Hybrid Memory Cube Angles for Exascale

By Michael Feldman

July 10, 2012

Computer memory is currently undergoing something of an identity crisis. For the past 8 years, multicore microprocessors have been creating a performance discontinuity, the so-called memory wall. It’s now fairly clear that this widening gap between compute and memory performance will not be solved with conventional dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) products. But there is one technology under development that aims to close that gap, and its first use case will likely be in the ethereal realm of supercomputing.

About a year and half ago, memory-maker Micron Technology came up with the Hybrid Memory Cube (HMC), a multi-chip module (MCM) device specifically designed to scale the memory wall. The goal was to offer a memory technology that matches the needs of core-happy CPUs and GPUs and do so in a way that is attractive to computer makers.

In a nutshell, HMC glues a logic control chip to a 3D memory stack, all of which are connected with Through Silicon Vias (TSVs). The technology promises not only to deliver an order of magnitude performance increase, but also to keep pace with future microprocessors as those designs continue to add cores. Micron claims a single HMC device can deliver 15 times the performance of today’s DDR3 modules and can do so with 70 percent less energy and in 90 percent less space. Latency is expected to decrease as well, although no specific claims are being made in that regard.

According to Dean Klein, VP of Micron’s Memory System Development, the problem with conventional DRAM technology is that they’ve pushed CMOS technology about as far as it’s going to go under the DDR model. Although DDR4 products are slated to ship before this end year, there is currently no DDR5 on the drawing board. That’s a problem, especially considering that DDR5 would probably be coming out toward the end of the decade, just when the first exascale supercomputers are expected to appear.

But even if DDR evolution is maintained through 2020, it would almost certainly fall short of the needs of exascale computing. Such machines are expected to require per-node memory bandwidth in excess of 500 terabytes/second. Klein says they just can’t boost the signal rates much more on the DDR design, and if they tried, power consumption would go in the wrong direction.

The HMC design gets around those limitations by going vertical and using the TSV technology to parallelize communication to the stack of memory chips, which enables much higher transfer rates. Bandwidth between the logic and the DRAM chips are projected to top a terabit per second (128 GB/second), which is much more in line with exascale needs.

Another important aspect of the design is that the interface abstracts the notion of reads and writes. That means a microprocessor’s memory controller doesn’t need to know about the underlying technology that stores the bits. So one could build an HMC device that was made up of DRAM or NAND flash, or even some combination of these technologies. That frees up the microprocessor and other peripheral devices from being locked into a particular memory type and, in general, should make system designs more flexible.

To move HMC beyond a science project, Micron put together a consortium and attracted key players, including competitors, to back the technology. Today the Hybrid Memory Cube Consortium consists of some of the industry’s heaviest hitters: Samsung, Microsoft, IBM, ARM, HP, IBM, Altera, Xilinx, Open-Silicon, and SK hynix. The group’s immediate goal is to develop a standard interface for the technology so that multiple manufacturers can build compliant HMC devices. The formal standard is due out later this year.

A key partner with Micron has been Intel, a vendor with a particular interest in high-performance memory. The chipmaker’s immediate motivation to support HMC is its Xeon line (including, soon, the manycore Xeon Phi), which is especially dependent on performant memory. In fact, without such memory, the value of high-end server chips is greatly diminished, since additional cores doesn’t translate into more performance for the end user. The relative success of future multicore and manycore processors will depend, to a large extent, on memory wall-busting technology.

Further out, Intel is looking at HMC as a technology to support its own aspirations to develop components for exascale supercomputers. Last year Intel helped Micron build an HMC prototype, which CTO Justin Rattner talked up at last September’s Intel Developer Forum. Although the chipmaker will presumably assist Micron if and when it starts churning out commercial silicon, neither company has offered a timeline for an HMC product launch. Klein did say that its prototype has been in the hands of select customers (HPC users and others) for several months, and their intent is to commercialize the technology.

And not just for high performance computing market. Although supercomputing has the greatest immediate need for such technology, other application areas, like networking, could also benefit greatly from HMC’s high bandwidth characteristics. And because of the promised power savings, even the high-volume mobile computing market is a potential target.

The biggest challenge for HMC is likely to be price. In particular, the use of TSV and 3D chip-stacking is in its infancy and by all accounts, will not come cheaply — at least not initially. And when you’re talking about 10PB of memory for an exascale machine or 1MB for a mobile phone, cost is a big consideration.

Other technologies like HP’s memristor, Magneto-resistive Random-Access Memory (MRAM), or Phase Change Memory (PCM) could come to the fore in time for the exascale era, but each one has its own challenges. As Klein notes, there is no holy grail of memory that encapsulates every desired attribute — high performance, low-cost, non-volatile, low-power, and infinite endurance.

The nice thing about HMC is that it can encapsulate DRAM as well as other memory technologies as they prove themselves. For the time being though, dynamic random-access memory will remain as the foundation of computer memory in the datacenter. “DRAM is certainly going to with us, at least until the end of the decade,” admits Klein. “We really don’t have a replace technology that looks as attractive.”

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!

Ohio Supercomputer Center Dedicates ‘Owens’ Cluster

March 29, 2017

In a dedication ceremony held earlier today (March 29), officials from Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) along with state representatives gathered to celebrate the launch of OSC’s newest cluster: Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

EU Ratchets up the Race to Exascale Computing

March 29, 2017

The race to expand HPC infrastructure, including exascale machines, to advance national and regional interests ratcheted up a notch yesterday with announcement that seven European countries – Read more…

By John Russell

Data-Hungry Algorithms and the Thirst for AI

March 29, 2017

At Tabor Communications’ Leverage Big Data + EnterpriseHPC Summit in Florida last week, esteemed HPC professional Jay Boisseau, chief HPC technology strategist at Dell EMC, engaged the audience with his presentation, “Big Computing, Big Data, Big Trends, Big Results.” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Bill Gropp – Pursuing the Next Big Thing at NCSA

March 28, 2017

About eight months ago Bill Gropp was elevated to acting director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Leveraging the Power of Big Data to Improve Customer Satisfaction & Brand Loyalty

In the dynamic world of retail, retailers must find ways to recognize and effectively respond to shopping behaviors, patterns, and trends in order to succeed. Read more…

UK to Launch Six Major HPC Centers

March 27, 2017

Six high performance computing centers will be formally launched in the U.K. later this week intended to provide wider access to HPC resources to U.K. Read more…

By John Russell

AI in the News: Rao in at Intel, Ng out at Baidu, Nvidia on at Tencent Cloud

March 26, 2017

Just as AI has become the leitmotif of the advanced scale computing market, infusing much of the conversation about HPC in commercial and industrial spheres, it also is impacting high-level management changes in the industry. Read more…

By Doug Black

Scalable Informatics Ceases Operations

March 23, 2017

On the same day we reported on the uncertain future for HPC compiler company PathScale, we are sad to learn that another HPC vendor, Scalable Informatics, is closing its doors. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Strategies in Biomedical Data Science’ Advances IT-Research Synergies

March 23, 2017

“Strategies in Biomedical Data Science: Driving Force for Innovation” by Jay A. Etchings is both an introductory text and a field guide for anyone working with biomedical data. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Data-Hungry Algorithms and the Thirst for AI

March 29, 2017

At Tabor Communications’ Leverage Big Data + EnterpriseHPC Summit in Florida last week, esteemed HPC professional Jay Boisseau, chief HPC technology strategist at Dell EMC, engaged the audience with his presentation, “Big Computing, Big Data, Big Trends, Big Results.” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Bill Gropp – Pursuing the Next Big Thing at NCSA

March 28, 2017

About eight months ago Bill Gropp was elevated to acting director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its assets. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the campaign. Read more…

By John Russell

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Japanese Supercomputing Project Targets Exascale

March 14, 2017

Another Japanese supercomputing project was revealed this week, this one from emerging supercomputer maker, ExaScaler Inc., and Keio University. The partners are working on an original supercomputer design with exascale aspirations. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the campaign. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its assets. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular offerings such as Caffe, Theano, and Torch. Read more…

By John Russell

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

Leading Solution Providers

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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