware, hybrid multicore GPU-CPU combination technologies and commodity InfiniBand and Ethernet technologies will continue to lead the way and take us through the exaflop mark. In terms of software we will see more emphasis being put on tools that make it easier to write parallel applications and increase productivity.

HPCwire: Switching to your current role as the founder and CEO of HPC Links: What is the company about and what was your motivation to launch this as a business?

Nanda: While doing the systems work at IBM and at Tata over the last few years, the obvious realization came to me that now the commoditization of HPC platforms is complete. We have been building affordable parallel machines all around the world, and almost any one who needs access to a parallel machine can access one today. But are these machines utilized well enough? Not really. Are most people, or industries, who could benefit from HPC, taking advantage of these platforms today? The answer is clearly no. So what is the problem? The US government Council on Competitiveness identified two years back that there are three primary barriers to mass adoption of HPC. Namely, lack of parallel programming skills, lack of parallel applications, and high cost of adoption.

HPC Links was formed last year to help address these customer pain points. Our goal is to help businesses stay competitive by alleviating these pain points and achieving high efficiency, faster time to market and enhanced product quality through innovative use of HPC, cloud and multicore solutions. We are addressing all the three key barriers in HPC adoption through our parallel application services offerings, system integration offerings and the software tools and packages under development.

HPCwire: What is unique about the company?
 
Nanda: Our uniqueness today, if I can point to the most significant one, is our interdisciplinary skill pool. We have Ph.D.’s and Masters in multitude of scientific and engineering disciplines, all adept at various flavors of parallel programming, on all kinds of hardware and software platforms. Mix that with the breadth of domain knowledge the HPC Links team has across industry verticals, and you get a really unique, comprehensive parallel programming skill pool in the world.

HPCwire: What do you see as the principal challenges in developing parallel applications for science and technical computing codes today?

Nanda: The hard challenges in parallel application development as I see are lack of skills, and productive tools. Tackling the challenge of productive tools for parallel programming, I believe, will take longer than tackling the issue of lack of skills. There is the general lack of parallel programmers in the world today, which the universities have started to address pretty effectively. And then there is the problem that people who are good in parallel programming are not necessarily trained in various application domains, and people who are domain experts are often times not proficient in parallel programming. The key is to bring domain experts and parallel programmers together and cross train them on the job.

HPCwire: Who do think will be your main customers for these services?

Nanda: In the near term we see majority of our customers outside of India where the HPC market has higher momentum and awareness — especially in the US and Europe. The Indian HPC market is in its nascent stage, but has great potential in the longer term. Our services are targeted toward any one who can benefit from an experienced parallel programming skill pool in research and development, scaling, testing and optimization of parallel applications in a wide range of domains. For example, recently we signed up with Microsoft to provide this kind of parallel application programming services for their HPC Server platform. This makes our services available to the Windows HPC Server users and ISVs in all industry segments. We have deep Linux cluster programming expertise, and are working with universities and national labs, as well as industry HPC users.

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!

The Present and Future of AI: A Discussion with HPC Visionary Dr. Eng Lim Goh

November 27, 2020

As HPE’s chief technology officer for artificial intelligence, Dr. Eng Lim Goh devotes much of his time talking and consulting with enterprise customers about how AI can benefit their business operations and products. Read more…

By Todd R. Weiss

SC20 Panel – OK, You Hate Storage Tiering. What’s Next Then?

November 25, 2020

Tiering in HPC storage has a bad rep. No one likes it. It complicates things and slows I/O. At least one storage technology newcomer – VAST Data – advocates dumping the whole idea. One large-scale user, NERSC storage architect Glenn Lockwood sort of agrees. The challenge, of course, is that tiering... Read more…

By John Russell

Exscalate4CoV Runs 70 Billion-Molecule Coronavirus Simulation

November 25, 2020

The winds of the pandemic are changing – for better and for worse. Three viable vaccines now teeter on the brink of regulatory approval, which will pave the way for broad distribution by April or May. But until then, COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing across the U.S. and Europe... 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 Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the Universi Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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 Gordon Bell Special Prize for High Performance Computing-Ba Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AWS Solution Channel

Introducing AWS ParallelCluster as an Intel Select Solution

High performance computing (HPC) system owners can spend weeks or months researching, procuring, and assembling components to build HPC clusters to run their workloads. Understanding and managing the complexities of compute, storage, networking, and software requirements can be confusing and time-consuming, slowing innovation and results. Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Intel Keynote Address

Intel is the foundation of HPC – from the workstation to the cloud to the backbone of the Top500. At SC20, Intel’s Trish Damkroger, VP and GM of high performance computing, addresses the audience to show how Intel and its partners are building the future of HPC today, through hardware and software technologies that accelerate the broad deployment of advanced HPC systems. Read more…

Gordon Bell Prize Winner Breaks Ground in AI-Infused Ab Initio Simulation

November 19, 2020

The race to blend deep learning and first-principle simulation to speed up solutions and scale up problems tackled is one of the most exciting research areas in computational science today. This year’s ACM Gordon Bell Prize winner announced today at SC20 makes significant progress in that direction. Read more…

By John Russell

The Present and Future of AI: A Discussion with HPC Visionary Dr. Eng Lim Goh

November 27, 2020

As HPE’s chief technology officer for artificial intelligence, Dr. Eng Lim Goh devotes much of his time talking and consulting with enterprise customers about Read more…

By Todd R. Weiss

SC20 Panel – OK, You Hate Storage Tiering. What’s Next Then?

November 25, 2020

Tiering in HPC storage has a bad rep. No one likes it. It complicates things and slows I/O. At least one storage technology newcomer – VAST Data – advocates dumping the whole idea. One large-scale user, NERSC storage architect Glenn Lockwood sort of agrees. The challenge, of course, is that tiering... Read more…

By John Russell

Exscalate4CoV Runs 70 Billion-Molecule Coronavirus Simulation

November 25, 2020

The winds of the pandemic are changing – for better and for worse. Three viable vaccines now teeter on the brink of regulatory approval, which will pave the way for broad distribution by April or May. But until then, COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing across the U.S. and Europe... 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

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

Gordon Bell Prize Winner Breaks Ground in AI-Infused Ab Initio Simulation

November 19, 2020

The race to blend deep learning and first-principle simulation to speed up solutions and scale up problems tackled is one of the most exciting research areas in computational science today. This year’s ACM Gordon Bell Prize winner announced today at SC20 makes significant progress in that direction. Read more…

By John Russell

SC20 Keynote: Climate, Exascale & the Ultimate Answer

November 19, 2020

SC20’s keynote was delivered by renowned meteorologist and climatologist Bjorn Stevens, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology since 2008 and a professor at the University of Hamburg. In his keynote, Stevens traced the history of climate science from its earliest days through... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

EuroHPC Exec. Dir. Talks Procurement, EPI, and Europe’s Efforts to Control its HPC Destiny

November 19, 2020

While much of the HPC community’s attention is fixed on SC20’s flood of news and new product announcements, Anders Dam Jensen, the newly-minted executive di Read more…

By Steve Conway

Nvidia Said to Be Close on Arm Deal

August 3, 2020

GPU leader Nvidia Corp. is in talks to buy U.K. chip designer Arm from parent company Softbank, according to several reports over the weekend. If consummated Read more…

By George Leopold

Supercomputer-Powered Research Uncovers Signs of ‘Bradykinin Storm’ That May Explain COVID-19 Symptoms

July 28, 2020

Doctors and medical researchers have struggled to pinpoint – let alone explain – the deluge of symptoms induced by COVID-19 infections in patients, and what 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

Google Hires Longtime Intel Exec Bill Magro to Lead HPC Strategy

September 18, 2020

In a sign of the times, another prominent HPCer has made a move to a hyperscaler. Longtime Intel executive Bill Magro joined Google as chief technologist for hi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Keeps Cray Brand Promise, Reveals HPE Cray Supercomputing Line

August 4, 2020

The HPC community, ever-affectionate toward Cray and its eponymous founder, can breathe a (virtual) sigh of relief. The Cray brand will live on, encompassing th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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…

Is the Nvidia A100 GPU Performance Worth a Hardware Upgrade?

October 16, 2020

Over the last decade, accelerators have seen an increasing rate of adoption in high-performance computing (HPC) platforms, and in the June 2020 Top500 list, eig Read more…

By Hartwig Anzt, Ahmad Abdelfattah and Jack Dongarra

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Aurora’s Troubles Move Frontier into Pole Exascale Position

October 1, 2020

Intel’s 7nm node delay has raised questions about the status of the Aurora supercomputer that was scheduled to be stood up at Argonne National Laboratory next year. Aurora was in the running to be the United States’ first exascale supercomputer although it was on a contemporaneous timeline with... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

European Commission Declares €8 Billion Investment in Supercomputing

September 18, 2020

Just under two years ago, the European Commission formalized the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU): a concerted HPC effort (comprising 32 participating states at c Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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

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

Nvidia and EuroHPC Team for Four Supercomputers, Including Massive ‘Leonardo’ System

October 15, 2020

The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU) serves as Europe’s concerted supercomputing play, currently comprising 32 member states and billions of euros in funding. I Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Microsoft Azure Adds A100 GPU Instances for ‘Supercomputer-Class AI’ in the Cloud

August 19, 2020

Microsoft Azure continues to infuse its cloud platform with HPC- and AI-directed technologies. Today the cloud services purveyor announced a new virtual machine Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia-Arm Deal a Boon for RISC-V?

October 26, 2020

The $40 billion blockbuster acquisition deal that will bring chipmaker Arm into the Nvidia corporate family could provide a boost for the competing RISC-V architecture. As regulators in the U.S., China and the European Union begin scrutinizing the impact of the blockbuster deal on semiconductor industry competition and innovation, the deal has at the very least... Read more…

By George Leopold

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This