With Windows Support, SGI Casts Altix UV in New Light

By Michael Feldman

April 3, 2011

SGI has been getting a lot of mileage out of its SGI UV shared memory platform, having delivered close to 500 systems since it started shipping them in June 2010. Now, with the recent addition of support for Microsoft’s Windows Server, the company is looking to expand its customer base in a big way.

Altix UV, SGI’s latest generation shared-memory supercomputer, was introduced at the Supercomputing Conference in November 2009. It uses SGI’s fifth generation NUMAlink interconnect technology and Intel “Nehalem” Xeon processors to construct HPC-class SMP server nodes. The interconnect, along with the special UV hub chip, glue all the processors and memory together so that they can be operated as a monolithic resource. A fully tricked-out Altix UV 1000 will have 2,048 cores (4,096 threads via HyperThreading) and 16 TB of globally shared memory. A maximally configured machine represents 18.5 teraflops of peak performance.

Being able to command all that power within a single system image has a number of advantages, the main one being you can run standard (non-MPI) applications on a machine that for all intents and purposes behaves as an enormous PC with gobs of cores and memory at its disposal. And, by definition, such a system doesn’t require the complex set-up, software licensing, and maintenance of a distributed cluster platform — not an easy task as you approach the 1000-core realm.

Up until a few weeks ago, Altix UV came only with Linux, either Novell’s SUSE or Red Hat’s enterprise version. In early March, support was added for Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2. The first iteration supported up to 128 cores and 1 TB of memory. On March 25, the company announced Windows Server was certified to the OS’s maximum reach: 256 cores and 2 TB of memory.

IBM and HP also have large shared memory x86-based servers with Windows Server support. But IBM’s X3950 and HP’s Proliant DL980 G7 top out at 96 and 64, respectively — well below the Windows Server limits. “Our engineering work finally brings Windows into true scalability,” says SGI CEO Mark Barrenechea.

On the other hand, Itanium-based platforms on Windows can scale to 128 cores. But with the new UV-Windows set-up, those customers (principally HP Integrity users) can now migrate their codes to SGI UV gear and achieve even greater scalability, at least on the core-count side. Itaniums still prevail in memory reach, being able to access up 128 TB.

Barrenechea says they’re targeting two major application areas with this system, the first being SGI’s traditional technical computing market. The top five application suites they expect will take advantage of the Windows-UV combo are ANSYS FLUENT, MATLAB, Mathematica, LS-Dyna, and Accelerys. These run the gamut from CFD and FEA, to computational chemistry and computational biology.

The idea here is to allow scientists to take their PC-based codes and easily slide them into these big memory UV machines with little if any porting work. In some cases, they won’t even need to perform a recompilation. A PC binary should be able to run unaltered on the Xeon-based machine (although maybe not optimally), and if the code was written correctly, will automagically take advantage of the larger memory. Of course, to utilize additional UV cores, the developer will have to parallelize the code via OpenMP threading or the equivalent.

But many of these applications are constrained only by available memory, (requiring just one to four threads to do their job). Since a typical PC isn’t going to have more than a few gigabytes of RAM, the data sizes are going to be rather limited when it comes a traditional HPC simulation code. Even a relatively modest-sized four-dimensional array of 1000 x 1000 x 1000 x 1000 byte-sized elements (for say a 3D object moving through time) will occupy an entire terabyte.

At the recent HPCC conference in Newport, Rhode Island, SGI CTO Dr. Eng Lim Goh demonstrated a simulation of the human heart developed at the University of Montreal. On a laptop, because of the limited memory, it could only be run with 60 million grid points. That delivered a rather poor resolution of the heart in action. Moving it to an Altix UV machine with 1.2 TB of memory, the model was expanded to 2 billion grid points, providing a much more realistic model.

At that scale, the simulation still took two weeks to compute a single heartbeat. Goh suggested that parallelizing the code to take advantage of the additional UV cores (768 in this case) might be able speed up the model to something close to real-time.

But big memory is not just for technical workloads. The second major application area for a Windows-capable Altix UV is on the enterprise side, in the realm of data-intensive applications. In particular, we’re talking about data warehousing, data mining, business intelligence and related types of tools. The driver behind these applications is Microsoft’s SQL Server, whose support was added in conjunction with the Windows Server OS.

This area represents a new market for SGI, although some of these customers have HPC leanings as well. In general, though, any informatics-type application that encapsulates terascale-sized structured databases is fair game for an Altix UV. The fact that many of these codes are developed in and for a Microsoft environment means there is now an easier path to greater scalability.

Barrenechea considers SGI’s entry into Microsoft’s software ecosystem a significant step for them. “Sure, we’ve supported Windows and certified it,” he says, ‘but it’s a new focus for the company.”

Of course, Linux will be the operating system of choice for most HPC users. And, in fact, Altix UV scalability is still better on that OS. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 reaches to 8 TB of memory, while SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 hits the full 16 TB. Conveniently, Linux also supports all 2,048 cores of a top-end UV, although it’s hard to imagine an SMP-based code scaled to that level.

It should be noted that the memory limit on the Altix UV is actually constrained by the current generation of Xeon chips, whose 44-bit addressing scheme maxes out at 16 TB. If your data outgrows that capacity, Intel’s next-generation “Sandy Bridge” Xeons will add a couple more bits to quadruple its memory reach to 64 TB. According to SGI’s Goh, the company plans to support the new chips in an upcoming version of the Altix UV, and already have one order for such a system.

Core counts on the next-generation Altix UV may rise as well, although the most acute demand will remain on the memory capacity side. In any case, one or more of the supported OS’s will likely be tweaked to support any new limits SGI comes up with in future UV hardware.

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

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

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

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