NVIDIA Tegra Processors Blaze the Way for ARM in Supercomputing

By Michael Feldman

November 23, 2011

As has become apparent to nearly everyone in the HPC community, life beyond petascale supercomputing will be power limited. Many efforts around the world are now underway to address this problem, both by commercial interests and researchers. One such effort that brings both into play is the Mont-Blanc research project at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), which is looking to exploit ARM processors, GPUs, and other off-the-shelf technologies to produce radically energy-efficient supercomputers.

In this case, radically means using 15 to 30 times less energy than would be the case with current HPC technologies. The idea is to be able to build petascale, and eventually exascale supercomputers that would draw no more than twice the power of the top supercomputers today. (The world champ 10-petaflop K computer chews up 12MW running Linpack.) Specifically, the goal is develop an architecture that can scale to 50 petaflops on just 7MW of power in the 2014 timeframe, and 200 petaflops with 10MW by 2017.

The Mont-Blanc project was officially kicked off on October 14, and thanks to 14 million Euros in funding, is already in full swing. Last week, NVIDIA announced that BSC had built and deployed a prototype machine using the GPU maker’s ARM-based Tegra processors that have, up until now, been used only in mobile devices.

The power-sipping ARM is increasingly turning up in conversations around energy efficient HPC. At SC11 in Seattle last week, there were a couple of sessions along these lines, including a BoF on Energy Efficient High Performance Computing that featured the advantages of the ARM architecture for this line of work as well as a PGI exhibitor forum on some of the practical aspects of using ARM processors for high performance computing. There was also the recent news by ARM Ltd of its new 64-bit ARM design (ARMv8), which is intended to move the architecture into the server arena.

NVIDIA is already sold on ARM, and not just for the Tegra line. In January, the company revealed “Project Denver,” its plan to design processors that integrate NVIDIA-designed ARM CPUs and CUDA GPUs, with the idea of introducing them across their entire portfolio, including the high-end Tesla line. “We think that the momentum is clearly pointing in the direction of more and more ARM infiltration into the HPC space,” said Steve Scott, CTO of NVIDIA’s Tesla Unit.

The Mont-Blanc project is certainly an endorsement of this approach. The initial BSC prototype system is a 256-node cluster, with each node pairing a dual-core Tegra 2 with two independent ARM Cortex-A9 processors. The whole machine delivers a meager 512 gigaflops (peak) and an efficiency of about 300 megaflops/watt, which is on par with a current-generation x86-based cluster. The numbers here are somewhat meaningless though. The initial system is a proof of concept platform designed for researchers to begin development of the software stack and port some initial applications.

The second BSC prototype, scheduled to be built in the first half of 2012, will employ NVIDIA’s next-generation quad-core Tegra 3 chips hooked up to discrete NVIDIA GPUs, in this case, the GeForce 520MX (a GPU for laptops). This system is also 256 nodes, but will deliver on the order of 38 peak teraflops. Energy efficiency is estimated to be a much more impressive 7.5 gigaflops/watt, or more than three and a half times better than the industry-leading Blue Gene/Q supercomputer. In conjunction with this second prototype, NVIDIA will be releasing a new CUDA toolkit that will include ARM support.

The first two prototypes are BSC inventions. The project will subsequently develop its own more advanced prototype. According to Scott, that cluster will be 1,000 nodes, although the internal make-up is still not decided. Given the timeframe though (2013-2014), the system is likely to include NVIDIA processors using Project Denver technology, with the chip maker’s homegrown ARM implementation and much more performant GPUs.

By the end of the three-year project, the researchers intend to have a complete software stack, including an operating system, runtime libraries, scientific libraries, cluster management middleware, one or more file systems, and performance tools. They also hope to have 11 full-scale scientific applications running on the architecture, which encompass fluid dynamics, protein folding, weather modeling, quantum chromodynamics, and seismic simulations, among others.

Whether Mont-Blanc leads to any commercial HPC products remains to be seen. NVIDIA, for its part, is certainly happy to see this level interest and adoption of its ARM-GPU approach. “We see this as seeding the environment, where people can do software development and experimentation,” said Scott. “We think that it will grow into something larger down the road.”

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!

Pfizer HPC Engineer Aims to Automate Software Stack Testing

January 17, 2019

Seeking to reign in the tediousness of manual software testing, Pfizer HPC Engineer Shahzeb Siddiqui is developing an open source software tool called buildtest, aimed at automating software stack testing by providing the community with a central repository of tests for common HPC apps and the ability to automate execution of testing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Senegal Prepares to Take Delivery of Atos Supercomputer

January 16, 2019

In just a few months time, Senegal will be operating the second largest HPC system in sub-Saharan Africa. The Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation Mary Teuw Niane made the announcement... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Cloud Platform Extends GPU Instance Options

January 16, 2019

If it's Nvidia GPUs you're after to power your AI/HPC/visualization workload, Google Cloud has them, now claiming "broadest GPU availability." Each of the three big public cloud vendors has by turn touted the latest and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Systems With Intel Omni-Path: Architected for Value and Accessible High-Performance Computing

Today’s high-performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI) users value high performing clusters. And the higher the performance that their system can deliver, the better. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Resource Management in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

New challenges demand fresh approaches

Fueled by GPUs, big data, and rapid advances in software, the AI revolution is upon us. Read more…

STAC Floats ML Benchmark for Financial Services Workloads

January 16, 2019

STAC (Securities Technology Analysis Center) recently released an ‘exploratory’ benchmark for machine learning which it hopes will evolve into a firm benchmark or suite of benchmarking tools to compare the performanc Read more…

By John Russell

Google Cloud Platform Extends GPU Instance Options

January 16, 2019

If it's Nvidia GPUs you're after to power your AI/HPC/visualization workload, Google Cloud has them, now claiming "broadest GPU availability." Each of the three Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

STAC Floats ML Benchmark for Financial Services Workloads

January 16, 2019

STAC (Securities Technology Analysis Center) recently released an ‘exploratory’ benchmark for machine learning which it hopes will evolve into a firm benchm Read more…

By John Russell

A Big Data Journey While Seeking to Catalog our Universe

January 16, 2019

It turns out, astronomers have lots of photos of the sky but seek knowledge about what the photos mean. Sound familiar? Big data problems are often characterize Read more…

By James Reinders

Intel Bets Big on 2-Track Quantum Strategy

January 15, 2019

Quantum computing has lived so long in the future it’s taken on a futuristic life of its own, with a Gartner-style hype cycle that includes triggers of innovation, inflated expectations and – though a useful quantum system is still years away – anticipatory troughs of disillusionment. Read more…

By Doug Black

IBM Quantum Update: Q System One Launch, New Collaborators, and QC Center Plans

January 10, 2019

IBM made three significant quantum computing announcements at CES this week. One was introduction of IBM Q System One; it’s really the integration of IBM’s Read more…

By John Russell

IBM’s New Global Weather Forecasting System Runs on GPUs

January 9, 2019

Anyone who has checked a forecast to decide whether or not to pack an umbrella knows that weather prediction can be a mercurial endeavor. It is a Herculean task: the constant modeling of incredibly complex systems to a high degree of accuracy at a local level within very short spans of time. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Computing Will Never Work

November 27, 2018

Amid the gush of money and enthusiastic predictions being thrown at quantum computing comes a proposed cold shower in the form of an essay by physicist Mikhail Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Unveils Shasta, Lands NERSC-9 Contract

October 30, 2018

Cray revealed today the details of its next-gen supercomputing architecture, Shasta, selected to be the next flagship system at NERSC. We've known of the code-name "Shasta" since the Argonne slice of the CORAL project was announced in 2015 and although the details of that plan have changed considerably, Cray didn't slow down its timeline for Shasta. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Sets Up for Epyc Epoch

November 16, 2018

It’s been a good two weeks, AMD’s Gary Silcott and Andy Parma told me on the last day of SC18 in Dallas at the restaurant where we met to discuss their show news and recent successes. Heck, it’s been a good year. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

US Leads Supercomputing with #1, #2 Systems & Petascale Arm

November 12, 2018

The 31st Supercomputing Conference (SC) - commemorating 30 years since the first Supercomputing in 1988 - kicked off in Dallas yesterday, taking over the Kay Ba Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Contract Signed for New Finnish Supercomputer

December 13, 2018

After the official contract signing yesterday, configuration details were made public for the new BullSequana system that the Finnish IT Center for Science (CSC Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Jensen Huang Delivers Vision for the New HPC

November 14, 2018

For nearly two hours on Monday at SC18, Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, presented his expansive view of the future of HPC (and computing in general) as only he can do. Animated. Backstopped by a stream of data charts, product photos, and even a beautiful image of supernovae... Read more…

By John Russell

HPE No. 1, IBM Surges, in ‘Bucking Bronco’ High Performance Server Market

September 27, 2018

Riding healthy U.S. and global economies, strong demand for AI-capable hardware and other tailwind trends, the high performance computing server market jumped 28 percent in the second quarter 2018 to $3.7 billion, up from $2.9 billion for the same period last year, according to industry analyst firm Hyperion Research. Read more…

By Doug Black

Leading Solution Providers

SC 18 Virtual Booth Video Tour

Advania @ SC18 AMD @ SC18
ASRock Rack @ SC18
DDN Storage @ SC18
HPE @ SC18
IBM @ SC18
Lenovo @ SC18 Mellanox Technologies @ SC18
NVIDIA @ SC18
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

HPC Reflections and (Mostly Hopeful) Predictions

December 19, 2018

So much ‘spaghetti’ gets tossed on walls by the technology community (vendors and researchers) to see what sticks that it is often difficult to peer through Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Confirms 48-Core Cascade Lake-AP for 2019

November 4, 2018

As part of the run-up to SC18, taking place in Dallas next week (Nov. 11-16), Intel is doling out info on its next-gen Cascade Lake family of Xeon processors, specifically the “Advanced Processor” version (Cascade Lake-AP), architected for high-performance computing, artificial intelligence and infrastructure-as-a-service workloads. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Germany Celebrates Launch of Two Fastest Supercomputers

September 26, 2018

The new high-performance computer SuperMUC-NG at the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Garching is the fastest computer in Germany and one of the fastest i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft to Buy Mellanox?

December 20, 2018

Networking equipment powerhouse Mellanox could be an acquisition target by Microsoft, according to a published report in an Israeli financial publication. Microsoft has reportedly gone so far as to engage Goldman Sachs to handle negotiations with Mellanox. Read more…

By Doug Black

Houston to Field Massive, ‘Geophysically Configured’ Cloud Supercomputer

October 11, 2018

Based on some news stories out today, one might get the impression that the next system to crack number one on the Top500 would be an industrial oil and gas mon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer 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

IBM Quantum Update: Q System One Launch, New Collaborators, and QC Center Plans

January 10, 2019

IBM made three significant quantum computing announcements at CES this week. One was introduction of IBM Q System One; it’s really the integration of IBM’s 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