Rensselaer Orders Up Blue Gene/Q for Exascale and Data-Intensive Research

By Michael Feldman

October 25, 2011

Last month Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) announced it had been awarded a $2.65 million grant to acquire a 100 teraflop Blue Gene/Q supercomputer for its Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI). The new system will also include a multi-terabyte RAM-based storage accelerator, petascale disk storage, and rendering cluster plus remote display wall system for visualization.

Even though the yet unnamed Q machine is just a microcosm of a true petascale supercomputer, it is designed to be used for exascale research: scaling codes, exploring alternative approaches to checkpointing, and dealing with I/O bottlenecks. The supercomputer will also provide a home for a variety of research applications at Rensselaer.

According to the press release these projects include: “developing new methods for the diagnosis of breast cancer using data from non-invasive techniques; modeling plasmas to aid the design and safety of future fusion reactors; modeling wind turbine design to increase efficiencies and reduce maintenance; application of new knowledge discovery algorithms to very large semantic graphs for climate change and biomedical research, modeling heat flow in the world’s oceans, integrating data and computations across scales to gain a better understanding of biological systems and improve health care; and many others.”

This is the first machine CCNI will deploy with NSF funding behind it and the first new supercomputer at the center since it launched five years ago. CCNI was kicked off in 2006 with a $100 million investment from New York State, RPI, and IBM, using the initial cash to build out the center, hire staff, and acquire HPC resources. Its stated mission: to advance the science of semiconductor manufacturing and related nanotechnology applications for academia and industry.

The NSF money to buy the Blue Gene/Q system came out the agency’s Major Research Instrumentation Program, which, as the name implies, funds instruments for scientific and engineering research. These include devices such as mass spectrometers, X-rays, laser systems, microscopes, as well as a variety of computational resources. Because of NSF’s involvement, time on the system will be available to researchers nationally. Rensselaer scientists and engineers, as well as those at other New York state universities will also be able to bid for cycles on the system.

The first Rensselaer supercomputer was a Blue Gene/L system, along with a Power-based Linux system and some smaller AMD Opteron clusters. The Blue Gene/L system, which is still operational, delivers 90 teraflops and represents most of the computation capacity at CCNI. When installed in 2007 it was the seventh most powerful system in the world. Despite CCNI’s rather modest computational capacity by 2011 standards, more than 700 researchers spread out across 50 universities, government labs, and commercial organizations have used the center’s HPC resources to run their science and engineering workloads.

Although the upcoming Blue Gene/Q is relatively small as supercomputers go — a mere 100 teraflops — it will provide as much computational horsepower as the older L system plus all the remaining clusters at the center, According to CCNI, the upcoming system will fit into just half a rack — about 1/30 the space as center’s original Blue Gene machine.

And, because it’s a Blue Gene Q, it should provide some of the best performance per watt on the planet. A similar 100 teraflop Blue Gene/Q prototype system, which is housed at IBM’s T. J. Watson Research Center, delivered 2097 megaflops/watt (the number one system on the latest Green500 list), and consumed just 41 KW. To put that in perspective, the 2005-era ASC Purple supercomputer also delivered 100 peak teraflops, but consumed a whopping 7,500 KW.

According to CCNI Director James Myers, for the time being will keep their other HPC systems, including the Blue Gene/L, operational. But he admits that it will probably make sense at some point to decommission the older machines, considering how little performance per watt they are delivering. In general, the operational costs of maintaining five-year-old HPC machines these days is often better spent on adding newer, more energy-efficient capacity. “We are certainly paying attention to those lifecycle costs,” says Myers.

The new Blue Gene/Q system is scheduled to be installed in 2012, in the same general timeframe that Argonne and Lawrence Livermore National Labs are expected to deploy their much larger Q machines: the 10 petaflop “Mira” system and the 20 petaflop “Sequoia,” respectively.

It is also designed to be a platform for data-intensive applications. The RAM-based storage accelerator that is to be integrated into the system will be a critical component for data-intensive research. Essentially the accelerator is a 2-4 terabyte RAM disk that will be used to greatly speed up I/O for disk-bound applications. It will also be used to support interactive visualization by streaming data from the RAM disk to the visualization cluster without going through the bottleneck of disk storage. According the Myers, the RAM disk is to be based on commodity components, although its exact makeup is still to be worked out.

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!

Machine Learning at HPC User Forum: Drilling into Specific Use Cases

September 22, 2017

The 66th HPC User Forum held September 5-7, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the elegant and historic Pfister Hotel, highlighting the 1893 Victorian décor and art of “The Grand Hotel Of The West,” contrasted nicely with Read more…

By Arno Kolster

Google Cloud Makes Good on Promise to Add Nvidia P100 GPUs

September 21, 2017

Google has taken down the notice on its cloud platform website that says Nvidia Tesla P100s are “coming soon.” That's because the search giant has announced the beta launch of the high-end P100 Nvidia Tesla GPUs on t Read more…

By George Leopold

Cray Wins $48M Supercomputer Contract from KISTI

September 21, 2017

It was a good day for Cray which won a $48 million contract from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI) for a 128-rack CS500 cluster supercomputer. The new system, equipped with Intel Xeon Scal Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Prepares Customers for Success with the HPC Software Portfolio

High performance computing (HPC) software is key to harnessing the full power of HPC environments. Development and management tools enable IT departments to streamline installation and maintenance of their systems as well as create, optimize, and run their HPC applications. Read more…

Adolfy Hoisie to Lead Brookhaven’s Computing for National Security Effort

September 21, 2017

Brookhaven National Laboratory announced today that Adolfy Hoisie will chair its newly formed Computing for National Security department, which is part of Brookhaven’s new Computational Science Initiative (CSI). Read more…

By John Russell

Machine Learning at HPC User Forum: Drilling into Specific Use Cases

September 22, 2017

The 66th HPC User Forum held September 5-7, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the elegant and historic Pfister Hotel, highlighting the 1893 Victorian décor and art o Read more…

By Arno Kolster

Stanford University and UberCloud Achieve Breakthrough in Living Heart Simulations

September 21, 2017

Cardiac arrhythmia can be an undesirable and potentially lethal side effect of drugs. During this condition, the electrical activity of the heart turns chaotic, Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud, and Francisco Sahli, Stanford University

PNNL’s Center for Advanced Tech Evaluation Seeks Wider HPC Community Ties

September 21, 2017

Two years ago the Department of Energy established the Center for Advanced Technology Evaluation (CENATE) at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). CENAT Read more…

By John Russell

Exascale Computing Project Names Doug Kothe as Director

September 20, 2017

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) has named Doug Kothe as its new director effective October 1. He replaces Paul Messina, who is stepping down after two years to return to Argonne National Laboratory. Kothe is a 32-year veteran of DOE’s National Laboratory System. Read more…

Takeaways from the Milwaukee HPC User Forum

September 19, 2017

Milwaukee’s elegant Pfister Hotel hosted approximately 100 attendees for the 66th HPC User Forum (September 5-7, 2017). In the original home city of Pabst Blu Read more…

By Merle Giles

Kathy Yelick Charts the Promise and Progress of Exascale Science

September 15, 2017

On Friday, Sept. 8, Kathy Yelick of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, delivered the keynote address on “Breakthrough Science at the Exascale” at the ACM Europe Conference in Barcelona. In conjunction with her presentation, Yelick agreed to a short Q&A discussion with HPCwire. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DARPA Pledges Another $300 Million for Post-Moore’s Readiness

September 14, 2017

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched a giant funding effort to ensure the United States can sustain the pace of electronic innovation vital to both a flourishing economy and a secure military. Under the banner of the Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI), some $500-$800 million will be invested in post-Moore’s Law technologies. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Breaks Ground for Complex Quantum Chemistry

September 14, 2017

IBM has reported the use of a novel algorithm to simulate BeH2 (beryllium-hydride) on a quantum computer. This is the largest molecule so far simulated on a quantum computer. The technique, which used six qubits of a seven-qubit system, is an important step forward and may suggest an approach to simulating ever larger molecules. Read more…

By John Russell

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

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 cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

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

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

IBM Clears Path to 5nm with Silicon Nanosheets

June 5, 2017

Two years since announcing the industry’s first 7nm node test chip, IBM and its research alliance partners GlobalFoundries and Samsung have developed a proces 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

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GlobalFoundries: 7nm Chips Coming in 2018, EUV in 2019

June 13, 2017

GlobalFoundries has formally announced that its 7nm technology is ready for customer engagement with product tape outs expected for the first half of 2018. The Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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