Top 10 Hits and Misses for 2011

By Michael Feldman

December 22, 2011

The supercomputing biz seems to have shaken off most of the after-effects of the global recession, with scads of new deployments large and small around the world. China, in particular, continued its big push into HPC, notching its first home-grown super. And Japan ushered in the era of 10-petaflop supercomputing this year with its world-beating K Computer. But, as always, not all the HPC news was rosy. Here are the top hits and misses for the year.

Hit: IBM Watson Ushers in New Era of Intelligent Machines

If you’re an HPC enthusiast, the biggest feel-good story of the year has to be the debut of IBM’s Watson supercomputer, which trounced trivia-champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in a nationally televised Jeopardy tournament in February. The Watson software not only showed an uncanny ability to decipher obscure game clues and spit out correct answers at lightning speed, but also to use a rather sophisticated betting strategy to maximize its winnings. Watson’s impressive Jeopardy performance has already landed the system a paying gig in the health care industry.

Miss: IBM Forsakes NCSA, Blue Waters

IBM was also at the center of the most embarrassing story of the year, namely the abandonment of its $200 million NSF-funded contract to build the 10-petaflop “Blue Waters” supercomputer for the NCSA. IBM had already begun deploying Power7 server hardware, when they came to the realization that it wasn’t going to be feasible for them to complete the project under the time and technical constraints imposed by the project. The contract termination in August forced NCSA into a quick search for a new vendor that could sub for IBM. So in November…

Hit: Cray Snatches Up Blue Waters Deal

In what must have been an especially sweet win for Cray, the supercomputer maker came to the rescue of NCSA, promising a Blue Waters supercomputer on schedule (fall 2012) and within budget. The IBM replacement will be based on Cray’s XE6 and GPU-equipped XK6 hardware and incorporate NVIDIA’s upcoming “Kepler” processors. It is expected to top out at 11.5 peak petaflops and deliver a sustain petaflop for big science applications. The win came on the heels of Cray’s October announcement that it would be building the Titan supercomputer to Oak Ridge National Lab — another multi-petaflop GPU-accelerated machine, also scheduled for installation in 2012.

Hit and Miss: Storage Vendor Compression

The fast-growing HPC storage business got churned up in 2011, with two major acquisitions. In March, NetApp announced that it would acquire LSI’s Engenio storage business for $480 million. And in September, Hitachi Data Systems announced that it bought Blue Arc Corporation for an undisclosed sum. Both deals give two prominent storage vendors a prominent play in the HPC biz, but at the risk of subsuming companies that were singularly focused on just high performance computing. The NetApp deal has already paid some dividends, with the company notching a deal for a 55-petabyte storage system for the Sequoia supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Hit: Fujitsu Roars Back Into Supercomputing

Japanese computer maker Fujitsu captured the TOP500 crown in June with its SPARC CPU-based “K Computer” deployed at RIKEN. The 8-petaflop Linpack mark bested the 2 petaflop Tianhe-1A from China, the previous number one system. By November, the fully tricked-out K machine topped 10 petaflops on Linpack. Later in the year, the company commercialized this same K Computer technology (adding the next-generation SPARC64 IXfx CPU) in its new PRIMEHPC FX10 offering, which the company intends to sell internationally (The first system was deployed at the University of Tokyo.) Fujitsu also inked a £15m deal with HPC Wales to deliver a 190-teraflop HPC grid for the Welsh, representing the company’s largest ever European deployment in the HPC arena.

Miss: Microsoft Loses HPC Mojo

With rumors swirling most of the year that high performance computing at Microsoft was being ditched, the company revealed that they were reorganizing their HPC organization. Kyril Faenov, who led the Technical Computing Group, was moved to an advisory role, with Ryan Waite, the GM for the company’s High Performance Computing group, more or less running the show. The HPC group, though, was folded into the Server and Cloud Division, where the Azure Cloud platform gets most of the attention. The company maintains it will continue development of its Windows HPC Server offering for standalone clusters, but most of the emphasis now seems to be on making the Azure cloud the common denominator for all its enterprise software. The HPC community seems mostly unimpressed.

Hit: China Races Ahead

Despite being dethroned from the number one spot on the TOP500, China continues to wow the HPC community. It currently has two supers in the top 10 and 74 total systems in the top 500, more than any other country except for the US, with 263. In 2002, China claimed just 5 such systems. In addition, China is quickly building a domestic HPC server industry, with Dawning (now Sugon), Inspur, Lenovo, Sunway, and PowerLeader supplying about half the nation’s top 100 HPC machines. China also deployed its first native supercomputer this year, the Sunway BlueLight MPP, which sports domestically developed ShenWei SW1600 processors. With plans to have at least 17 petascale supercomputing centers within 5 years, China is on track to become the planet’s second HPC superpower.

Hit: Quantum Computing Goes Commercial

In May, D-Wave Systems sold the world’s first quantum computer. The buyer was Lockheed Martin Corporation, who did not disclose how they intend to use the machine. The system, named D-Wave One, employs a 128-qubit chip, called Rainier, and uses superconducting technology to generate “adiabatic quantum computing” (that some claim is not true quantum computing). The cost of the system was not disclosed, but undoubtedly this is one of those cases in which if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.

Miss: SGI Loses Its CEO

This month, server maker SGI announced that CEO Mark Barrenechea had resigned, and will be leaving the company at the end of the year. Barrenechea, who was recently named Best Large Company CEO by the San Francisco Business Times, has been at the helm of SGI since it merged with Rackable in 2009, and has managed to increase sales and narrow losses substantially over that period. The company now appears to be on the most encouraging financial trajectory it has enjoyed in several years. Filling his shoes at SGI is likely to be something of a challenge.

Hit: Intel Nabs Big Win for Manycore MIC Accelerator

Although Intel has yet to produce its first commercial Many Integrated Core (MIC) part, aka Knights Corner, the chip maker has already chalked up a significant win. In September, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) announced it will team with Dell and Intel to build a 10-petaflop supercomputer that will derive most of its flops from the Knights Corner parts, specifically 8 petaflops from the MIC coprocessors, and the other 2 petaflops from Sandy Bridge Xeon CPUs. The system, named “Stampede,” is being funded by the NSF to the tune of $27.5 million, and is slated for boot-up in late 2012. At SC11 in November, Intel previewed early silicon of Knights Corner, demonstrating one teraflop of double-precision goodness. While the upcoming Kepler GPU from NVIDIA is likely to match the MIC chip, flops for flops, the competition between the two accelerators is going to be one of the more interesting battles to watch in 2012 and beyond.

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!

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

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

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…

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). CENATE’s ambitious mission was to be a proving ground for near- Read more…

By John Russell

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

Cubes, Culture, and a New Challenge: Trish Damkroger Talks about Life at Intel—and Why HPC Matters More Than Ever

September 13, 2017

Trish Damkroger wasn’t looking to change jobs when she attended SC15 in Austin, Texas. Capping a 15-year career within Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories, she was acting Associate Director for Computation at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Her mission was to equip the lab’s scientists and research partners with resources that would advance their cutting-edge work... Read more…

By Jan Rowell

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

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

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

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

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

Leading Solution Providers

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

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

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