NVIDIA Offers Exascale Vision at SC11

By Michael Feldman

November 18, 2011

When NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang delivered his keynote at SC11 this week, it was easy to forget that a few short years ago, the company and its GPU products had absolutely nothing to do with supercomputing. Today, of course, the technology is a driving force in the HPC ecosystem and is challenging the entrenched interests of chip makers Intel, AMD, and IBM.

Not that GPUs are a huge revenue generator for NVIDIA just yet. Of the company’s $3.3 billion in annual revenue, just $100 million can be attributed to HPC Tesla sales. “We haven’t turned it into a great business yet,” Huang told HPCwire, after Tuesday’s keynote.

NVIDIA’s journey down the HPC path did not begin the company boardroom, however. According to Huang, the most important day for GPU computing happened several years ago when two doctors from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston approached NVIDIA with idea of using their GPUs for computed tomography (CT) imaging reconstruction to detect breast cancer.

The problem with the hospital’s current setup was that an HPC cluster was needed to for the compute-intensive rendering of the CT scans. The doctors wanted to shrink this work down onto a workstation and had heard these new-fangled things in GPUs called programmable shaders might make it possible tap into the floating point power of graphics processors.

Sure enough the GPUs work as expected, and they were able to reduce CT rendering times, improving the whole diagnostic workflow. Although Mass General only bought two graphics cards for their needs at the time, Huang says GPUs are now the de facto rendering accelerator and are in 100 percent of CT scanners today.

The rest, as they say, is history. Today all of the HPC OEMs offer NVIDIA GPU-equipped systems of one sort or another, and system deployments are on the rise. According to IDC, 28 percent of HPC sites were using accelerators in 2010 — predominantly NVIDIA GPUs — from a standing start of zero in 2005.

At the top of the HPC food chain, there are 35 TOP500 systems with NVIDIA GPUs (twice as many as in June). Of these, three of the top five supercomputers are equipped with GPUs, with more on the way in 2012 with the 20-petaflop Titan system at Oak Ridge National Lab and the 11.5 petaflop Blue Waters super at NCSA.

Most of the popularity of this architecture for HPC rests on the fact that NVIDIA’s GPUs are ubiquitous in the adjacent areas of computing. Today there are 350 million or so CUDA-capable GPUs that have been shipped, the majority of which are in desktops and laptops, and this has attracted over 120 thousand CUDA developers. As a result, CUDA programming is being taught at nearly five hundred universities around the world.

In Huang’s SC11 keynote, he pointed out that the rise of HPC-style GPU computing has come about because traditional CPUs, especially x86 ones, have become rather inefficient at compute- and data-intensive computation. For example, he said CPUs use 50 times the energy to schedule the instructions and 20 times the energy to move the data than doing the actual calculation.

GPUs, by contrast, are designed to reduce data movement, and although they have poor single threaded performance because of their simple processing engines, there are many more of them to do the work in parallel. That makes for more efficient computation, assuming the application can be molded into the GPU computing model.

Huang believes the demand for energy efficient HPC flops will work in NVIDIA’s favor, noting that “supercomputers have become power limited. — just like cell phones, just like tablets.” From his perspective, future GPUs will be the platform of choice to power exaflop machines. And although Huang said those supercomputers will be able to perform at that level with just 20 MW, his crystal ball doesn’t have that happening until 2022.

In that timeframe, a second or third generation integrated ARM-GPU processor will be the most likely design. NVIDIA’s “Maxwell” GPU generation, scheduled to make its appearance in the middle of the decade, is slated to be the first NVIDIA platform to integrate their upcoming “Project Denver” ARM CPU, a homegrown design that will become the basis for all of the company’s product lines. From then on, it’s safe to assume that integration will just get tighter. By 2022, it may not make much sense to even refer to these heterogeneous processors as GPUs anymore.

NVIDIA’s early lead in the HPC accelerator business is not insurmountable though. Intel is also positioning itself to be the dominant chip maker of the exascale era, drawing its own line in the sand with a target of 2018 for an Intel-powered exaflop machine. The most likely processor design for such a system will involve Xeon cores integrated with MIC cores on the same chip, although no public plans to that effect have been aired.

AMD has been more equivocal with regard to its exascale aspirations, but the company has certainly been the early mover in heterogeneous CPU-GPU designs with its Fusion APU architecture. Their near-term plans involve putting high-end “Bulldozer” cores into an APU next year as well as adding ECC to their GPU computing line.

Their could be other vendors to challenge NVIDIA and its competitors for the future of supercomputing. Texas Instruments, for example, has just officially launched a floating point DSP with rather impressive performance/watt numbers that is being cross-targeted to HPC. Other ARM vendors could get into the act too, especially if the chip is able to establish itself in the server space with the upcoming 64-bit designs.

The lesson of NVIDIA, pointed out by Huang in his keynote, is that disruptive technologies, like GPU computing, often emerge from new products, like cell phones and tablets, which quickly ramp into volume markets. And although NVIDIA has managed to exploit that phenomenon very effectively for HPC over the last five years, it is unlikely to be the last company to do so. The volume market for the processor of the exascale era may not even exist yet.

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!

Machine Learning at HPC User Forum: Drilling into Specific Use Cases

September 22, 2017

The 66th HPC User Forum held September 5-7, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the elegant and historic Pfister Hotel, highlighting the 1893 Victorian décor and art of “The Grand Hotel Of The West,” contrasted nicely with Read more…

By Arno Kolster

Google Cloud Makes Good on Promise to Add Nvidia P100 GPUs

September 21, 2017

Google has taken down the notice on its cloud platform website that says Nvidia Tesla P100s are “coming soon.” That's because the search giant has announced the beta launch of the high-end P100 Nvidia Tesla GPUs on t Read more…

By George Leopold

Cray Wins $48M Supercomputer Contract from KISTI

September 21, 2017

It was a good day for Cray which won a $48 million contract from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI) for a 128-rack CS500 cluster supercomputer. The new system, equipped with Intel Xeon Scal Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Prepares Customers for Success with the HPC Software Portfolio

High performance computing (HPC) software is key to harnessing the full power of HPC environments. Development and management tools enable IT departments to streamline installation and maintenance of their systems as well as create, optimize, and run their HPC applications. Read more…

Adolfy Hoisie to Lead Brookhaven’s Computing for National Security Effort

September 21, 2017

Brookhaven National Laboratory announced today that Adolfy Hoisie will chair its newly formed Computing for National Security department, which is part of Brookhaven’s new Computational Science Initiative (CSI). Read more…

By John Russell

Machine Learning at HPC User Forum: Drilling into Specific Use Cases

September 22, 2017

The 66th HPC User Forum held September 5-7, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the elegant and historic Pfister Hotel, highlighting the 1893 Victorian décor and art o Read more…

By Arno Kolster

Stanford University and UberCloud Achieve Breakthrough in Living Heart Simulations

September 21, 2017

Cardiac arrhythmia can be an undesirable and potentially lethal side effect of drugs. During this condition, the electrical activity of the heart turns chaotic, Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud, and Francisco Sahli, Stanford University

PNNL’s Center for Advanced Tech Evaluation Seeks Wider HPC Community Ties

September 21, 2017

Two years ago the Department of Energy established the Center for Advanced Technology Evaluation (CENATE) at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). CENAT Read more…

By John Russell

Exascale Computing Project Names Doug Kothe as Director

September 20, 2017

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) has named Doug Kothe as its new director effective October 1. He replaces Paul Messina, who is stepping down after two years to return to Argonne National Laboratory. Kothe is a 32-year veteran of DOE’s National Laboratory System. Read more…

Takeaways from the Milwaukee HPC User Forum

September 19, 2017

Milwaukee’s elegant Pfister Hotel hosted approximately 100 attendees for the 66th HPC User Forum (September 5-7, 2017). In the original home city of Pabst Blu Read more…

By Merle Giles

Kathy Yelick Charts the Promise and Progress of Exascale Science

September 15, 2017

On Friday, Sept. 8, Kathy Yelick of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, delivered the keynote address on “Breakthrough Science at the Exascale” at the ACM Europe Conference in Barcelona. In conjunction with her presentation, Yelick agreed to a short Q&A discussion with HPCwire. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DARPA Pledges Another $300 Million for Post-Moore’s Readiness

September 14, 2017

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched a giant funding effort to ensure the United States can sustain the pace of electronic innovation vital to both a flourishing economy and a secure military. Under the banner of the Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI), some $500-$800 million will be invested in post-Moore’s Law technologies. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Breaks Ground for Complex Quantum Chemistry

September 14, 2017

IBM has reported the use of a novel algorithm to simulate BeH2 (beryllium-hydride) on a quantum computer. This is the largest molecule so far simulated on a quantum computer. The technique, which used six qubits of a seven-qubit system, is an important step forward and may suggest an approach to simulating ever larger molecules. Read more…

By John Russell

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Clears Path to 5nm with Silicon Nanosheets

June 5, 2017

Two years since announcing the industry’s first 7nm node test chip, IBM and its research alliance partners GlobalFoundries and Samsung have developed a proces Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GlobalFoundries: 7nm Chips Coming in 2018, EUV in 2019

June 13, 2017

GlobalFoundries has formally announced that its 7nm technology is ready for customer engagement with product tape outs expected for the first half of 2018. The Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This