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!

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 2017 with scale-up production for enterprise datacenters and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fine-Tuning Severe Hail Forecasting with Machine Learning

July 20, 2017

Depending on whether you’ve been caught outside during a severe hail storm, the sight of greenish tinted clouds on the horizon may cause serious knots in the pit of your stomach, or at least give you pause. There’s g Read more…

By Sean Thielen

Trinity Supercomputer’s Haswell and KNL Partitions Are Merged

July 19, 2017

Trinity supercomputer’s two partitions – one based on Intel Xeon Haswell processors and the other on Xeon Phi Knights Landing – have been fully integrated are now available for use on classified work in the Nationa Read more…

By HPCwire Staff

Fujitsu Continues HPC, AI Push

July 19, 2017

Summer is well under way, but the so-called summertime slowdown, linked with hot temperatures and longer vacations, does not seem to have impacted Fujitsu's output. The Japanese multinational has made a raft of HPC and A Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Servers Deliver High Performance Remote Visualization

Whether generating seismic simulations, locating new productive oil reservoirs, or constructing complex models of the earth’s subsurface, energy, oil, and gas (EO&G) is a highly data-driven industry. Read more…

Researchers Use DNA to Store and Retrieve Digital Movie

July 18, 2017

From abacus to pencil and paper to semiconductor chips, the technology of computing has always been an ever-changing target. The human brain is probably the computer we use most (hopefully) and understand least. This mon Read more…

By John Russell

The Exascale FY18 Budget – The Next Step

July 17, 2017

On July 12, 2017, the U.S. federal budget for its Exascale Computing Initiative (ECI) took its next step forward. On that day, the full Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives voted to accept the recomme Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Summer Reading: IEEE Spectrum’s Chip Hall of Fame

July 17, 2017

Take a trip down memory lane – the Mostek MK4096 4-kilobit DRAM, for instance. Perhaps processors are more to your liking. Remember the Sh-Boom processor (1988), created by Russell Fish and Chuck Moore, and named after Read more…

By John Russell

Women in HPC Luncheon Shines Light on Female-Friendly Hiring Practices

July 13, 2017

The second annual Women in HPC luncheon was held on June 20, 2017, during the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt, Germany. The luncheon provides participants the opportunity to network with industry lea 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

Fine-Tuning Severe Hail Forecasting with Machine Learning

July 20, 2017

Depending on whether you’ve been caught outside during a severe hail storm, the sight of greenish tinted clouds on the horizon may cause serious knots in the Read more…

By Sean Thielen

Fujitsu Continues HPC, AI Push

July 19, 2017

Summer is well under way, but the so-called summertime slowdown, linked with hot temperatures and longer vacations, does not seem to have impacted Fujitsu's out Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Use DNA to Store and Retrieve Digital Movie

July 18, 2017

From abacus to pencil and paper to semiconductor chips, the technology of computing has always been an ever-changing target. The human brain is probably the com Read more…

By John Russell

The Exascale FY18 Budget – The Next Step

July 17, 2017

On July 12, 2017, the U.S. federal budget for its Exascale Computing Initiative (ECI) took its next step forward. On that day, the full Appropriations Committee Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Women in HPC Luncheon Shines Light on Female-Friendly Hiring Practices

July 13, 2017

The second annual Women in HPC luncheon was held on June 20, 2017, during the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt, Germany. The luncheon provid Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Satellite Advances, NSF Computation Power Rapid Mapping of Earth’s Surface

July 13, 2017

New satellite technologies have completely changed the game in mapping and geographical data gathering, reducing costs and placing a new emphasis on time series Read more…

By Ken Chiacchia and Tiffany Jolley

Intel Skylake: Xeon Goes from Chip to Platform

July 13, 2017

With yesterday’s New York unveiling of the new “Skylake” Xeon Scalable processors, Intel made multiple runs at multiple competitive threats and strategic Read more…

By Doug Black

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

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

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

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

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

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

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

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 the successor to Caffe, the deep learning framework developed by Berkeley AI Research and community contributors. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

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

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 Engine (GCE) job. Sutherland ran the massive mathematics workload on 220,000 GCE cores using preemptible virtual machine instances. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

Groq This: New AI Chips to Give GPUs a Run for Deep Learning Money

April 24, 2017

CPUs and GPUs, move over. Thanks to recent revelations surrounding Google’s new Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), the computing world appears to be on the cusp of Read more…

By Alex Woodie

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

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

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