Supercomputing in Transition

By Michael Feldman

June 16, 2011

Next week the HPC digerati will descend upon the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Hamburg, Germany. As the European counterbalance to the larger Supercomputing Conference (SC) in the US, ISC strives for a more international flavor and a more intimate vibe — although with 2,300-plus attendees and 152 exhibitors registered this year, it’s definitely starting to feel like a smaller version of SC.

Occurring on the cusp of the spring-summer transition, ISC manages to fill a seasonal void for HPC vendors looking to introduce products or talk up new technologies and strategies in the middle of the year. While there will be a flurry of vendor announcements this year, I think a lot of the talk is going to be around technology.

HPC is in one of those fundamental transitions right now as it shifts from monolithic CPU-based systems to heterogeneous platforms. That’s changing the hardware and software fundamentals of high performance computing, not to mention the vendor and geographic supercomputing landscape.

Terms that were alien to HPC a few short years ago — GPU computing, CUDA, OpenCL, APUs, manycore processors, Chinese supercomputers — are now part of the vernacular. With chip giants like Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA all offering (or soon offering) accelerator products for HPC, and software support racing to catch up, we are seeing an architectural shift as profound as the 1990s-era transition from proprietary vector and MPP supercomputers to commodity clusters.

It’s now pretty much an accepted fact that the petascale age will be chock full of heterogeneous computer systems. It’s fairly safe to say that most, if not all, architectures for exascale systems, will have a significant heterogeneous component to them — most likely with on-chip floating point accelerators. Whether these are integrated GPUs, Intel’s Many Integrated Core (MIC) processors, or some other variation of a fat core-thin core design, remains to be seen.

As you might imagine, there will be a number of sessions at ISC on this topic set including a panel that tackles the subject head-on: Heterogeneous Systems & Their Challenges to HPC Systems, which gets under way on Monday afternoon.

Berkeley Lab’s John Shalf hosts the panel, which includes Cray CTO Steve Scott, Intel researcher Pradeep Dubey, the University of Heidelberg’s Rainer Spurzem, and Kai Lu of China’s National University of Defense Technology (NUDT).

With the Cray unveiling of their new XK6 GPU super fresh in his mind, Scott is liable to devote some attention to the joys and heartache of CPU-GPU heterogeneity and the importance of offering a portable, productive, high-level software environment for this environment. Cray is pushing for OpenMP accelerator extensions to fill the void here, so I’d expect that be part of his spiel.

Intel’s Pradeep Dubey was one of the authors of a 2010 paper that aimed to debunk the 100X to 1000X performance improvements claimed for GPUs (compared to CPUs). Given that Dubey is also familiar with Intel’s MIC architecture, he’s likely to draw some distinction between the two approaches, especially in regard to ease of programming.

Rainer Spurzem employs GPUs to accelerate astrophysics applications, so he’ll offer the perspective of heterogeneous computing user. Astrophysics, which until recently was an observational science, now increasingly uses compute-heavy simulations and signal processing as a common tool. GPUs are well-suited to such work, although some researchers have gone the FPGA route. Spurzem could offer some perspective on how best to exploit these accelerators.

Expect NUDT’s Kai Lu to talk up China’s push into heterogenous computing via its embrace of GPU-boosted supercomputers. NUDT is the developer of the reigning TOP500 champ, Tianhe-1A, which clocks in at over 2.5 Linpack petaflops. Although there is plenty of skepticism to go around about the practical utility of such massive GPU-accelerated machines, the Tianhe super recently claimed 1.87 petaflop of performance on a real-world molecular simulation application.

Another session along the same lines is Tuesday’s GPU debate between HPC icon Thomas Sterling and NVIDIA’s David Kirk. Kirk, obviously, will be the advocate for GPU computing, with Sterling there to offer the rebuttal and some historical perspective.

Heterogeneous computing is likely to permeate a number of other ISC presentations, including Monday’s session on Transpeta Flops Initiatives and Wednesday’s session on Many-Core Computing. I can also promise you that there will be breaking vendor news around this topic at ISC, so be sure to catch our special coverage of ISC starting next week.

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!

PFAS Regulations, 3M Exit to Impact Two-Phase Cooling in HPC

January 27, 2023

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), known as “forever chemicals,” pose a number of health risks to humans, with more suspected but not yet confirmed – and, as a result, PFAS are coming under increasing regu Read more…

Sweden Plans Expansion for Nvidia-Powered Berzelius Supercomputer

January 26, 2023

The Atos-built, Nvidia SuperPod-based Berzelius supercomputer – housed in and operated by Sweden’s Linköping-based National Supercomputer Centre (NSC) – is already no slouch. But now, Nvidia and NSC have announced Read more…

Multiverse, Pasqal, and Crédit Agricole Tout Progress Using Quantum Computing in FS

January 26, 2023

Europe-based quantum computing pioneers Multiverse Computing and Pasqal, and global bank Crédit Agricole CIB today announced successful conclusion of a 1.5-year POC study “to evaluate the contribution of an algorithmi Read more…

Critics Don’t Want Politicians Deciding the Future of Semiconductors

January 26, 2023

The future of the semiconductor industry was partially being decided last week by a mix of politicians, policy hawks and chip industry executives jockeying for influence at the World Economic Forum. Intel CEO Pat Gels Read more…

Riken Plans ‘Virtual Fugaku’ on AWS

January 26, 2023

The development of a national flagship supercomputer aimed at exascale computing continues to be a heated competition, especially in the United States, the European Union, China, and Japan. What is the value to be gained Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Shutterstock_1687123447

Numerix Scales HPC Workloads for Price and Risk Modeling Using AWS Batch

  • 180x improvement in analytics performance
  • Enhanced risk management
  • Decreased bottlenecks in analytics
  • Unlocked near-real-time analytics
  • Scaled financial analytics

Overview

Numerix, a financial technology company, needed to find a way to scale its high performance computing (HPC) solution as client portfolios ballooned in size. Read more…

Microsoft/NVIDIA Solution Channel

Shutterstock 1453953692

Microsoft and NVIDIA Experts Talk AI Infrastructure

As AI emerges as a crucial tool in so many sectors, it’s clear that the need for optimized AI infrastructure is growing. Going beyond just GPU-based clusters, cloud infrastructure that provides low-latency, high-bandwidth interconnects and high-performance storage can help organizations handle AI workloads more efficiently and produce faster results. Read more…

Supercomputer Research Predicts Extinction Cascade

January 25, 2023

The immediate impacts of climate change and land-use change are severe enough, but increasingly, researchers are warning that large enough changes can then snowball into catastrophic changes. New, supercomputer-powered r Read more…

PFAS Regulations, 3M Exit to Impact Two-Phase Cooling in HPC

January 27, 2023

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), known as “forever chemicals,” pose a number of health risks to humans, with more suspected but not yet confirmed Read more…

Critics Don’t Want Politicians Deciding the Future of Semiconductors

January 26, 2023

The future of the semiconductor industry was partially being decided last week by a mix of politicians, policy hawks and chip industry executives jockeying for Read more…

Riken Plans ‘Virtual Fugaku’ on AWS

January 26, 2023

The development of a national flagship supercomputer aimed at exascale computing continues to be a heated competition, especially in the United States, the Euro Read more…

Shutterstock 1134313550

Semiconductor Companies Create Building Block for Chiplet Design

January 24, 2023

Intel's CEO Pat Gelsinger last week made a grand proclamation that chips will be for the next few decades what oil and gas was to the world over the last 50 years. While that remains to be seen, two technology associations are joining hands to develop building blocks to stabilize the development of future chip designs. The goal of the standard is to set the stage for a thriving marketplace that fuels... Read more…

Royalty-free stock photo ID: 1572060865

Fujitsu Study Says Quantum Decryption Threat Still Distant

January 23, 2023

Global computer and chip manufacturer Fujitsu today reported that a new study performed on its 39-qubit quantum simulator suggests it will remain difficult for Read more…

At ORNL, Jeff Smith Becomes Interim Director, as Search for Permanent Lab Chief Continues

January 20, 2023

UT-Battelle, which manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for the U.S. Department of Energy, has appointed Jeff Smith as interim director for the lab as t Read more…

Top HPC Players Creating New Security Architecture Amid Neglect

January 20, 2023

Security of high-performance computers is being neglected in the pursuit of horsepower, and there are concerns that the ignorance may be costly if safeguards ar Read more…

Ohio Supercomputer Center Debuts ‘Ascend’ GPU Cluster

January 19, 2023

Less than 10 months after it was announced, the Columbus-based Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) has debuted its Dell-built GPU cluster, “Ascend.” Designed to Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

SC22 Booth Videos

AMD @ SC22
Altair @ SC22
AWS @ SC22
Ayar Labs @ SC22
CoolIT @ SC22
Cornelis Networks @ SC22
DDN @ SC22
Dell Technologies @ SC22
HPE @ SC22
Intel @ SC22
Intelligent Light @ SC22
Lancium @ SC22
Lenovo @ SC22
Microsoft and NVIDIA @ SC22
One Stop Systems @ SC22
Penguin Solutions @ SC22
QCT @ SC22
Supermicro @ SC22
Tuxera @ SC22
Tyan Computer @ SC22
  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire