NCSA Signs Up Cray for Blue Waters Redo

By Michael Feldman

November 14, 2011

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) has awarded Cray a $188 million contract to complete the NSF-funded Blue Waters supercomputer project at the University of Illinois. An 11.5 petaflops Cray XE6/XK6 hybrid system outfitted with AMD CPUs and NVIDIA GPUs will be deployed next year and become the center’s petascale resource for open science and engineering. The much-anticipated deal was announced on Monday, just as the Supercomputing Conference (SC11) in Seattle got underway.

This is NCSA’s second shot at Blue Waters. In 2007, IBM was selected to build the petascale machine as part of the NSF Track 1 leadership system program. That system, a Power7-based supercomputer, based on IBM’s DARPA-funded PERCS architecture, was to deliver 10 peak petaflops and one petaflop of sustained performance. The IBM machine was on track to be deployed in 2012.

Some IBM cabinets had already been delivered in 2011, when in August, the company abruptly terminated the contract after determining the effort required to complete the work would ultimately be unprofitable to the company. Following IBM’s embarrassing withdrawal, NCSA and NSF re-solicited the work, hoping to put the project back on schedule with a new vendor.

According to NCSA Director Thom Dunning, the solicitation attracted Cray, along with three other bidders, who he declined to name. Dunning told HPCwire that Cray’s approach lined up very well with the Blue Waters’ mission. “As we have always done, we didn’t pick a system that was just focused on peak performance, but a system that focused on sustained performance and had the memory and disk performance that is really needed by the science and engineering community,” said Dunning.

Cray CEO Peter Ungaro reiterated that point, noting that the Blue Waters project is a great fit for his company’s vision of adaptive and heterogeneous computing at scale, and with a customer that is focused on sustained performance rather than raw flops or Linpack benchmarks. “NCSA and NSF could have made a lot of tradeoffs to build a much bigger machine from a peaks flops standpoint and to get a better ranking on the TOP500,” said Ungaro.

The addition of GPU acceleration was brought in at the behest of the researchers who are gearing up to use the Blue Waters system. In fact, according to Dunning, two thirds of the researchers who are in line to run their application on the machine are now asking for these accelerators, which influenced NCSA’s choice to go with Cray’s XE6/XK6 hybrid supercomputer. Over the past five years, some of these researchers have ported portions of their science codes to take advantage of GPGPUs. “That was the one major change that occurred between 2006 and 2011,” said Dunning.

That said, the supercomputer will mostly rely in CPUs. Cray estimates the system will have more than 235 cabinets of CPU-only XE6 cabinets and over 30 cabinets of CPU-GPU XK6 cabinets. In both cases, the CPU will be AMD’s “Interlagos” Opteron 6200 processor, which was officially launched on Monday. Specifically, the machine will be outfitted with the 16-core 2.3 GHz Opteron 6276.

In aggregate, more than 49,000 of these CPUs will be used in the machine, representing about two-thirds of the total flops. The remaining third will be supplied by more than 3,000 “Kepler” GPUs, NVIDIA’s next-generation graphics processor that is expected to go into production in 2012. Dunning said the CPUs alone will be enough to sustain one petaflop of performance on science applications capable of scaling to that level. If those codes can employ GPUs effectively, an additional performance boost will be possible.

The supercomputer will be impressive in nearly every other dimension as well. The machine will have more than 1.5 PB of total memory, an aggregate I/O bandwidth of over 1 TB/s, and an enormous interconnect network, with about 4,500 km of wires. Cray will also be supplying more than 25 petabytes of external storage integrated with the Lustre file system. “It’s going to be the biggest supercomputer we’ve ever built.” said Ungaro.

The application work for Blue Waters will span the breadth of big science applications, in particular, those in molecular science, climate/weather forecasting, earth science, life sciences, and astrophysics. As Ungaro implied, NCSA and the NSF could have built a much larger machine from a pure flops perspective if they had maximized the GPU components, but instead felt that the CPU-heavy mix matches the current state of these science codes much more closely at this point.

NCSA and Cray are planning to stick to the same deployment schedule as was being pursued with the IBM PERCS machine, with the final system up and running by next fall. The general plan is to deploy the CPU nodes first, with the GPU components installed during the last stage of the build-out.

Cray expects to book most of the $188 million contract money in 2012, but the funding  includes five years of Blue Waters services and support. This time around there is no termination clause in the contract, which from Ungaro’s point of view is not an issue. Delivering supercomputing to scientists is essentially Cray’s whole business, so there really no consideration that they wouldn’t follow through. “It was the easiest part of the negotiation.” laughed Ungaro.
 
In next couple of weeks, a small Interlagos-based test system will be installed, followed in early 2012, by a much larger machine. This will allow the researchers to work on optimizing and scaling their applications, at least with the CPU components. By the middle of the summer, they will have the full system deployed, with the exception of the “Kepler” GPUs, which are expected to arrive in early fall. If all goes as planned, the entire system should be up and running by this time next year.

After being in limbo since August, Dunning is eager to move forward with the project, adding that he and his team are delighted to work with Cray. “We’ve been waiting for four years to put hardware on the floor that the science and engineering teams could use, and it’s finally happening,” he said.

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!

RIKEN Post-K Supercomputer Named After Japan’s Tallest Peak

May 23, 2019

May 23 -- RIKEN President Hiroshi Matsumoto announced that the successor to the K computer will be named Fugaku, another name for Mount Fuji, which is the tallest mountain peak in Japan. Supercomputer Fugaku, developed b Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray’s Emerging Market & Technology Director Arti Garg Peers Around HPC/AI Corner

May 23, 2019

In her position as emerging market and technology director at Cray, Arti Garg doesn't just have a front-row seat to the future of computing, she plays an active role in making that future happen. Key to Garg's role is understanding how deep learning scientists are using state-of-the-art HPC infrastructures and figuring out how to push those limits further. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Combining Machine Learning and Supercomputing to Ferret out Phishing Attacks

May 23, 2019

The relentless ingenuity that drives cyber hacking is a global engine that knows no rest. Anyone with a laptop and run-of-the-mill computer smarts can buy or rent a phishing kit and start attacking – or it can be done Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture: How to Power a Cloud

Learn how HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture provide critical infrastructure for leading Nordic HPC provider’s HPCFLOW cloud service.

For decades, HPE has been at the forefront of high-performance computing, and we’ve powered some of the fastest and most robust supercomputers in the world. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Who’s Driving Your Car?

Delivering a fully autonomous driving (AD) vehicle remains a key priority for both manufacturers and technology firms (“firms”). However, passenger safety is now a top-of-mind concern due in great part, to fatalities resulting from driving tests over the past years. Read more…

TACC’s Upgraded Ranch Data Storage System Debuts New Features, Exabyte Potential

May 22, 2019

There's a joke attributed to comedian Steven Wright that goes, "You can't have everything. Where would you put it?" Users of advanced computing can likely relate to this. The exponential growth of data poses a steep challenge to efforts for its reliable storage. For over 12 years, the Ranch system at the Texas Advanced Computing Center... Read more…

By Jorge Salazar, TACC

Cray’s Emerging Market & Technology Director Arti Garg Peers Around HPC/AI Corner

May 23, 2019

In her position as emerging market and technology director at Cray, Arti Garg doesn't just have a front-row seat to the future of computing, she plays an active role in making that future happen. Key to Garg's role is understanding how deep learning scientists are using state-of-the-art HPC infrastructures and figuring out how to push those limits further. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Combining Machine Learning and Supercomputing to Ferret out Phishing Attacks

May 23, 2019

The relentless ingenuity that drives cyber hacking is a global engine that knows no rest. Anyone with a laptop and run-of-the-mill computer smarts can buy or re Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray – and the Cray Brand – to Be Positioned at Tip of HPE’s HPC Spear

May 22, 2019

More so than with most acquisitions of this kind, HPE’s purchase of Cray for $1.3 billion, announced last week, seems to have elements of that overused, often Read more…

By Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

HPE to Acquire Cray for $1.3B

May 17, 2019

Venerable supercomputer pioneer Cray Inc. will be acquired by Hewlett Packard Enterprise for $1.3 billion under a definitive agreement announced this morning. T Read more…

By Doug Black & Tiffany Trader

Deep Learning Competitors Stalk Nvidia

May 14, 2019

There is no shortage of processing architectures emerging to accelerate deep learning workloads, with two more options emerging this week to challenge GPU leader Nvidia. First, Intel researchers claimed a new deep learning record for image classification on the ResNet-50 convolutional neural network. Separately, Israeli AI chip startup Hailo.ai... Read more…

By George Leopold

CCC Offers Draft 20-Year AI Roadmap; Seeks Comments

May 14, 2019

Artificial Intelligence in all its guises has captured much of the conversation in HPC and general computing today. The White House, DARPA, IARPA, and Departmen Read more…

By John Russell

Cascade Lake Shows Up to 84 Percent Gen-on-Gen Advantage on STAC Benchmarking

May 13, 2019

The Securities Technology Analysis Center (STAC) issued a report Friday comparing the performance of Intel's Cascade Lake processors with previous-gen Skylake u Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Claims 6000x Speed-Up for Stock Trading Backtest Benchmark

May 13, 2019

A stock trading backtesting algorithm used by hedge funds to simulate trading variants has received a massive, GPU-based performance boost, according to Nvidia, Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray, AMD to Extend DOE’s Exascale Frontier

May 7, 2019

Cray and AMD are coming back to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to partner on the world’s largest and most expensive supercomputer. The Department of Energy’s Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphene Surprises Again, This Time for Quantum Computing

May 8, 2019

Graphene is fascinating stuff with promise for use in a seeming endless number of applications. This month researchers from the University of Vienna and Institu Read more…

By John Russell

Why Nvidia Bought Mellanox: ‘Future Datacenters Will Be…Like High Performance Computers’

March 14, 2019

“Future datacenters of all kinds will be built like high performance computers,” said Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang during a phone briefing on Monday after Nvidia revealed scooping up the high performance networking company Mellanox for $6.9 billion. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ClusterVision in Bankruptcy, Fate Uncertain

February 13, 2019

ClusterVision, European HPC specialists that have built and installed over 20 Top500-ranked systems in their nearly 17-year history, appear to be in the midst o Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

It’s Official: Aurora on Track to Be First US Exascale Computer in 2021

March 18, 2019

The U.S. Department of Energy along with Intel and Cray confirmed today that an Intel/Cray supercomputer, "Aurora," capable of sustained performance of one exaf Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Reportedly in $6B Bid for Mellanox

January 30, 2019

The latest rumors and reports around an acquisition of Mellanox focus on Intel, which has reportedly offered a $6 billion bid for the high performance interconn Read more…

By Doug Black

Looking for Light Reading? NSF-backed ‘Comic Books’ Tackle Quantum Computing

January 28, 2019

Still baffled by quantum computing? How about turning to comic books (graphic novels for the well-read among you) for some clarity and a little humor on QC. The Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Competitors Stalk Nvidia

May 14, 2019

There is no shortage of processing architectures emerging to accelerate deep learning workloads, with two more options emerging this week to challenge GPU leader Nvidia. First, Intel researchers claimed a new deep learning record for image classification on the ResNet-50 convolutional neural network. Separately, Israeli AI chip startup Hailo.ai... Read more…

By George Leopold

Leading Solution Providers

SC 18 Virtual Booth Video Tour

Advania @ SC18 AMD @ SC18
ASRock Rack @ SC18
DDN Storage @ SC18
HPE @ SC18
IBM @ SC18
Lenovo @ SC18 Mellanox Technologies @ SC18
NVIDIA @ SC18
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

Deep500: ETH Researchers Introduce New Deep Learning Benchmark for HPC

February 5, 2019

ETH researchers have developed a new deep learning benchmarking environment – Deep500 – they say is “the first distributed and reproducible benchmarking s Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Bets $2B Seeking 1000X AI Hardware Performance Boost

February 7, 2019

For now, AI systems are mostly machine learning-based and “narrow” – powerful as they are by today's standards, they're limited to performing a few, narro Read more…

By Doug Black

Arm Unveils Neoverse N1 Platform with up to 128-Cores

February 20, 2019

Following on its Neoverse roadmap announcement last October, Arm today revealed its next-gen Neoverse microarchitecture with compute and throughput-optimized si Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Cascade Lake Xeons with Up to 56 Cores

April 2, 2019

At Intel's Data-Centric Innovation Day in San Francisco (April 2), the company unveiled its second-generation Xeon Scalable (Cascade Lake) family and debuted it Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Announcing four new HPC capabilities in Google Cloud Platform

April 15, 2019

When you’re running compute-bound or memory-bound applications for high performance computing or large, data-dependent machine learning training workloads on Read more…

By Wyatt Gorman, HPC Specialist, Google Cloud; Brad Calder, VP of Engineering, Google Cloud; Bart Sano, VP of Platforms, Google Cloud

In Wake of Nvidia-Mellanox: Xilinx to Acquire Solarflare

April 25, 2019

With echoes of Nvidia’s recent acquisition of Mellanox, FPGA maker Xilinx has announced a definitive agreement to acquire Solarflare Communications, provider Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia Claims 6000x Speed-Up for Stock Trading Backtest Benchmark

May 13, 2019

A stock trading backtesting algorithm used by hedge funds to simulate trading variants has received a massive, GPU-based performance boost, according to Nvidia, Read more…

By Doug Black

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This