What I Learned at the International Supercomputing Conference

By Michael Feldman

June 23, 2011

Flying halfway around the world to just gather news seems like a waste of time in the information age. But when it comes to supercomputing shows like ISC, being there in person cannot be duplicated by the remote experience, despite live streaming sessions, video blogs, and ISC twitter feeds.

Part of that has to do with the fact that information just seems to flow more freely under the chaotic conditions of a busy show floor. The other aspect is that exhibitors assume they’re talking to potential prospects, so the vendors tend to be a little looser lipped than I’m used to as a journalist.

For example, although Intel wasn’t willing to share with me over email last week that their first Many Integrated Core (MIC) product, aka Knights Corner, would support ECC memory, one person in the Intel booth at ISC did indeed confirm that MIC would be released with such support. (The Knights Ferry prototype is using a vanilla, i.e., non-ECC, graphics memory controller.) Like I mentioned in my original reporting of this week’s MIC news, it would be inconceivable not to have ECC support in this HPC product, so no big surprise here.

I also found out that the peak performance on the Knights Ferry prototype is 1.2 single precision (SP) teraflops. Given that the next year’s Knights Corner product will be on 22nm technology and will have about twice as many cores, I expect it will at least double that SP floating point teraflops, with maybe half the number for double precision (DP).

The GPU contingent from AMD won’t be intimidated from such floppery though. They told me that the next version of the FireStream HPC product will have twice the performance of the current model. The 9350 and 9370 products being shipped today deliver 528 DP gigaflops and 2.64 SP teraflops. The new FireStreams will be announced this fall — around SC11, I’m guessing — and will start shipping sometime in early 2012.

Meanwhile NVIDIA says it will deliver its next generation Kepler GPU architecture in 2012, At an ISC presentation by Nvidian Sumit Gupta, he estimated the new GPU will deliver about 5 DP gigaflops per watt, or maybe even better than that. “Kepler is going to be an amazing performance per watt GPU,” he promised.

If NVIDIA maintains the same thermal envelope as the current Fermi-class devices (225-250 watts), then the Kepler GPUs will be well north of a double precision teraflop. In fact all three 2012 HPC accelerators look to top one DP teraflop, but it is unlikely that any will reach 2 teraflops. With that kind of performance parity, the competitive differentiators may be energy efficiency and ease of programming.

In the latter case, Intel may have the edge. I heard a number of comments here in Hamburg that MIC is more straightforward to program than a GPU, at least to get an initial, non-optimized port — not just because it’s based on the x86 architecture, but because it lends itself more easily to standard multicore-style programming frameworks, like OpenMP. That indeed will warm the hearts of many application developers, inasmuch as a lots of code is already parallelized with OpenMP.

On the other hand, CUDA remains the more mature software environment for manycore acceleration at this point, and AMD said that the upcoming FireStream offerings will also include more advanced tools, libraries, and drivers. In any case, software development for accelerator programming is bound to get easier over the next year, but the devil will be in the details.

On the energy efficiency front, it looks like all three HPC accelerator offerings will need at least need 200 watts to hit a teraflop. It remains to be seen if Intel, NVIDIA, or AMD will have any appreciable edge.

On the broader topic of energy efficiency, there was lots of chatter at the conference about exascale power budgets. The current goal of US federal agencies is to have an exaflop fit into 20MW. That means to run such a system will cost about $20 million per year in the US and 20 million euros in Europe. Unfortunately, a number of people in the know at ISC thought that was quite an optimistic figure for the first exaflop systems. Estimates for these early machines ranged from as much 40MW (Cray CTO Steve Scott) to 200 MW (LSU prof Thomas Sterling).

The power problem is not a showstopper though. There are 100MW datacenters today and if the political will is there to fund power-sucking monsters at this scale, it could be done. Eventually exaflop systems will use 20MW, and less, but perhaps not the first crop of machines.

On a related note, Japan’s March 11 earthquake/tsunami disaster is already forcing that nation’s HPC community to deal with reduced power availability. Not that they weren’t already focused on energy efficiency. Japanese supercomputing has always had to adhere to strict power budgets since the nation lacks significant indigenous energy resources. But the situation is especially acute right now.

In a presentation at ISC, the University of Tsukuba’s Taisuke Boku told the audience that in the wake of the disaster, four one-gigawatt power plants are now offline. According to him, Tokyo residents, businesses, and other organizations (including HPC centers) will be required to cut their power usage by 15 percent this summer because of the downed plants.

Boku said this summer the university’s PACS-CS supercomputer will be shut down during the day, from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, to deal with the power restriction shortage. And this is expected to continue for a number of years while Japan rebuilds its power plant infrastructure. The irony here is that PACS-CS uses low voltage Xeons, so is already is built for energy-efficient operation.

An even bigger irony is that the Japanese K Computer, which captured the number one spot on the TOP500 list is using about 10MW. The fact that an 8-petaflop machine uses half the 20MW that people are aiming for in an exaflop machine should be sobering enough. The bigger problem though is that power consumption for the top systems is increasing faster than gains in energy efficiency. As we say in the HPC biz, that doesn’t scale.

I actually have more to report from my Hamburg excursion, including some interesting developments to create net zero carbon HPC datacenters. But that will have to wait for another time.

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!

Nvidia Shares Recipe to Accelerate AI Cloud Adoption

May 29, 2017

In March, Nvidia revealed blueprints for a new open source Tesla GPU-based accelerator – HGX-1 – developed for clouds with Microsoft under its Project Olym Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Doug Kothe on the Race to Build Exascale Applications

May 29, 2017

Ensuring there are applications ready to churn out useful science when the first U.S. exascale computers arrive in the 2021-2023 timeframe is Doug Kothe’s job Read more…

By John Russell

PRACEdays Reflects Europe’s HPC Commitment

May 25, 2017

More than 250 attendees and participants came together for PRACEdays17 in Barcelona last week, part of the European HPC Summit Week 2017, held May 15-19 at t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurr Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Exploring the Three Models of Remote Visualization

The explosion of data and advancement of digital technologies are dramatically changing the way many companies do business. With the help of high performance computing (HPC) solutions and data analytics platforms, manufacturers are developing products faster, healthcare providers are improving patient care, and energy companies are improving planning, exploration, and production. Read more…

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia CEO Predicts AI ‘Cambrian Explosion’

May 25, 2017

The processing power and cloud access to developer tools used to train machine-learning models are making artificial intelligence ubiquitous across computing pl Read more…

By George Leopold

PGAS Use will Rise on New H/W Trends, Says Reinders

May 25, 2017

If you have not already tried using PGAS, it is time to consider adding PGAS to the programming techniques you know. Partitioned Global Array Space, commonly kn Read more…

By James Reinders

Exascale Escapes 2018 Budget Axe; Rest of Science Suffers

May 23, 2017

President Trump's proposed $4.1 trillion FY 2018 budget is good for U.S. exascale computing development, but grim for the rest of science and technology spend Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Shares Recipe to Accelerate AI Cloud Adoption

May 29, 2017

In March, Nvidia revealed blueprints for a new open source Tesla GPU-based accelerator – HGX-1 – developed for clouds with Microsoft under its Project Olym Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Doug Kothe on the Race to Build Exascale Applications

May 29, 2017

Ensuring there are applications ready to churn out useful science when the first U.S. exascale computers arrive in the 2021-2023 timeframe is Doug Kothe’s job Read more…

By John Russell

PRACEdays Reflects Europe’s HPC Commitment

May 25, 2017

More than 250 attendees and participants came together for PRACEdays17 in Barcelona last week, part of the European HPC Summit Week 2017, held May 15-19 at t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

PGAS Use will Rise on New H/W Trends, Says Reinders

May 25, 2017

If you have not already tried using PGAS, it is time to consider adding PGAS to the programming techniques you know. Partitioned Global Array Space, commonly kn Read more…

By James Reinders

Exascale Escapes 2018 Budget Axe; Rest of Science Suffers

May 23, 2017

President Trump's proposed $4.1 trillion FY 2018 budget is good for U.S. exascale computing development, but grim for the rest of science and technology spend Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Offers Supercomputing as a Service, Targets Biotechs First

May 16, 2017

Leading supercomputer vendor Cray and datacenter/cloud provider the Markley Group today announced plans to jointly deliver supercomputing as a service. The init Read more…

By John Russell

HPE’s Memory-centric The Machine Coming into View, Opens ARMs to 3rd-party Developers

May 16, 2017

Announced three years ago, HPE’s The Machine is said to be the largest R&D program in the venerable company’s history, one that could be progressing tow Read more…

By Doug Black

What’s Up with Hyperion as It Transitions From IDC?

May 15, 2017

If you’re wondering what’s happening with Hyperion Research – formerly the IDC HPC group – apparently you are not alone, says Steve Conway, now senior V Read more…

By John Russell

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. Just how close real-wo 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 cam Read more…

By John Russell

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference 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 a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

Since our first formal product releases of OSPRay and OpenSWR libraries in 2016, CPU-based Software Defined Visualization (SDVis) has achieved wide-spread adopt Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Last week, Google reported that its custom ASIC Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) was 15-30x faster for inferencing workloads than Nvidia's K80 GPU (see our coverage Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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 ne Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is 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 w Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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 Read more…

By Steve Campbell

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Eng Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

As China continues to prove its supercomputing mettle via the Top500 list and the forward march of its ambitious plans to stand up an exascale machine by 2020, 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 networ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of "quantum supremacy," researchers are stretching the limits of today's most advance Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Knights Landing Processor with Omni-Path Makes Cloud Debut

April 18, 2017

HPC cloud specialist Rescale is partnering with Intel and HPC resource provider R Systems to offer first-ever cloud access to Xeon Phi "Knights Landing" process Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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