SGI Unveils Faster, Denser ICE Machine for Supercomputing

By Michael Feldman

November 14, 2011

Supercomputer maker SGI has launched its next generation ICE supercomputer, the company’s flagship scale-out HPC cluster platform. Using Intel’s latest Xeon processors, ICE-X is up to two and half times as dense and twice as fast as the current ICE 8400 system. “We expect to extend our share in the large-scale cluster market significantly with the new SGI ICE X, as it is designed for scale, speed and density,” said SGI CEO Mark J. Barrenechea, in a press announcement released on Monday.

According to Paul Kinyon, SGI’s director of product marketing for the scale out server business, the new ICE-X, which is codenamed “Carlsbad 3.0,” represents the largest performance boost in the company’s five generations of ICE machines. Most of this is due to the newest crop of x86 CPUs and InfiniBand parts. Specifically, the initial products will be powered by Intel’s upcoming Sandy Bridge Xeon CPUs, the 8-core Xeon E5s, and employ the latest and greatest FDR (Fourteen Data Rate) InfiniBand technology.

But, said Kinyon, much of the engineering effort was directed at optimizing density and cooling for the platform. In the most compact configuration offered, a single rack can house 288 CPUs, or 2,304 cores. Depending on the specific configuration and wattage on the selected Xeon parts, traditional air-cooled heat sinks or liquid cold sinks are employed.

The system design is modular, based on a 9.5U enclosure. Each one can house 18 blades slots (more about what that entails in a moment) and two InfiniBand switches. (The switch is an SGI custom job, employing Mellanox’s 36-port FDR InfiniBand ASIC.) Two enclosures are paired together, with a power supply shelf sandwiched between them, to make a 21U building block. Two of these building blocks can be stacked into a standard-height 42U rack.

As far as the blade themselves, they come in a couple of models: a single-node board (Dakota) or the double-node twin blade (Gemini). In both versions, each node is a dual-socket board with an attached mezzanine board that holds the FDR InfiniBand adapter, in this case, a Mellanox ConnectX-3 HCA. The mezzanine is connected to the main board with PCIe Gen 3 links, which is necessary if the FDR adapter is to run at its full 56 Gbps speed. Since the Xeon E5 processor has PCIe Gen 3 support built-in as well, all the componentry will support FDR, and eventually EDR.

The main difference between the blades is that Dakota can support up to eight DIMMs per socket and has three InfiniBand mezzanine board options (single-port, dual-port, and dual single-port), while the Gemini blade supports only four DIMMs and offers just the dual single-port InfiniBand mezzanine board. Essentially the denser twin blade offers twice the compute, but trades off memory capacity and some flexibility on the InfiniBand interconnect.

At the rack level, SGI offers two flavors (and widths) : the 24-inch D-rack and the 28-inch M-rack. The D-rack is the less dense version and can only house the Dakota blades. It maxes out at 144 sockets. The M-Rack can take either the Dakota or Gemini blades, and with the latter can hold 288 sockets. For comparison, the current ICE 8400 rack tops out at 128 sockets and is a couple of inches wider than the M-Rack.

Cooling defaults to the air-cooled heat sinks, until you get to the Gemini twin blade, where the cold sinks are used if you start outfitting those denser blades with the top-end Xeon CPUs. At the time of this writing, Intel has not revealed the speeds and feeds on the Xeon E5 processors line, so all Kinyon could say was that they will support the whole range of E5 SKUs up to and including the fastest (and hottest) 130 watt CPUs. In general, anything over 95 watts is in need of a cold sink, which sits right on the processor.

SGI also supports a memory subsystem as befitting an HPC machine, in this case, DDR3 DIMMs running at 1600 memory transfers/second. When you have 16 DIMMs per node, as is possible with the Dakota blade, that translates into a lot of aggregate bandwidth. “In HPC, memory bandwidth is king,” said Kinyon, “so the ability to have more DIMMs running at the highest frequency possible is a big deal.”

The only down side to all this dense packaging is that there really is no space for external PCIe slots to add, say, a GPU or flash memory card (although a SATA drive slot is available to hold an SSD). Kinyon said there is a way to hook up GPUs, but it must be done externally with what SGI calls “specialty nodes.” The advantage here, he said, is that the GPU to CPU mix is much more flexible and dynamic.

Although ICE-X scales up into the tens of petaflops realm, customers can buy much smaller systems, down into the tens of teraflops. In fact, existing customers can add ICE-X racks to their older ICE machines with relative ease. One such customer is NASA, owners of the 1.35-petaflop Pleiades supercomputer, which is already the largest SGI ICE cluster in the world.

The plan is to add 1,700 ICE-X nodes on top of the existing Pleiades system, which currently has of two generations of ICE gear. Thanks to the hypercube InfiniBand topology of Pleiades, SGI can upgrade the system while it’s running, with no downtime for users. Kinyon said you just bolt it together, cable it up, and the system management software will automatically bring the new nodes into the cluster.

The additional ICE-X nodes will bump Pleiades’ peak performance by about 575 teraflops, but since a couple of hundred teraflops of the older, slower servers will be removed (due to space considerations), the space agency will end up with about 1.7 petaflops. The upgrade is slated to be complete by early 2012.

Not all ICE-X configurations will be available by then, however. The Dakota blade will ship in late Q4 and the Gemini blade will be available a few months after that, in the first quarter of 2012. Some of the cooling options and InfiniBand mezzanine boards won’t ship until the first quarter of next year, and in the case of the cold sink, the second quarter.

Beyond that, future ICE systems will be on a two-year cadence. The next iteration, codenamed Carlsbad 4, is tentatively slated for 2013 and will support EDR InfiniBand. Carlsbad 5 is due in 2015 and will use whatever InfiniBand generation is ready in that timeframe. CPUs and memory technology will move up accordingly with each new generation.

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!

Q&A with Altair CEO James Scapa, an HPCwire Person to Watch in 2021

May 14, 2021

Chairman, CEO and co-founder of Altair James R. Scapa closed several acquisitions for the company in 2020, including the purchase and integration of Univa and Ellexus. Scapa founded Altair more than 35 years ago with two Read more…

HLRS HPC Helps to Model Muscle Movements

May 13, 2021

The growing scale of HPC is allowing simulation of more and more complex systems at greater detail than ever before, particularly in the biological research spheres. Now, researchers at the University of Stuttgart are le Read more…

Behind the Met Office’s Procurement of a Billion-Dollar Microsoft System

May 13, 2021

The UK’s national weather service, the Met Office, caused shockwaves of curiosity a few weeks ago when it formally announced that its forthcoming billion-dollar supercomputer – expected to be the most powerful weather and climate-focused supercomputer in the world when it launches in 2022... Read more…

AMD, GlobalFoundries Commit to $1.6 Billion Wafer Supply Deal

May 13, 2021

AMD plans to purchase $1.6 billion worth of wafers from GlobalFoundries in the 2022 to 2024 timeframe, the chipmaker revealed today (May 13) in an SEC filing. In the face of global semiconductor shortages and record-high demand, AMD is renegotiating its Wafer Supply Agreement and bumping up capacity. Read more…

Hyperion Offers Snapshot of Quantum Computing Market

May 13, 2021

The nascent quantum computer (QC) market will grow 27 percent annually (CAGR) reaching $830 million in 2024 according to an update provided today by analyst firm Hyperion Research at the HPC User Forum being held this we Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Numerical weather prediction on AWS Graviton2

The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model is a numerical weather prediction (NWP) system designed to serve both atmospheric research and operational forecasting needs. Read more…

Hyperion: HPC Server Market Ekes 1 Percent Gain in 2020, Storage Poised for ‘Tipping Point’

May 12, 2021

The HPC User Forum meeting taking place virtually this week (May 11-13) kicked off with Hyperion Research’s market update, covering the 2020 period. Although the HPC server market had been facing a 6.7 percent COVID-re Read more…

Behind the Met Office’s Procurement of a Billion-Dollar Microsoft System

May 13, 2021

The UK’s national weather service, the Met Office, caused shockwaves of curiosity a few weeks ago when it formally announced that its forthcoming billion-dollar supercomputer – expected to be the most powerful weather and climate-focused supercomputer in the world when it launches in 2022... Read more…

AMD, GlobalFoundries Commit to $1.6 Billion Wafer Supply Deal

May 13, 2021

AMD plans to purchase $1.6 billion worth of wafers from GlobalFoundries in the 2022 to 2024 timeframe, the chipmaker revealed today (May 13) in an SEC filing. In the face of global semiconductor shortages and record-high demand, AMD is renegotiating its Wafer Supply Agreement and bumping up capacity. Read more…

Hyperion Offers Snapshot of Quantum Computing Market

May 13, 2021

The nascent quantum computer (QC) market will grow 27 percent annually (CAGR) reaching $830 million in 2024 according to an update provided today by analyst fir Read more…

Hyperion: HPC Server Market Ekes 1 Percent Gain in 2020, Storage Poised for ‘Tipping Point’

May 12, 2021

The HPC User Forum meeting taking place virtually this week (May 11-13) kicked off with Hyperion Research’s market update, covering the 2020 period. Although Read more…

IBM Debuts Qiskit Runtime for Quantum Computing; Reports Dramatic Speed-up

May 11, 2021

In conjunction with its virtual Think event, IBM today introduced an enhanced Qiskit Runtime Software for quantum computing, which it says demonstrated 120x spe Read more…

AMD Chipmaker TSMC to Use AMD Chips for Chipmaking

May 8, 2021

TSMC has tapped AMD to support its major manufacturing and R&D workloads. AMD will provide its Epyc Rome 7702P CPUs – with 64 cores operating at a base cl Read more…

Fast Pass Through (Some of) the Quantum Landscape with ORNL’s Raphael Pooser

May 7, 2021

In a rather remarkable way, and despite the frequent hype, the behind-the-scenes work of developing quantum computing has dramatically accelerated in the past f Read more…

IBM Research Debuts 2nm Test Chip with 50 Billion Transistors

May 6, 2021

IBM Research today announced the successful prototyping of the world's first 2 nanometer chip, fabricated with silicon nanosheet technology on a standard 300mm Read more…

AMD Chipmaker TSMC to Use AMD Chips for Chipmaking

May 8, 2021

TSMC has tapped AMD to support its major manufacturing and R&D workloads. AMD will provide its Epyc Rome 7702P CPUs – with 64 cores operating at a base cl Read more…

Intel Launches 10nm ‘Ice Lake’ Datacenter CPU with Up to 40 Cores

April 6, 2021

The wait is over. Today Intel officially launched its 10nm datacenter CPU, the third-generation Intel Xeon Scalable processor, codenamed Ice Lake. With up to 40 Read more…

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from Julialang.org. I Read more…

CERN Is Betting Big on Exascale

April 1, 2021

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) involves 23 countries, 15,000 researchers, billions of dollars a year, and the biggest machine in the worl Read more…

HPE Launches Storage Line Loaded with IBM’s Spectrum Scale File System

April 6, 2021

HPE today launched a new family of storage solutions bundled with IBM’s Spectrum Scale Erasure Code Edition parallel file system (description below) and featu Read more…

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…

Saudi Aramco Unveils Dammam 7, Its New Top Ten Supercomputer

January 21, 2021

By revenue, oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco is one of the largest companies in the world, and it has historically employed commensurate amounts of supercomputing Read more…

Quantum Computer Start-up IonQ Plans IPO via SPAC

March 8, 2021

IonQ, a Maryland-based quantum computing start-up working with ion trap technology, plans to go public via a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) merger a Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

AMD Launches Epyc ‘Milan’ with 19 SKUs for HPC, Enterprise and Hyperscale

March 15, 2021

At a virtual launch event held today (Monday), AMD revealed its third-generation Epyc “Milan” CPU lineup: a set of 19 SKUs -- including the flagship 64-core, 280-watt 7763 part --  aimed at HPC, enterprise and cloud workloads. Notably, the third-gen Epyc Milan chips achieve 19 percent... Read more…

Can Deep Learning Replace Numerical Weather Prediction?

March 3, 2021

Numerical weather prediction (NWP) is a mainstay of supercomputing. Some of the first applications of the first supercomputers dealt with climate modeling, and Read more…

Livermore’s El Capitan Supercomputer to Debut HPE ‘Rabbit’ Near Node Local Storage

February 18, 2021

A near node local storage innovation called Rabbit factored heavily into Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s decision to select Cray’s proposal for its CORAL-2 machine, the lab’s first exascale-class supercomputer, El Capitan. Details of this new storage technology were revealed... Read more…

African Supercomputing Center Inaugurates ‘Toubkal,’ Most Powerful Supercomputer on the Continent

February 25, 2021

Historically, Africa hasn’t exactly been synonymous with supercomputing. There are only a handful of supercomputers on the continent, with few ranking on the Read more…

GTC21: Nvidia Launches cuQuantum; Dips a Toe in Quantum Computing

April 13, 2021

Yesterday Nvidia officially dipped a toe into quantum computing with the launch of cuQuantum SDK, a development platform for simulating quantum circuits on GPU-accelerated systems. As Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang emphasized in his keynote, Nvidia doesn’t plan to build... Read more…

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

The History of Supercomputing vs. COVID-19

March 9, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic poses a greater challenge to the high-performance computing community than any before. HPCwire's coverage of the supercomputing response t Read more…

Microsoft to Provide World’s Most Powerful Weather & Climate Supercomputer for UK’s Met Office

April 22, 2021

More than 14 months ago, the UK government announced plans to invest £1.2 billion ($1.56 billion) into weather and climate supercomputing, including procuremen Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire