The Weekly Top Five

By Tiffany Trader

April 7, 2011

The Weekly Top Five features the five biggest HPC stories of the week, condensed for your reading pleasure. This week, we cover Intel’s “Westmere EX” launch party; the Albert Einstein Institute’s new cluster; TACC’s Lonestar 4 inauguration; Penguin Computing’s financial markets server; and NextIO’s partnership with Bright Computing.

Intel Launches New Westmere EX Processor Family

This week Intel Corp. announced a new family of server processors designed to accelerate mission-critical computing. The new Xeon E7 processor family (codenamed “Westmere EX”) is targeted at the kind of data-intensive applications used in business intelligence, real-time data analytics and virtualization.

Based on a 32-nanometer (nm) process technology, the new Intel Xeon CPUs support up to 10 cores with Intel Hyper-Threading Technology, and, according to the company, deliver up to 40 percent greater performance than the previous generation Xeon 7500 (“Nehalem EX”) processors. Datacenter managers will welcome new security features, such as Intel Advanced Encryption Standard New Instruction (AES-NI) and Intel Trusted Execution Technology (Intel TXT).

The Xeon E7 chips are garnering a lot of support from server makers with more than 35 E7-based platforms already shipping. The list of OEM partners includes AMAX, Bull, Cisco, Cray, Dawning, Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, Huawei, IBM, Inspur, Lenovo, NEC, Oracle, PowerLeader, Quanta, SGI, Supermicro and Unisys.

To get a better sense of how this news affects the HPC space, check out our feature coverage. Editor Michael Feldman explains that while “the principle destination for these chips will be ‘mission-critical’ enterprise servers…, a number of vendors — SGI, Cray, Supermicro, and AMAX, thus far — are also using the E7s to build scaled-up HPC machinery.”

Albert Einstein Institute Sees Stars with New Cluster

The Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Potsdam, Germany, has inaugurated a new high performance computer, named “Datura.” The ceremony took place during a symposium about “German High Performance Computing in the new Decade,” where leaders from different institutions met to exchange ideas.

The 25.5 teraflop machine contains 2,400 processors in 200 servers, and comes equipped with 4.8 terabytes of memory. The supercomputer architecture employs NEC’s LX parts, which rely on standard components and open-source software.

Datura will be used to simulate collisions of black holes and neutron stars. Prof. Luciano Rezzolla, head of the Numerical Relativity Group, expounds on the significance of the new system:

“By studying the behaviour of neutron stars and black holes for a longer period of time in our ‘virtual laboratory’ we expect to find new phenomena. Moreover we will be able to produce even more precise predictions for the characteristic forms of gravitational wave signals, because we can model the motion of these in-spiralling neutron stars and black holes for a longer period of time.”

TACC Welcomes ‘Lonestar 4’ Supercomputer

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) deployed its newest Lonestar supercomputer this week. Lonestar 4 replaces the previous Lonestar system, which was a productive part of the NSF TeraGrid network for almost four years. The new supercomputer is the result of a $12 million project that involved multiple partners, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Texas System, the UT Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University.

Vendor parters Dell, Intel, Mellanox Technologies and Data Direct Networks all contributed to creating one of the most powerful academic supercomputers in the world. Lonestar 4 was designed with 1,888 Dell M610 PowerEdge blade servers, which each employ two six-core Intel Xeon 5600 “Westmere” processors. Additional specs include 44.3 terabytes total memory and 1.2 petabytes raw disk. With 302 teraflops of processing power, Lonestar 4 is the third largest system on the NSF TeraGrid. It will provide almost 200 million processor core hours per year to the national scientific community.

While Lonestar 4 can and will be used to support a multitude of scientific disciplines, it will be particularly adept at modeling solid earth geophysics, where specific tasks involve seismic wave propagation, mantle convection and the dynamics of polar ice sheets.

Omar Ghattas, the Jackson Chair in Computational Geosciences in the departments of Geological Sciences and Mechanical Engineering and in the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES) at The University of Texas at Austin, cited further evidence of Lonestar’s value to the geoscience community:

“Geophysical simulations are characterized by a number of computational challenges, including a wide range of length and time scales, highly heterogeneous media, a need for dynamically adaptive resolution and assimilating sparse observational data into the simulations. All of these significantly stress the hardware system. Lonestar 4’s much greater memory bandwidth, faster CPU clock speed, and faster interconnect relative to other TeraGrid systems combine to promise substantially faster turn-around time for our simulations.”

Penguin Computing Introduces New Server to Wall Street

At the the 8th Annual HPC Linux Financial Markets Conference (aka HPC on Wall Street Conference) in New York City this week, Penguin Computing debuted its Altus 1750 server, a dual socket 1U system purpose-built to support the fastest clock speeds available for AMD Opteron x86 chips. In addition to its high frequency CPUs, the server’s dense design and low power draw make it a good fit for high frequency trading and other low latency applications.

Penguin has portrayed the solution as offering a competitive price/performance combination among comparable high clock speed (including over-clocked) systems. According to the press release, the Altus 1750 is the only platform of its kind to implement AMD Opteron CPUs.

Penguin Computing CEO Charles Wuischpard, comments on the server:

“Altus 1750 combines AMD’s industry leading multicore processors with raw GHz performance that’s uniquely ours. As an AMD Platinum Elite partner we are fully committed to providing best-in-class AMD solutions for the scientific and financial communities.”

NextIO and Bright Computing Combine Talents

Another solution aimed at the financial community was unleashed at HPC Linux Financial Markets Conference this past week, this one from NextIO and Bright Computing. The duo announced a joint GPGPU cluster computing and cluster management solution that will leverage Bright Computing’s software to monitor metrics from NextIO’s GPU-based processing products. Two new NextIO appliances, vCORE Express and vCORE Extreme, will implement  Bright Cluster Manager, Bright Computing’s cluster management software.

NextIO solutions employ GPU technology to accelerate computationally-intensive applications, like those found in business, oil and gas, high performance computing, digital media and financial services. Andy Walsh, director of Tesla Marketing at NVIDIA, conveys the relevance of GPU computing to the financial industry:

“The banking and financial services sector relies on computation to stay competitive and many firms are looking to GPU computing to accelerate their applications. The NextIO system combined with the Bright Cluster Manager responds to this need, giving firms powerful cluster performance and ease of manageability.”

Dr. Matthijs van Leeuwen, CEO of Bright Computing, explains that Bright Cluster Manager gives NextIO customers “full visibility of all metrics down to the individual GPU, as part of an intuitive, GUI-driven provisioning, monitoring, and management capability,” adding that “NextIO customers benefit from incredible compute power, without nasty surprises or system management headaches.”

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