Convey Debuts Second-Generation Hybrid-Core Platform

By Michael Feldman

November 9, 2010

In an HPC market that seems determined to go down the CPU-GPU path, upstart Convey Computer may yet offer a few surprises. The company today unveiled the sequel to its HC-1 platform it introduced in 2008. Called the HC-1ex, the new system adds a lot more performance and capability, but retains the original x86-FPGA co-processor design.

Convey’s first HC-1 design, unveiled at SC08, began production shipment in 2009. Although still in startup mode, Convey seems to be on sound financial footing. They collected their second round of funding last summer, bringing their total to $40 million. Since then the company has increased its head count from 25 to 55.

According to company president and CEO Bruce Toal, they now have roughly 30 customer deployments, ranging from single units up to 8-node clusters. The majority of the systems have been installed for bioinformatics, government and research applications, with financial services, energy and logic simulation also represented.

Because of the platform’s malleability, it can serve virtually any HPC application domain. The basic concept is to offer a standard x86 server platform, but accelerated by FPGAs in the guise of a co-processor. For a specific application domain (or even just a single application), the FPGAs are programmed to extend the x86 ISA with custom instructions intended to accelerate the target software. These instructions are then generated by the Convey tools during source compilation. It’s a nifty little design, and worlds away from the more typical FPGAs-as-an-afterthought HPC approach that has been used in the past.

The CPU and FPGAs are glued together via the shared memory subsystem, which blends the x86 memory to the customized high performance memory on the co-processor side. This allows both of them to work within the same cache-coherent shared memory space. The approach is quite different from a conventional HPC accelerator, which typically treats the FPGA, GPGPU, or whatever as an I/O device, hanging off a PCI-Express slot. In Convey’s model, the FPGAs are virtualized and act as a true co-processor. “It enables you to build a completely integrated compiled environment, which we believe is a fundamental element for hybrid computing,” explains Toal.

The HC-1ex is the higher end version of the HC-1 but, according to Toal, is not a replacement for the original. In the second-generation product, the company has upgraded the dual-core Xeon to a quad-core part, and increased CPU memory capacity from 64 GB to 128 GB. More importantly, though, the HC-1ex has moved up to the latest generation Xilinx Virtex-6 FPGA (the LX760) from the Virtex-5 part (the LX330) in the original HC-1. The newer 40nm FPGA offers more that three times the gates of its predecessor.

Assuming the application can take advantage of those additional gates, that translates to higher absolute performance, better price-performance and increased performance per watt. For example, using a Smith-Waterman search (a nucleotide sequencing algorithm that scales extremely well on FPGAs), the HC-1ex performed 401 times faster than a single-core Intel CPU. That’s more than twice the performance of the HC-1. The general idea is to replace multiple racks of conventional servers with a single rack of Convey gear, so as to reduce floor space requirements, power usage and overall total cost of ownership (TCO).

The first HC-1ex was deployed at Georgia Tech in September. Rich Vuduc, assistant professor School of Computational Science and Engineering, is leading a research team to apply heterogeneous computing systems to data analysis and data mining applications. With the HC-1ex , Vuduc is developing a custom FPGA personality for his particular data analytics domain. The work is being partly funded under a DARPA contract, so one could surmise the work could end up in some interesting defense- or security-related applications .

Beyond the HC-1ex unveiling, Convey is also announcing some new partnerships this week. These include Panasas, AutoESL, Impulse, Jacquard Computing, and Voci Technologies. The Panasas collaboration will bring the company’s storage client software into the Convey OS and cluster framework software. The next three, AutoESL, Impulse and Jacquard, are providing higher level FPGA programming tools to help develop co-processor personalities.

The last-mentioned partner, Voci, is actually OEMing the Convey gear in the form of a speech recognition appliance. Called V-Blaze, the appliance can process a hundred phone conversations in real time and convert the conversations to text. The idea here is to be to transform phone conversations into text, which can then be keyword searched for further analysis. One application would be call center monitoring. Purportedly, the V-Blaze appliance delivers much better resolution and lower error rates than commercial voice recognition products. That’s 100x better than a single CPU could accomplish and perhaps 10x better than a GPGPU implementation.

The Voci collaboration is a good example of how Convey can expand its market other than through direct end user sales. But Toal does expect to see sizable growth in such sales over the next year, thanks to a larger distribution channel and the additional technology partnerships, not to mention the new HC-1ex offering. Fighting the GPGPU juggernaut won’t be easy, but the true believers at Convey seem determined to do so.

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!

New Exascale System for Earth Simulation Introduced

April 23, 2018

After four years of development, the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) will be unveiled today and released to the broader scientific community this month. The E3SM project is supported by the Department of Energy Read more…

By Staff

RSC Reports 500Tflops, Hot Water Cooled System Deployed at JINR

April 18, 2018

RSC, developer of supercomputers and advanced HPC systems based in Russia, today reported deployment of “the world's first 100% ‘hot water’ liquid cooled supercomputer” at Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JI Read more…

By Staff

New Device Spots Quantum Particle ‘Fingerprint’

April 18, 2018

Majorana particles have been observed by university researchers employing a device consisting of layers of magnetic insulators on a superconducting material. The advance opens the door to controlling the elusive particle Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Hybrid HPC is Speeding Time to Insight and Revolutionizing Medicine

High performance computing (HPC) is a key driver of success in many verticals today, and health and life science industries are extensively leveraging these capabilities. Read more…

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’s introduction of an ARM-based system (XC-50) last November. Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’ Read more…

By John Russell

IBM: Software Ecosystem for OpenPOWER is Ready for Prime Time

April 16, 2018

With key pieces of the IBM/OpenPOWER versus Intel/x86 gambit settling into place – e.g., the arrival of Power9 chips and Power9-based systems, hyperscaler sup Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cloud-Readiness and Looking Beyond Application Scaling

April 11, 2018

There are two aspects to consider when determining if an application is suitable for running in the cloud. The first, which we will discuss here under the title Read more…

By Chris Downing

Transitioning from Big Data to Discovery: Data Management as a Keystone Analytics Strategy

April 9, 2018

The past 10-15 years has seen a stark rise in the density, size, and diversity of scientific data being generated in every scientific discipline in the world. Key among the sciences has been the explosion of laboratory technologies that generate large amounts of data in life-sciences and healthcare research. Large amounts of data are now being stored in very large storage name spaces, with little to no organization and a general unease about how to approach analyzing it. Read more…

By Ari Berman, BioTeam, Inc.

IBM Expands Quantum Computing Network

April 5, 2018

IBM is positioning itself as a first mover in establishing the era of commercial quantum computing. The company believes in order for quantum to work, taming qu Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

FY18 Budget & CORAL-2 – Exascale USA Continues to Move Ahead

April 2, 2018

It was not pretty. However, despite some twists and turns, the federal government’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget is complete and ended with some very positi Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Nvidia Ups Hardware Game with 16-GPU DGX-2 Server and 18-Port NVSwitch

March 27, 2018

Nvidia unveiled a raft of new products from its annual technology conference in San Jose today, and despite not offering up a new chip architecture, there were still a few surprises in store for HPC hardware aficionados. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

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

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

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

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

Leading Solution Providers

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC and AI – Two Communities Same Future

January 25, 2018

According to Al Gara (Intel Fellow, Data Center Group), high performance computing and artificial intelligence will increasingly intertwine as we transition to Read more…

By Rob Farber

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Te Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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