SGI Gets Its Mojo Working for Supercomputing Conference

By Michael Feldman

November 15, 2010

SGI has made good on its promise to create a petaflop-in-a-cabinet supercomputer that can scale up to tens and even hundreds of cabinets. Developed under the code name “Project Mojo,” the company has dubbed the new product Prism XL. SGI will be showcasing the system this week in their exhibit booth at the Supercomputing Conference in New Orleans.

Not surprisingly, the Prism system relies on accelerator technology to deliver so much computational brawn. Specifically, SGI is supporting configurations with NVIDIA Tesla GPUs, AMD/ATI GPUs, and Tilera processors. The central idea was to create an open and scalable platform that exploited all the advantages of accelerator technology, namely lower cost, better energy efficiency, and a smaller footprint. According to Bill Mannel, SGI’s VP of product marketing, what they’ve achieved with Prism is a system that costs about 25 percent less than a comparable x86-based supercomputer, and in just one-tenth the floor space.

Computational density was a central goal of Project Mojo. “Around this time last year, a set of SGI executives, including myself, sat in a room in Austin Texas and asked ‘How can we put a petaflop in a single cabinet?'” explains Mannel. “And that was how the Project Mojo product got started.”

The design went through a number of iterations. The original focus was on ATI GPUs since, at least at the time, they offered the most performant processors. (Arguably they still do; the top-end ATI Radeon 5970 chip delivers 4.64 single precision teraflops or 928 double precision gigaflops.) Mannel says that customer feedback drove them to a more general-purpose design that could accommodate virtually any accelerator that was PCIe-friendly.

The first Prism systems available in December can be ordered with NVIDIA Tesla M2050 or M2070 modules, AMD FireStream 9370 (“Osprey”) cards, or 64-core Tilera processor. In January, SGI intends to add support for the AMD FireStream 9350 (“Kestrel”). Mannel says SGI is also considering offering the aforementioned Radeon HD 5970 as an option at some point. Presumably Prism could also be equipped with Intel’s upcoming Many Integrated Core (MIC) “Knights Corner” accelerator further down the road. SGI wouldn’t commit to a future MIC offering, other than to say that they are “giving it serious consideration.”

The Prism design centers around maximizing the number of PCIe interfaces, and thus the number of accelerator cards, that can be packed into a standard rack. Each of the slots are PCIe Gen 2 x16 interfaces, so every accelerator can enjoy full I/O bandwidth to the motherboard. The slot can draw up to 300 watts, which is designed to accommodate all current accelerator cards — the current crop of GPGPUs top out at about 250 watts — as well as all future ones on the major vendors’ roadmaps.

The basic component of a Prism system is a “stick,” a modular enclosure that is indeed stick-like — 5.78 inch wide, 3.34 inch high, and 37 inches deep. Each one is powered by a 1050 watt power supply, and despite the density, the whole apparatus is air-cooled. A 42U rack can be outfitted with up to 63 sticks, in a 3-by-21 honeycomb pattern. The sticks are very much plug and play; you can actually take one out of a rack and plug it into a wall socket in a lab or office should you need to do some local development work.

Inside each stick are two of what SGI calls “slices”, which are essentially nodes. Each slice is comprised of a CPU, one double-wide or two single wide accelerators, and up to two SATA disks. The CPU chosen for this task is an AMD Opteron 4100 “Lisbon” processor, which is housed on a “node board.” SGI opted for the no-frills, lower-power Lisbon processor (basically half a Magny-Cours Opteron) since its principle function is to drive the accelerator, rather than delivering a lot of compute on its own. Up to four DDR3 memory slots, operating at 1333 MHz, are available on the node board.

The default network is GigE, but a separate low profile PCIe slot is available on each slice for an InfiniBand adapter– either single plane or dual plane. This PCIe interface could theoretically be used to stuff another accelerator onto the node (and customers have asked for such an option), but SGI doesn’t currently support that configuration. The company also doesn’t support a 10 GbE option yet, although there’s nothing preventing the customer from plugging in their own adapters. One might wonder why SGI just didn’t slap an InfiniBand or 10 GbE chip down on the node board, but it looks like the rationale was to minimize the common infrastructure as much as possible, and let the customers upscale the configuration as needed via all the PCIe slots.

Since each stick has two slices, a maximally configured one can house 2 CPUs and 4 GPUs. This is how SGI is able to get their peak petaflop in a single cabinet. A cabinet in this case is what SGI calls their M-Rack, an extra-wide double rack with a switch rack in the middle. Since it’s basically two 42U compute racks, you can house 500 single-wide GPUs in it. If those are 2 teraflop AMD FireStream 9350s, you’ve got your petaflop, but just single precision.

Of course, many HPC customers are going to opt for NVIDIA’s Fermi GPUs, since they have up-market features like ECC memory, which is crucial for a lot of heavy-duty computing. In this case though, a cabinet would only yield about 250 single precision teraflops. Of course since the Prism is designed for future accelerators, it won’t be too many years before we’ll be getting a full double precision petaflop in a cabinet.

SGI is targeting Prism at market segments that contain the most enthusiastic early adopters of HPC accelerators, namely oil and gas, media/rendering, education, research, defense/intelligence, and bio/pharma. A number of companies in these areas have already deployed accelerator-based machines — mostly GPU-equipped servers — and these customers would be the ones most likely interested in scaling up to a Prism XL.

The Tilera acceleration option is somewhat of a different animal. In this case, the user is not concerned with FLOPS, since these manycore processors are rather weak in the floating point department.  The intention here is to deliver lots of integer operations in a very power-efficient package. The 64-core Tilera chip delivers 443 billion operations per second, yet consume only about 20 watts. According to Mannel, Tilera deployments are intended to be used in places where FPGA acceleration has been used in the past, for example, in encryption, image and signal processing; network packet inspection, web/content delivery, and media format conversion.

Unlike FPGAs, Tilera processors can be programmed with conventional tools and language frameworks, making application development and maintenance much less complicated. That wouldn’t necessarily rule out a future FPGA accelerator for Prism though. Mannel, in fact, says a few customers are interested in such an option.

With all different accelerator options, SGI is relying mainly on third-party vendors for software support. This includes compilers, drivers, and libraries from NVIDIA, AMD and Tilera for their respective hardware. SGI is also packaging development tools from Allinea, CAPS Enterprise, Portland Group, and Rogue Wave. For job scheduling, they offer Altair PBS Professional, which is conveniently accelerator-aware, while SGI’s own Management Center is used for system management. OS support for the initial offering is Red Hat RHEL 5.5 and CentOS 5.5.

As of this writing, Prism XL pricing was not available, but one would expect to pay some premium compared to vanilla CPU-GPU server-based systems on the market today.  The first Prisms will be available for shipping in December.

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

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

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

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