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!

HPC Career Notes: July 2020 Edition

July 1, 2020

In this monthly feature, we'll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high-performance computing community. Whether it's a promotion, new company hire, or even an accolade, we've got Read more…

By Mariana Iriarte

Supercomputers Enable Radical, Promising New COVID-19 Drug Development Approach

July 1, 2020

Around the world, innumerable supercomputers are sifting through billions of molecules in a desperate search for a viable therapeutic to treat COVID-19. Those molecules are pulled from enormous databases of known compoun Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPC-Powered Simulations Reveal a Looming Climatic Threat to Vital Monsoon Seasons

June 30, 2020

As June draws to a close, eyes are turning to the latter half of the year – and with it, the monsoon and hurricane seasons that can prove vital or devastating for many of the world’s coastal communities. Now, climate Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This year is no different though the conversion of ISC to a digital Read more…

By John Russell

What’s New in HPC Research: Mosquitoes, [email protected], the Last Journey & More

June 29, 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

Maxar Builds HPC on AWS to Deliver Forecasts 58% Faster Than Weather Supercomputer

When weather threatens drilling rigs, refineries, and other energy facilities, oil and gas companies want to move fast to protect personnel and equipment. And for firms that trade commodity shares in oil, precious metals, crops, and livestock, the weather can significantly impact their buy-sell decisions. 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…

Racism and HPC: a Special Podcast

June 29, 2020

Promoting greater diversity in HPC is a much-discussed goal and ostensibly a long-sought goal in HPC. Yet it seems clear HPC is far from achieving this goal. Recent U.S. events, most poignantly the killing of George Floy Read more…

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This yea Read more…

By John Russell

Racism and HPC: a Special Podcast

June 29, 2020

Promoting greater diversity in HPC is a much-discussed goal and ostensibly a long-sought goal in HPC. Yet it seems clear HPC is far from achieving this goal. Re Read more…

Top500 Trends: Movement on Top, but Record Low Turnover

June 25, 2020

The 55th installment of the Top500 list saw strong activity in the leadership segment with four new systems in the top ten and a crowning achievement from the f Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ISC 2020 Keynote: Hope for the Future, Praise for Fugaku and HPC’s Pandemic Response

June 24, 2020

In stark contrast to past years Thomas Sterling’s ISC20 keynote today struck a more somber note with the COVID-19 pandemic as the central character in Sterling’s annual review of worldwide trends in HPC. Better known for his engaging manner and occasional willingness to poke prickly egos, Sterling instead strode through the numbing statistics associated... Read more…

By John Russell

ISC 2020’s Student Cluster Competition Winners Announced

June 24, 2020

Normally, the Student Cluster Competition involves teams of students building real computing clusters on the show floors of major supercomputer conferences and Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Hoefler’s Whirlwind ISC20 Virtual Tour of ML Trends in 9 Slides

June 23, 2020

The ISC20 experience this year via livestreaming and pre-recordings is interesting and perhaps a bit odd. That said presenters’ efforts to condense their comments makes for economic use of your time. Torsten Hoefler’s whirlwind 12-minute tour of ML is a great example. Hoefler, leader of the planned ISC20 Machine Learning... Read more…

By John Russell

At ISC, the Fight Against COVID-19 Took the Stage – and Yes, Fugaku Was There

June 23, 2020

With over nine million infected and nearly half a million dead, the COVID-19 pandemic has seized the world’s attention for several months. It has also dominat Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Japan’s Fugaku Tops Global Supercomputing Rankings

June 22, 2020

A new Top500 champ was unveiled today. Supercomputer Fugaku, the pride of Japan and the namesake of Mount Fuji, vaulted to the top of the 55th edition of the To Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... 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

Steve Scott Lays Out HPE-Cray Blended Product Roadmap

March 11, 2020

Last week, the day before the El Capitan processor disclosures were made at HPE's new headquarters in San Jose, Steve Scott (CTO for HPC & AI at HPE, and former Cray CTO) was on-hand at the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. He was there to discuss the HPE-Cray transition and blended roadmap, as well as his favorite topic, Cray's eighth-gen networking technology, Slingshot. 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

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

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

‘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

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

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

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

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