The Weekly Top Five

By Tiffany Trader

May 19, 2011

The Weekly Top Five features the five biggest HPC stories of the week, condensed for your reading pleasure. This week, we cover NCSA’s newest 153-teraflop supercomputer; Dassault Systèmes latest SIMULIA Abaqus release; an optimistic forecast for technical software spending; NVIDIA’s record-setting Tesla GPU; the Fraunhofer Parallel File System upgrade.

NCSA Forges Ahead with 153-Teraflop Supercomputer

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) has begun the process of installing its newest supercomputer at the University of Illinois in the National Petascale Computing Facility’s spacious 20,000-square-foot datacenter. The 153-teraflop system known as “Forge” employs a hybrid design that leverages the power of both CPUs and GPUs. Forge will replace the organization’s Lincoln supercomputer, another hybrid system.

According to the release:

Forge will combine 18 Dell PowerEdge C6145s that contain 36 nodes of dual-socket/eight-core AMD processors, with M2070 NVIDIA Fermi GPU units housed in Dell’s C410x PCI expansion enclosures; there are eight Fermi units for each node, for a total of 288. Each NVIDIA M2070 provides more than 500 gigaflops of double-precision performance and 6GB of GDDR5 memory.

In addition to the the usual scientific workloads, Forge will support several projects that were being run on Lincoln. These include the study of protein complexes, testing for interactions between protein solutions and different drugs, and the creation of innovative versions of the MILC quantum chromodynamics code.

Forge is scheduled start production on July 1st. Allocations will be handled by the National Science Foundation TRAC process.

Dassault Systèmes Debuts SIMULIA’s Abaqus 6.11 Release

Dassault Systèmes this week debuted the latest release of the Abaqus product suite for unified finite element analysis. Available under Dassault’s SIMULIA brand, Abaqus 6.11 offers nonlinear structural optimization, coupled multiphysics, and high-performance computing technology.

Abaqus 6.11 includes more than 100 customer-requested enhancements. The Abaqus Topology Optimization Module (ATOM) is an add-on product that enables Abaqus users “to perform topology and shape optimization for single parts and assemblies, while taking into account large deformation, material nonlinearity and contact.” With a new electromagnetics solution technology, users can solve problems requiring time-harmonic eddy current analysis, such as the hardening of a bearing surface due to induction. The release also includes the capability for modeling violent free-surface flows.

SIMULIA supports customers from a wide range of industries, such as aerospace, automotive, consumer packaged goods, energy, and life sciences. According to company officials, Abaqus allows design companies and manufacturers to virtually examine the real-world physical behavior of products and materials in a time- and cost-effective manner, improving product performance and reducing reliance on physical prototypes.

Perhaps most notably, Abaqus 6.11 has been retooled to capitalize on the accelerative potential of NVIDIA Quadro and Tesla GPUs, allowing it to run computer-aided engineering (CAE) simulations twice as fast as the CPU-only variant. According to Andrew Cresci, general manager of strategic alliances in NVIDIA’s Professional Solutions Group, “the ability to run more design candidates while shortening engineering cycles is the future of computer-aided engineering.”

Dassault Systèmes also provided an overview of its 23rd annual international SIMULIA Customer Conference (SCC), which was held May 17-19, in Barcelona, Spain. The event included main stage presentations from General Motors, BD, and PSA Peugeot Citroën.

Technical Software Spending Gets Optimistic Forecast

A report from market research firm Cambashi predicts a spike in technical software application spending for 2011. The report anticipates that a worldwide revitalization will occur in 2011 and will likely have the most momentum in the aerospace and defence and the process and utility industries. According to Cambashi officials, this global resurgence is owed to increased recovery and reinvestement spending and beefed-up infrastructure.

In Cambashi’s view, the technical software space encompasses AEC (architecture, engineering & construction), geospatial (GIS) and manufacturing (CAD/CAM/CAE and PDM/PLM). The observations in this report are drawn from the Cambashi Market Observatories, which present a four-way view by country, industry, economic activity and product line.

The analysis breaks down geographically into the Americas, Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia Pacific (APAC). The Americas display strong growth in the automotive segment, despite being hit hard early on in the recession. Cambashi envisions that EMEA and APAC will have be strongest in pharma, followed by the process and utilities industries. Finally, the report presents aerospace and defence as strong growth areas for all geographic regions.

Mike Evans, research director, Cambashi, summarized his company’s findings: “As economies move cautiously out of recession, these data give companies confidence to plan for growth.”

NVIDIA Debuts Tesla M2090 GPU

NVIDIA has launched the Tesla M2090 GPU, which the company refers to in its literature as “the world’s fastest parallel processor for high performance computing.” The Tesla M2090 GPU has also sets a record for the AMBER molecular dynamics simulation, a key measure of scientific computation.

The Tesla M2090 GPU harnesses the power of 512 CUDA cores, endowing the graphics processor with 665 gigaflops of peak double-precision performance, an almost 30 percent increase over the previous generation Tesla product. The Tesla M2090 provides applications with up to a 10x speedup compared with CPU-only solutions.

The announcement cites the benefit of GPU acceleration on the performance of AMBER 11, a widely-used application for simulating the behavior of biomolecules. Four Tesla M2090 GPUs coupled with four CPUs delivered a record performance of 69 nanoseconds of simulation per day; whereas, the fastest AMBER performance recorded on a CPU-only supercomputer is 46 ns/day.

Ross Walker, assistant research professor at the San Diego Computer Center and principle contributor to the AMBER code, comments:

“This is the fastest result ever reported. With Tesla M2090 GPUs, AMBER users in university departments can obtain application performance that outstrips what is possible even with extensive supercomputer access.”

HPCwire presents feature coverage of the Tesla M2090 GPU, here.

New Fraunhofer Parallel File System Release Sets Speed Record

The Fraunhofer Parallel File System Team introduced a major new release of their file system, FhGFS, which is already being used on the 800-node cluster “LOEWE-CSC” at the Goethe University of Frankfurt, Germany — the machine currently listed at No. 22 on the TOP500 list. What’s more, FhGFS was used to set a speed record on the world’s first commercial 100 gigabit wide-area Ethernet link.

From the release:

Based on storage hardware provided by DataDirect Networks (DDN) and network equipment provided by T-Systems and Alcatel-Lucent, FhGFS delivered a sustained throughput of 12.4GB/s unidirectional and 22.95GB/s bidirectional. The latter is more than 1GB/s faster than the highest result achieved by any of the alternative parallel file systems that were benchmarked on the 400 kilometers (249 miles) connection between the German cities Dresden and Freiberg.

The new FhGFS release debuts after a year of development, and offers multiple enhancements and new features. The developers made improvements to the the internals of the distributed metadata architecture, allowing it to scale with new technologies like SSDs and manycore server platforms. A new metadata storage format keeps all file attributes, including file size and modification timestamps, directly available on the metadata servers, which eliminate the latency overhead of indirectly fetching this information from the storage servers. Additionally, users will likely appreciate the check and repair tool, detailed live statistics for clients and an enhanced graphical administration and monitoring interface.

Fraunhofer makes FhGFS available for download free of charge; however, they also offer a fully-supported commercial version.

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