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!

Scalable Informatics Ceases Operations

March 23, 2017

On the same day we reported on the uncertain future for HPC compiler company PathScale, we are sad to learn that another HPC vendor, Scalable Informatics, is closing its doors. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Strategies in Biomedical Data Science’ Advances IT-Research Synergies

March 23, 2017

“Strategies in Biomedical Data Science: Driving Force for Innovation” by Jay A. Etchings is both an introductory text and a field guide for anyone working with biomedical data. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its assets. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Launches New Machine Learning Journal

March 22, 2017

On Monday, Google announced plans to launch a new peer review journal and “ecosystem” Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HFT Firms Turn to Co-Location to Gain Competitive Advantage

High-frequency trading (HFT) is a high-speed, high-stakes world where every millisecond matters. Finding ways to execute trades faster than the competition translates directly to greater revenue for firms, brokerages, and exchanges. Read more…

Swiss Researchers Peer Inside Chips with Improved X-Ray Imaging

March 22, 2017

Peering inside semiconductor chips using x-ray imaging isn’t new, but the technique hasn’t been especially good or easy to accomplish. Read more…

By John Russell

LANL Simulation Shows Massive Black Holes Break ‘Speed Limit’

March 21, 2017

A new computer simulation based on codes developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is shedding light on how supermassive black holes could have formed in the early universe contrary to most prior models which impose a limit on how fast these massive ‘objects’ can form. Read more…

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Ships Drives Based on 3D XPoint Non-volatile Memory

March 20, 2017

Intel Corp. has begun shipping new storage drives based on its 3D XPoint non-volatile memory technology as it targets data-driven workloads. Intel’s new Optane solid-state drives, designated P4800X, seek to combine the attributes of memory and storage in the same device. Read more…

By George Leopold

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its assets. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the campaign. Read more…

By John Russell

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Japanese Supercomputing Project Targets Exascale

March 14, 2017

Another Japanese supercomputing project was revealed this week, this one from emerging supercomputer maker, ExaScaler Inc., and Keio University. The partners are working on an original supercomputer design with exascale aspirations. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Debuts HGX-1 for Cloud; Announces Fujitsu AI Deal

March 9, 2017

On Monday Nvidia announced a major deal with Fujitsu to help build an AI supercomputer for RIKEN using 24 DGX-1 servers. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC4Mfg Advances State-of-the-Art for American Manufacturing

March 9, 2017

Last Friday (March 3, 2017), the High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) program held an industry engagement day workshop in San Diego, bringing together members of the US manufacturing community, national laboratories and universities to discuss the role of high-performance computing as an innovation engine for American manufacturing. 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

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular offerings such as Caffe, Theano, and Torch. 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

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

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

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

Leading Solution Providers

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the campaign. 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

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel and Trump Announce $7B for Fab 42 Targeting 7nm

February 8, 2017

In what may be an attempt by President Trump to reset his turbulent relationship with the high tech industry, he and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich today announced plans to invest more than $7 billion to complete Fab 42. Read more…

By John Russell

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

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