TACC Steps Up to the MIC

By Michael Feldman

April 21, 2011

As Intel prepares to roll out its Many Integrated Core (MIC) technology for commercial production in 2012, it has managed to entice a major US supercomputing center to start porting some of its science codes to the new architecture. The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) announced it has teamed up with the chipmaker and begun porting a handful of research applications to the pre-production “Knights Ferry” MIC processor. Later this year, TACC will build a cluster of such chips for further development, with the intent to deploy a system based on the commercial “Knights Corner” MIC processor when Intel starts production.

MIC represents Intel’s entry into the HPC processor accelerator sweepstakes, as the company attempts to perform an end-run around GPU computing. Mainly thanks to NVIDIA, over the last few years GPU computing, aka GPGPU, has become a mainstream HPC solution across workstations, clusters and supercomputers. They rely on specialized programming environments, like CUDA and OpenCL, to develop software on those platforms.

As suggested by its name, MIC is essentially an x86 processor, with more cores (but simpler ones) than a standard x86 CPU, an extra-wide SIMD unit for heavy duty vector math, and four-way SMT threading. As such, it’s meant to speed up codes that can exploit much higher levels of parallelization than can be had on standard x86 parts.

Knights Ferry is Intel’s development implementation spun out of the chipmaker’s abandoned Larrabee processor effort for visual computing. The chip sports 32 IA cores and runs at 1.2 GHz. Since each core supports a four-way SMP (as opposed to the two-way HyperThreading on Xeons), each chip can manage up to 128 threads in parallel. Memory-wise, Knights Ferry has 8 MB of cache and 1 to 2 GB of GPU-flavored GDDR5 DRAM. Like its current GPGPU competition, Knights Ferry is meant to be hooked up to a PCIe bus, acting as a co-processor to a standard x86 CPU.

Knights Corner will be Intel’s first commercial version of MIC, will have upwards of 50 cores per chip, and will be implemented on the company’s 22nm process technology. Although no official date has been announced for the commercial launch, according to a presentation by Intel research engineer Pradeep Dubey at the recent 2011 Open Fabrics International Workshop in Monterey, Knights Corner is slated for release sometime in the second half of 2012.

At this point, TACC is using the MIC software development kit (SDK), employing a Knights Ferry chip attached to a single machine. According to TACC’s deputy director Dan Stanzione, they are planning to build a “relatively small” cluster of Knights Ferry-equipped nodes to test codes in a distributed computing environment before the end of the year.

On Thursday, I spoke with Stanzione, who was very upbeat about the new architecture, noting that the x86 compatibility is a big deal for TeraGrid researchers. In aggregate, they have a massive investment in their science codes, numbering in the hundreds.

“This is a way to get a dramatically better power per operation without having to throw out everything we know about software,” he said, adding, “I’m really excited about this as a path forward. I think it has the potential to be a real game-changer.”

One nice feature of MIC programming is that it inherently supports OpenMP, a popular parallel computing model for shared memory environments. And since Intel’s HPC tool chain — Parallel Studio and Cluster Studio — has been extended to the MIC architecture, the programmer can even stay in the same development environment for both its Xeon and MIC work — which, of course, Intel would like very much.

The result is that OpenMP code written for four-core or six-core x86 CPUs, like some of the ones TACC has started porting, should move rather easily to a 32-core MIC co-processor. “Getting the codes to run the first time is pretty simple,” Stanzione said, adding that when they move to the MIC cluster, they’ll have to figure out how to layer an MPI distributed memory model on top of that.

According to him, they’ve already ported a bunch of benchmark codes and have started with the applications. One is a bio-modeling app, which attempts to detect epistatic interactions (how genes modify each other to express a phenotype) across a corn genome. The code was thousands of lines long, but because it was parallelized via OpenMP, it moved to MIC with minimal restructuring.

Although TACC has committed resources to the MIC effort, Stanzione said they are evaluating hardware and software accelerator approaches across the spectrum, most notably using CUDA and OpenCL on GPUs. (TACC’s Longhorn supercomputer is currently the center’s largest GPU platform, sporting 512 NVIDIA Tesla processors.) Although it’s too early to compare performance across specific applications, it’s already apparent that porting is much simpler with Intel’s offering.

“Moving a code to MIC might involve sitting down and adding a couple of lines of directives that takes a few minutes,” explained Stanzione. “Moving a code to a GPU is a project.”

Although measuring performance is still a work in progress, the early results on scaling appear to be encouraging. According to Stanzione, doubling the number of MIC cores has roughly doubled the performance on some of the initial codes. They expect to be able to say a lot more about performance when they get the Knights Corner commercial parts.

From Intel’s point of view, getting TACC to sign on to MIC development is a big boost for its manycore effort. Assuming the porting goes as planned, the chipmaker will be able to point to a nice set of proof points based on real-world HPC applications. According to John Hengeveld, Intel’s director of technical compute marketing for its datacenter group, they’ll be able to incorporate TACC’s experience into the upcoming delivery of Knights Corner parts and software. “Having a partner that is helping us work on issues of scalability and optimization is really quite valuable,” he explained.

Although TACC is the first big HPC organization with a committed roadmap for MIC development, they won’t be the last. Intel currently has about 100 MIC developers scattered around, and according to Hengeveld, they’ll be announcing some bigger collaborations in the months ahead. And as we get closer to MIC’s commercial release, the news surrounding the new architecture should start to pick up. “We’ll be talking a lot more about this at ISC,” promised Hengeveld.

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!

ASC18: Final Results Revealed & Wrapped Up

May 17, 2018

It was an exciting week at ASC18 in Nanyang, China. The student teams braved extreme heat, extremely difficult applications, and extreme competition in order to cross the cluster competition finish line. The gala awards ceremony took place on Wednesday. The auditorium was packed with student teams, various dignitaries, the media, and other interested parties. So what happened? Read more…

By Dan Olds

ASC18: Tough Applications & Tough Luck

May 17, 2018

The applications at the ASC18 Student Cluster Competition were tough. Tougher than the $3.99 steak special at your local greasy spoon restaurant. The apps are so tough that even Chuck Norris backs away from them slowly. Read more…

By Dan Olds

Spring Meetings Underscore Quantum Computing’s Rise

May 17, 2018

The month of April 2018 saw four very important and interesting meetings to discuss the state of quantum computing technologies, their potential impacts, and the technology challenges ahead. These discussions happened in Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPC and AI Convergence is Accelerating New Levels of Intelligence

Data analytics is the most valuable tool in the digital marketplace – so much so that organizations are employing high performance computing (HPC) capabilities to rapidly collect, share, and analyze endless streams of data. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Mastering the Big Data Challenge in Cognitive Healthcare

Patrick Chain, genomics researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory, posed a question in a recent blog: What if a nurse could swipe a patient’s saliva and run a quick genetic test to determine if the patient’s sore throat was caused by a cold virus or a bacterial infection? Read more…

Quantum Network Hub Opens in Japan

May 17, 2018

Following on the launch of its Q Commercial quantum network last December with 12 industrial and academic partners, the official Japanese hub at Keio University is now open to facilitate the exploration of quantum applications important to science and business. The news comes a week after IBM announced that North Carolina State University was the first U.S. university to join its Q Network. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ASC18: Final Results Revealed & Wrapped Up

May 17, 2018

It was an exciting week at ASC18 in Nanyang, China. The student teams braved extreme heat, extremely difficult applications, and extreme competition in order to cross the cluster competition finish line. The gala awards ceremony took place on Wednesday. The auditorium was packed with student teams, various dignitaries, the media, and other interested parties. So what happened? Read more…

By Dan Olds

Spring Meetings Underscore Quantum Computing’s Rise

May 17, 2018

The month of April 2018 saw four very important and interesting meetings to discuss the state of quantum computing technologies, their potential impacts, and th Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Quantum Network Hub Opens in Japan

May 17, 2018

Following on the launch of its Q Commercial quantum network last December with 12 industrial and academic partners, the official Japanese hub at Keio University is now open to facilitate the exploration of quantum applications important to science and business. The news comes a week after IBM announced that North Carolina State University was the first U.S. university to join its Q Network. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Democratizing HPC: OSC Releases Version 1.3 of OnDemand

May 16, 2018

Making HPC resources readily available and easier to use for scientists who may have less HPC expertise is an ongoing challenge. Open OnDemand is a project by t Read more…

By John Russell

PRACE 2017 Annual Report: Exascale Aspirations; Industry Collaboration; HPC Training

May 15, 2018

The Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) today released its annual report showcasing 2017 activities and providing a glimpse into thinking about Read more…

By John Russell

US Forms AI Brain Trust

May 11, 2018

Amid calls for a U.S. strategy for promoting AI development, the Trump administration is forming a senior-level panel to help coordinate government and industry research efforts. The Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence was announced Thursday (May 10) during a White House summit organized by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Read more…

By George Leopold

Emerging Advanced Scale Tech Trends Focus of Annual Tabor Conference

May 9, 2018

At Tabor Communications' annual Advanced Scale Forum (ASF) held this week in Austin, the focus was on enterprise adoption of HPC-class technologies and high performance data analytics (HPDA). It’s a confab that brings together end users (CIOs, IT planners, department heads) and vendors and encourages... Read more…

By the Editorial Team

Google I/O 2018: AI Everywhere; TPU 3.0 Delivers 100+ Petaflops but Requires Liquid Cooling

May 9, 2018

All things AI dominated discussion at yesterday’s opening of Google’s I/O 2018 developers meeting covering much of Google's near-term product roadmap. The e Read more…

By John Russell

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leading Solution Providers

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

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

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

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

HPE Wins $57 Million DoD Supercomputing Contract

February 20, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today revealed details of its massive $57 million HPC contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The deal calls for HP Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CFO Steps down in Executive Shuffle at Supermicro

January 31, 2018

Supermicro yesterday announced senior management shuffling including prominent departures, the completion of an audit linked to its delayed Nasdaq filings, and Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Portends ‘Sea Change’ for Oil and Gas Sector

February 1, 2018

The billowing compute and data demands that spurred the oil and gas industry to be the largest commercial users of high-performance computing are now propelling Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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