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!

Graphcore Introduces Next-Gen Intelligence Processing Unit for AI Workloads

July 15, 2020

British hardware designer Graphcore, which emerged from stealth in 2016 to launch its first-generation Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU), has announced its next-generation IPU platform: the IPU-Machine M2000. With the n Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

heFFTe: Scaling FFT for Exascale

July 15, 2020

Exascale computing aspires to provide breakthrough solutions addressing today’s most critical challenges in scientific discovery, energy assurance, economic competitiveness, and national security. This has been the mai Read more…

By Jack Dongarra and Stanimire Tomov

There’s No Storage Like ATGC: Breakthrough Helps to Store ‘The Wizard of Oz’ in DNA

July 15, 2020

Even as storage density reaches new heights, many researchers have their eyes set on a paradigm shift in high-density information storage: storing data in the four nucleotides (A, T, G and C) that constitute DNA, a metho Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Get a Grip: Intel Neuromorphic Chip Used to Give Robotics Arm a Sense of Touch

July 15, 2020

Moving neuromorphic technology from the laboratory into practice has proven slow-going. This week, National University of Singapore researchers moved the needle forward demonstrating an event-driven, visual-tactile perce Read more…

By John Russell

What’s New in HPC Research: Volcanoes, Mobile Games, Proteins & More

July 14, 2020

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AWS Solution Channel

INEOS TEAM UK Accelerates Boat Design for America’s Cup Using HPC on AWS

The America’s Cup Dream

The 36th America’s Cup race will be decided in Auckland, New Zealand in 2021. Like all the teams, INEOS TEAM UK will compete in a boat whose design will have followed guidelines set by race organizers to ensure the crew’s sailing skills are fully tested. Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Supercomputing the Pandemic: Scientific Community Tackles COVID-19 from Multiple Perspectives

Since their inception, supercomputers have taken on the biggest, most complex, and most data-intensive computing challenges—from confirming Einstein’s theories about gravitational waves to predicting the impacts of climate change. Read more…

Joliot-Curie Supercomputer Used to Build First Full, High-Fidelity Aircraft Engine Simulation

July 14, 2020

When industrial designers plan the design of a new element of a vehicle’s propulsion or exterior, they typically use fluid dynamics to optimize airflow and increase the vehicle’s speed and efficiency. These fluid dyn Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Graphcore Introduces Next-Gen Intelligence Processing Unit for AI Workloads

July 15, 2020

British hardware designer Graphcore, which emerged from stealth in 2016 to launch its first-generation Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU), has announced its nex Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

heFFTe: Scaling FFT for Exascale

July 15, 2020

Exascale computing aspires to provide breakthrough solutions addressing today’s most critical challenges in scientific discovery, energy assurance, economic c Read more…

By Jack Dongarra and Stanimire Tomov

Get a Grip: Intel Neuromorphic Chip Used to Give Robotics Arm a Sense of Touch

July 15, 2020

Moving neuromorphic technology from the laboratory into practice has proven slow-going. This week, National University of Singapore researchers moved the needle Read more…

By John Russell

Max Planck Society Begins Installation of Liquid-Cooled Supercomputer from Lenovo

July 9, 2020

Lenovo announced today that it is supplying a new high performance computer to the Max Planck Society, one of Germany's premier research organizations. Comprise Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

President’s Council Targets AI, Quantum, STEM; Recommends Spending Growth

July 9, 2020

Last week the President Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met (webinar) to review policy recommendations around three sub-committee reports: Read more…

By John Russell

Google Cloud Debuts 16-GPU Ampere A100 Instances

July 7, 2020

On the heels of the Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU launch in May, Google Cloud is announcing alpha availability of the A100 “Accelerator Optimized” VM A2 instance family on Google Compute Engine. The instances are powered by the HGX A100 16-GPU platform, which combines two HGX A100 8-GPU baseboards using... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Q&A: HLRS’s Bastian Koller Tackles HPC and Industry in Germany and Europe

July 6, 2020

In this exclusive interview for HPCwire – sadly not face to face – Steve Conway, senior advisor for Hyperion Research, talks with Dr.-Ing Bastian Koller about the state of HPC and its collaboration with Industry in Europe. Koller is a familiar figure in HPC. He is the managing director at High Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS) and also serves... Read more…

By Steve Conway, Hyperion

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time Read more…

By John Russell

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Neocortex Will Be First-of-Its-Kind 800,000-Core AI Supercomputer

June 9, 2020

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC - a joint research organization of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh) has won a $5 million award Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU: Up to 2.5X the HPC, 20X the AI

May 14, 2020

Nvidia's first Ampere-based graphics card, the A100 GPU, packs a whopping 54 billion transistors on 826mm2 of silicon, making it the world's largest seven-nanom Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

TACC Supercomputers Run Simulations Illuminating COVID-19, DNA Replication

March 19, 2020

As supercomputers around the world spin up to combat the coronavirus, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is announcing results that may help to illumina Read more…

By Staff report

$100B Plan Submitted for Massive Remake and Expansion of NSF

May 27, 2020

Legislation to reshape, expand - and rename - the National Science Foundation has been submitted in both the U.S. House and Senate. The proposal, which seems to Read more…

By John Russell

John Martinis Reportedly Leaves Google Quantum Effort

April 21, 2020

John Martinis, who led Google’s quantum computing effort since establishing its quantum hardware group in 2014, has left Google after being moved into an advi Read more…

By John Russell

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