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!

On the Spack Track @SC19

December 5, 2019

At the annual supercomputing conference, SC19 in Denver, Colorado, there were Spack events each day of the conference. As a reflection of its grassroots heritage, nine sessions were planned by more than a dozen thought leaders from seven organizations, including three U.S. national Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories and Sylabs... Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake

Intel’s New Hyderabad Design Center Targets Exascale Era Technologies

December 3, 2019

Intel's Raja Koduri was in India this week to help launch a new 300,000 square foot design and engineering center in Hyderabad, which will focus on advanced computing technologies for the AI and exascale era. "Over th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AWS Debuts 7nm 2nd-Gen Graviton Arm Processor

December 3, 2019

The “x86 Big Bang,” in which market dominance of the venerable Intel CPU has exploded into fragments of processor options suited to varying workloads, has now encompassed CPUs offered by the leading public cloud serv Read more…

By Doug Black

Medical Imaging Gets an AI Boost

December 3, 2019

AI technologies incorporated into diagnostic imaging tools have proven useful in eliminating confirmation bias, often outperforming human clinicians who may bring their own prejudices. Another issue slowing progress is t Read more…

By George Leopold

Ride on the Wild Side – Squyres SC19 Mars Rovers Keynote

December 2, 2019

Reminding us of the deep and enabling connection between HPC and modern science is an important part of the SC Conference mission. And yes, HPC is a science itself. At SC19, Steve Squyres’ opening keynote recounting th Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Solution Channel

Making High Performance Computing Affordable and Accessible for Small and Medium Businesses with HPC on AWS

High performance computing (HPC) brings a powerful set of tools to a broad range of industries, helping to drive innovation and boost revenue in finance, genomics, oil and gas extraction, and other fields. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

AI Needs Intelligent HPC infrastructure

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has revolutionized entire industries and enables humanity to solve some of the most daunting challenges. To accomplish this, it requires massive amounts of data from heterogeneous sources that is processed it new ways that differs significantly from HPC applications. Read more…

NSCI Update – Adapting to a Changing Landscape

December 2, 2019

It was November of 2017 when we last visited the topic of the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI). As you will recall, the NSCI was started with an Executive Order (E.O. No. 13702), that was issued by President Obama in July of 2015 and was followed by a Strategic Plan that was released in July of 2016. The question for November of 2017... Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

On the Spack Track @SC19

December 5, 2019

At the annual supercomputing conference, SC19 in Denver, Colorado, there were Spack events each day of the conference. As a reflection of its grassroots heritage, nine sessions were planned by more than a dozen thought leaders from seven organizations, including three U.S. national Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories and Sylabs... Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake

Intel’s New Hyderabad Design Center Targets Exascale Era Technologies

December 3, 2019

Intel's Raja Koduri was in India this week to help launch a new 300,000 square foot design and engineering center in Hyderabad, which will focus on advanced com Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AWS Debuts 7nm 2nd-Gen Graviton Arm Processor

December 3, 2019

The “x86 Big Bang,” in which market dominance of the venerable Intel CPU has exploded into fragments of processor options suited to varying workloads, has n Read more…

By Doug Black

Ride on the Wild Side – Squyres SC19 Mars Rovers Keynote

December 2, 2019

Reminding us of the deep and enabling connection between HPC and modern science is an important part of the SC Conference mission. And yes, HPC is a science its Read more…

By John Russell

NSCI Update – Adapting to a Changing Landscape

December 2, 2019

It was November of 2017 when we last visited the topic of the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI). As you will recall, the NSCI was started with an Executive Order (E.O. No. 13702), that was issued by President Obama in July of 2015 and was followed by a Strategic Plan that was released in July of 2016. The question for November of 2017... Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Tsinghua University Racks Up Its Ninth Student Cluster Championship Win at SC19

November 27, 2019

Tsinghua University has done it again. At SC19 last week, the eight-time gold medal-winner team took home the top prize in the 2019 Student Cluster Competition Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

SC19: IBM Changes Its HPC-AI Game Plan

November 25, 2019

It’s probably fair to say IBM is known for big bets. Summit supercomputer – a big win. Red Hat acquisition – looking like a big win. OpenPOWER and Power processors – jury’s out? At SC19, long-time IBMer Dave Turek sketched out a different kind of bet for Big Blue – a small ball strategy, if you’ll forgive the baseball analogy... Read more…

By John Russell

How the Gordon Bell Prize Winners Used Summit to Illuminate Transistors

November 22, 2019

At SC19, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) awarded the prestigious Gordon Bell Prize to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich. The Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer-Powered AI Tackles a Key Fusion Energy Challenge

August 7, 2019

Fusion energy is the Holy Grail of the energy world: low-radioactivity, low-waste, zero-carbon, high-output nuclear power that can run on hydrogen or lithium. T Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DARPA Looks to Propel Parallelism

September 4, 2019

As Moore’s law runs out of steam, new programming approaches are being pursued with the goal of greater hardware performance with less coding. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency is launching a new programming effort aimed at leveraging the benefits of massive distributed parallelism with less sweat. Read more…

By George Leopold

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC19: IBM Changes Its HPC-AI Game Plan

November 25, 2019

It’s probably fair to say IBM is known for big bets. Summit supercomputer – a big win. Red Hat acquisition – looking like a big win. OpenPOWER and Power processors – jury’s out? At SC19, long-time IBMer Dave Turek sketched out a different kind of bet for Big Blue – a small ball strategy, if you’ll forgive the baseball analogy... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Debuts New GPU – Ponte Vecchio – and Outlines Aspirations for oneAPI

November 17, 2019

Intel today revealed a few more details about its forthcoming Xe line of GPUs – the top SKU is named Ponte Vecchio and will be used in Aurora, the first plann Read more…

By John Russell

Kubernetes, Containers and HPC

September 19, 2019

Software containers and Kubernetes are important tools for building, deploying, running and managing modern enterprise applications at scale and delivering enterprise software faster and more reliably to the end user — while using resources more efficiently and reducing costs. Read more…

By Daniel Gruber, Burak Yenier and Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud

Dell Ramps Up HPC Testing of AMD Rome Processors

October 21, 2019

Dell Technologies is wading deeper into the AMD-based systems market with a growing evaluation program for the latest Epyc (Rome) microprocessors from AMD. In a Read more…

By John Russell

SC19: Welcome to Denver

November 17, 2019

A significant swath of the HPC community has come to Denver for SC19, which began today (Sunday) with a rich technical program. As is customary, the ribbon cutt Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

When Dense Matrix Representations Beat Sparse

September 9, 2019

In our world filled with unintended consequences, it turns out that saving memory space to help deal with GPU limitations, knowing it introduces performance pen Read more…

By James Reinders

With the Help of HPC, Astronomers Prepare to Deflect a Real Asteroid

September 26, 2019

For years, NASA has been running simulations of asteroid impacts to understand the risks (and likelihoods) of asteroids colliding with Earth. Now, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are preparing for the next, crucial step in planetary defense against asteroid impacts: physically deflecting a real asteroid. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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