Sometimes Accomplishment Is Starting Something New Rather than Finishing Something Old

By Thomas Sterling and Chirag Dekate

June 2, 2010

So perhaps it was of this last year of the first decade of the first century of the new millennium in the field of high performance computing. Not to minimize the continued progression of petaflops computing as we enter Year 3 AP (After Petaflops).  With the addition of new machines both deployed and planned, petaflops-scale applications, as acknowledged by the Gordon Bell Prize, steady increase in the number of cores per socket, and the uncomfortable marriage of GPUs in heterogeneous structures — the last year has been marked by continued and demonstrable advances. As petaflops computing has become truly international in scope and application, this emerging system class is no longer an ethereal fringe, but rather has gained firm traction at such power houses (yes, meant in more than one way) as Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where they now serve humanity as the heavy lifters in computational methods addressing the challenges of the modern world.

But one potentially important accomplishment in the last twelve months is not something that has been completed; instead, it is something that has been just initiated. Even as we gain a footing in the era of petaflops computing, we have set in motion the exploration of the undiscovered domain of exaflops computing. This year has seen the launching of multiple programs to develop the concepts, architectures, software stack, programming models, and new families of parallel algorithms necessary to enable the practical realization of exaflops capability prior to the end of this decade. These have involved unprecedented cooperation and coordination within government agencies and laboratories, industry, academia, and internationally. At the dawn of the petaflops era, the emerging focus on the performance regime three orders of magnitude beyond is unlike anything before it and in stark contrast to the grass-roots workshops towards petaflops back in the relaxed days of the run-up to teraflops in the 1990s.

There are good reasons for this. The challenges facing the continued delivered sustained performance across a broad range of application domains are dramatic and reflect a corner turning on the trends that have driven us forward, ultimately due to Moore’s Law and the semiconductor revolution. These, somewhat over simplistically, can be summarized as: concurrency, power, reliability, and productivity.

In the past, the double-whammy of increases in clock rate and increases in processor core complexity delivered two decades of sustained exponential growth in processor core performance which when integrated in clusters of SMP nodes has given us the iconic images of straight lines on semi-log graphs with respect to the passage of time. Now the S-curve is bending for a second time, and not in a good way. Power has hit the threshold of pain, and the architecture tricks have been largely exhausted. Increased resources have been dedicated to confronting the egregious impact of the memory wall and the latencies and blocking incurred. Ever decreasing efficiencies (single digit not uncommon) by several normalization factors (e.g., FLOPS, utilization, per transistor, per joule, per hectare) have exposed the soft underbelly of an ultimately unsustainable golden age: exponentials cannot go on forever.

Indeed, the authors have projected that “we will never achieve sustained zettaflops computing” using the hardware paradigm of Boolean logic gates and binary data storage. Due to the speed of light, Boltzmann’s Constant, and atomic granularity it is predicted that the wall, which is more like a very steep hill will occur at about 32 exaflops. But we are not there yet; indeed, there are a good four orders of magnitude to go. And that will be hard.

Three major activities can be cited that have just been created during the last year to engage the talents of the international community including experts in: hardware, software, algorithms, and domain science. These have resulted from at least two years of preliminary workshops and studies sponsored by diverse entities and internal industry planning as well. These are: IESP, DOE X-Stack, and DARPA UHPC. There are many smaller activities as well.

The International Exascale Software Project (IESP) has brought together the interests, talents, and resources of the international community to cooperate and coordinate long-term development of the necessary software infrastructure required to enable effective exaflops-scale performance before the end of this decade. Learning from past experiences where software always appeared to lag behind the hardware, this world-straddling endeavor is driven by the recognition that to succeed, the software needs to be there when the hardware is. More importantly, the hardware designs must be informed by the needs of the software so that there is minimum mismatch and the concomitant ensuing generations of unsatisfactory patches. But there is an even more critical imperative: the realization that without the right software, exaflops may not be achievable at all (except in special cases) and that no one nation can go it alone; the HPC community is just too small for multiple conflicting paths of a top to bottom software refactoring. In the last year, four multi-day meetings in France, Japan, and the UK among representatives of all of the major HPC nations have provided an emerging roadmap to inform future planning of the joint development of the full supporting software infrastructure for Exascale systems’ operation and programming.

The US DOE has also begun a new program of research with the release of its recent RFP to develop the components of the “X-Stack,” the software required to enable a new generation of science and technology applications with the advent of future exaflops capable systems. These elements include operating systems, runtime systems, programming models and tools, and methods for reliability and mass storage and I/O. The winners, not yet announced, will represent a new wave of research in the US combining partners in the national laboratories, industry, and academia driven by the requirements of major mission-critical applications. This and other related DOE programs were developed in part from an extensive series of community workshops through the preceding year on application domains, hardware and software systems, and mathematical algorithms. This research will join other programs around the world in the first concerted effort to turn the corner and set a new trajectory for future HPC system software architecture, design, and implementation.

Perhaps most dramatic and at the same time risky undertaking is the new DARPA Ubiquitous High Performance Computing (UHPC) research program. UHPC is intended to attack the above challenges through nothing less than revolutionizing HPC system design. Through a lengthy program development process that involved three separate studies in technology, software, and resiliency engaging the talents of experts throughout the US, UHPC evolved an energetic research charter to reinvent computing prior to the end of this decade. The program was not explicitly targeted to exascale but rather to the mid-range of one or some unspecified number of interconnected and interoperable racks, each capable of approximately 1 petaflops sustained performance with a power budget of less than 60 kilowatts.

At the foundation of this program is the call for a new model of parallel computation to replace the venerable and highly successful message-passing model that has dominated for the last two decades. A major emphasis is on power reduction with an average energy of 25 Pico-Joules per floating point operation. A thousand such racks if sufficiently efficient would deliver 1 exaflops for 20 megawatts.

Emphasis is placed on the co-design of both hardware and software components in response to challenge problems that will span the applications domains from some of the largest STEM problems to heavy real time I/O streaming to knowledge management graph problems. Scaling down is as important as scaling up to UHPC, with single modules capable of multiple teraflops (and in mobile modules this is an important operating point).

The program may run eight or nine years and result in one or more prototypes of fully-operational systems. The first half of the program, Phases 1 and 2 spanning four years, will begin this summer with the winning teams to be announced in a month’s time. Atypical of such programs is the expectation of strong cooperation among competing teams and the delivery of much of the techniques and technology to the research community throughout the four phases of the program.

This year has indeed been a very productive year, both for its accomplishments in the deployment and application of petaflops-scale systems and for its forward-looking inauguration of the exaflops era.

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!

CMU’s Latest “Card Shark” – Libratus – is Beating the Poker Pros (Again)

January 20, 2017

It’s starting to look like Carnegie Mellon University has a gambling problem – can’t stay away from the poker table. Read more…

By John Russell

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Jan. 19, 2017)

January 19, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN to Partner on ARM and Exascale

January 19, 2017

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN institute announced a multi-faceted five-year collaboration to advance HPC generally and prepare for exascale computing. Among the particulars are efforts to: build out the ARM ecosystem; work on code development and code sharing on the existing and future platforms; share expertise in specific application areas (material and seismic sciences for example); improve techniques for using numerical simulation with big data; and expand HPC workforce training. It seems to be a very full agenda. Read more…

By Nishi Katsuya and John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Remote Visualization: An Integral Technology for Upstream Oil & Gas

As the exploration and production (E&P) of natural resources evolves into an even more complex and vital task, visualization technology has become integral for the upstream oil and gas industry. Read more…

ARM Waving: Attention, Deployments, and Development

January 18, 2017

It’s been a heady two weeks for the ARM HPC advocacy camp. At this week’s Mont-Blanc Project meeting held at the Barcelona Supercomputer Center, Cray announced plans to build an ARM-based supercomputer in the U.K. while Mont-Blanc selected Cavium’s ThunderX2 ARM chip for its third phase of development. Last week, France’s CEA and Japan’s Riken announced a deep collaboration aimed largely at fostering the ARM ecosystem. This activity follows a busy 2016 when SoftBank acquired ARM, OpenHPC announced ARM support, ARM released its SVE spec, Fujistu chose ARM for the post K machine, and ARM acquired HPC tool provider Allinea in December. Read more…

By John Russell

Women Coders from Russia, Italy, and Poland Top Study

January 17, 2017

According to a study posted on HackerRank today the best women coders as judged by performance on HackerRank challenges come from Russia, Italy, and Poland. Read more…

By John Russell

Spurred by Global Ambitions, Inspur in Joint HPC Deal with DDN

January 17, 2017

Inspur, the fast-growth cloud computing and server vendor from China that has several systems on the current Top500 list, and DDN, a leader in high-end storage, have announced a joint sales and marketing agreement to produce solutions based on DDN storage platforms integrated with servers, networking, software and services from Inspur. Read more…

By Doug Black

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Jan. 12, 2017)

January 12, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN to Partner on ARM and Exascale

January 19, 2017

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN institute announced a multi-faceted five-year collaboration to advance HPC generally and prepare for exascale computing. Among the particulars are efforts to: build out the ARM ecosystem; work on code development and code sharing on the existing and future platforms; share expertise in specific application areas (material and seismic sciences for example); improve techniques for using numerical simulation with big data; and expand HPC workforce training. It seems to be a very full agenda. Read more…

By Nishi Katsuya and John Russell

ARM Waving: Attention, Deployments, and Development

January 18, 2017

It’s been a heady two weeks for the ARM HPC advocacy camp. At this week’s Mont-Blanc Project meeting held at the Barcelona Supercomputer Center, Cray announced plans to build an ARM-based supercomputer in the U.K. while Mont-Blanc selected Cavium’s ThunderX2 ARM chip for its third phase of development. Last week, France’s CEA and Japan’s Riken announced a deep collaboration aimed largely at fostering the ARM ecosystem. This activity follows a busy 2016 when SoftBank acquired ARM, OpenHPC announced ARM support, ARM released its SVE spec, Fujistu chose ARM for the post K machine, and ARM acquired HPC tool provider Allinea in December. Read more…

By John Russell

Spurred by Global Ambitions, Inspur in Joint HPC Deal with DDN

January 17, 2017

Inspur, the fast-growth cloud computing and server vendor from China that has several systems on the current Top500 list, and DDN, a leader in high-end storage, have announced a joint sales and marketing agreement to produce solutions based on DDN storage platforms integrated with servers, networking, software and services from Inspur. Read more…

By Doug Black

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

UberCloud Cites Progress in HPC Cloud Computing

January 10, 2017

200 HPC cloud experiments, 80 case studies, and a ton of hands-on experience gained, that’s the harvest of four years of UberCloud HPC Experiments. Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch and Burak Yenier

A Conversation with Women in HPC Director Toni Collis

January 6, 2017

In this SC16 video interview, HPCwire Managing Editor Tiffany Trader sits down with Toni Collis, the director and founder of the Women in HPC (WHPC) network, to discuss the strides made since the organization’s debut in 2014. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Beats Azure to K80 General Availability

September 30, 2016

Amazon Web Services has seeded its cloud with Nvidia Tesla K80 GPUs to meet the growing demand for accelerated computing across an increasingly-diverse range of workloads. The P2 instance family is a welcome addition for compute- and data-focused users who were growing frustrated with the performance limitations of Amazon's G2 instances, which are backed by three-year-old Nvidia GRID K520 graphics cards. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

Vectors: How the Old Became New Again in Supercomputing

September 26, 2016

Vector instructions, once a powerful performance innovation of supercomputing in the 1970s and 1980s became an obsolete technology in the 1990s. But like the mythical phoenix bird, vector instructions have arisen from the ashes. Here is the history of a technology that went from new to old then back to new. Read more…

By Lynd Stringer

Container App ‘Singularity’ Eases Scientific Computing

October 20, 2016

HPC container platform Singularity is just six months out from its 1.0 release but already is making inroads across the HPC research landscape. It's in use at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where Singularity founder Gregory Kurtzer has worked in the High Performance Computing Services (HPCS) group for 16 years. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell EMC Engineers Strategy to Democratize HPC

September 29, 2016

The freshly minted Dell EMC division of Dell Technologies is on a mission to take HPC mainstream with a strategy that hinges on engineered solutions, beginning with a focus on three industry verticals: manufacturing, research and life sciences. "Unlike traditional HPC where everybody bought parts, assembled parts and ran the workloads and did iterative engineering, we want folks to focus on time to innovation and let us worry about the infrastructure," said Jim Ganthier, senior vice president, validated solutions organization at Dell EMC Converged Platforms Solution Division. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Beyond von Neumann, Neuromorphic Computing Steadily Advances

March 21, 2016

Neuromorphic computing – brain inspired computing – has long been a tantalizing goal. The human brain does with around 20 watts what supercomputers do with megawatts. And power consumption isn’t the only difference. Fundamentally, brains ‘think differently’ than the von Neumann architecture-based computers. While neuromorphic computing progress has been intriguing, it has still not proven very practical. Read more…

By John Russell

The Exascale Computing Project Awards $39.8M to 22 Projects

September 7, 2016

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) hit an important milestone today with the announcement of its first round of funding, moving the nation closer to its goal of reaching capable exascale computing by 2023. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

Dell Knights Landing Machine Sets New STAC Records

November 2, 2016

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, commonly known as STAC, has released a new report characterizing the performance of the Knight Landing-based Dell PowerEdge C6320p server on the STAC-A2 benchmarking suite, widely used by the financial services industry to test and evaluate computing platforms. The Dell machine has set new records for both the baseline Greeks benchmark and the large Greeks benchmark. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

What Knights Landing Is Not

June 18, 2016

As we get ready to launch the newest member of the Intel Xeon Phi family, code named Knights Landing, it is natural that there be some questions and potentially some confusion. Read more…

By James Reinders, Intel

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