HP, Intel Score Petaflop Supercomputer at DOE Lab

By Michael Feldman

September 5, 2012

The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has ordered a $10 million HP supercomputer equipped with the latest Intel Xeon CPUs and Xeon Phi coprocessors. When completed in 2013, the system will deliver one petaflop of performance and will take up residence in one of the most energy-efficient datacenters in the world.

The supercomputer will be built in phases with the initial rack of servers scheduled for deployment this November. The first phase will use HP’s ProLiant SL230s and SL250s servers. These will be equipped with the current “Sandy Bridge” Xeons, specifically the new E5-2670 CPUs (8-core 2.6 GHz, 115W). At least some of the SL250s boxes will also host the upcoming “Knights Corner” coprocessor, the first commercial chip in Intel’s new manycore Xeon Phi line. These are due out before the end of the 2012.

The second phase of the HP system will incorporate next year’s “Ivy Bridge” Xeons, built on Intel’s latest 22nm technology. When completed in the summer of 2013, the HP cluster will house about 600 Xeon Phi coprocessors and 3,200 Xeons. Although that’s not a particularly high ratio of accelerators to CPUs, it’s likely that the vector-heavy Xeon Phi silicon will deliver more than half of the total flops for the machine.

While petascale computers are still relatively rare, the more important theme here is energy efficiency. Both the computer and the NREL datacenter (known as the Energy Systems Integration Facility) were designed to minimize power usage. At a cost of $135 million, the new facility, which includes labs and office space, is built to take advantage of the latest warm-water-cooled servers. A big advantage of this technology is that it requires only evaporative coolers for the plumbing. No chillers or mechanical cooling apparatus are needed, reducing power requirements significantly.

According to Steve Hammond, NREL’s Computational Science director, that will make it the most energy-efficient HPC facility in the world when it’s commissioned at the end of September. “We’ve taken a chips-to-bricks approach to datacenters,” Hammond told HPCwire. “We’re managing both the bytes and the BTUs.”

Since a megawatt of electricity costs around a million dollars a year in the US — and even more in Japan and most of Europe — significant savings can be achieved if these facilities can pare down their power consumption. The NREL facility was designed with that goal in mind and is targeting a PUE (power usage effectiveness) of 1.06. So for every unit of power delivered to the computing equipment, only another 0.06 more units will be needed for cooling, power supply losses, and other overhead.

For a large datacenter, that’s nearly unprecedented. According to an EPA study in 2009, the average datacenter was running at a PUE of 1.91. In these facilities, ever watt of power consumed for computing required nearly an additional watt for cooling or was otherwise wasted on transmission losses. As a result, more and more centers are turning to warm-water cooling.

Warm is the keyword here. Intake water for the computing equipment is around room temperature — 75F or thereabouts. Water exiting the servers is approximately 95F and, at NREL, will be recycled to heat the facility. Hammond says that in the future they plan to export the server-warmed water to other buildings on the rest of the campus.

NREL will not only save a nice chunk of change as a result of the energy savings, but the project will also be a showcase for PUE-minimizing design. The power-saving theme also dovetails nicely with the DOE lab’s mission, namely to support research in renewable energy and new energy sources. The HP super will be used to run computer simulations for developing clean energy, advanced solar photovoltaics, wind energy systems, electric vehicles, and renewable fuels.

With regard to the power profile of the petaflop system, HP plans to deliver a full peak petaflop with just a single megawatt. Although that’s not in the same league as an IBM Blue Gene/Q (which delivers well over 2 peak petaflops per MW), its on par with the most efficient GPU-accelerated supercomputers deployed today.

That’s due in no small part to the Xeon Phi coprocessor, which will contribute significantly to the system’s overall energy efficiency. Although Intel has not made public the wattage and performance on the initial Knights Corner chips, they are expected to be competitive with the latest GPUs, in other words, well over a teraflop of double precision number-crunching in under 300 watts.

To uphold the PUE rating of the NREL facility, the HP servers will be primarily warm-water cooled. Not only will that save energy, but it’s also the most practical approach for a petaflop supercomputer that, in this case, is being squeezed into just 1,000 square feet of floor space. The datacenter itself is 10 times that size, but this will give NREL plenty of room for disk and tape storage, not to mention additional HPC systems down the road.

In fact, Hammond says they plan to use the new datacenter for the next two decades, which should take them well into the exascale era. Since the facility can only tap 10MW, NREL will have to wait until those exa-systems fit into that power envelope. The first exaflop supercomputers are expected to draw at least 20MW when they first appear toward the end of this decade.

For now though, the DOE adds yet another petascale supercomputer to its growing roster of elite machines. At $10 million per petaflop, even smaller labs, like NREL, can now tap into computing power that was unheard of just five years ago. In 2008, the first petaflop supercomputer, Roadrunner, cost more than 10 times as much as this HP machine and took up six times as much datacenter real estate. In a few more years, these petaflop systems should be cheap enough and compact enought to be acquired by commercial users. And if these energy-saving technologies continue to be refined, such systems should be relatively inexpensive to run as well.

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!

SC Bids Farewell to Denver, Heads to Dallas for 30th

November 17, 2017

After a jam-packed four-day expo and intensive six-day technical program, SC17 has wrapped up another successful event that brought together nearly 13,000 visitors to the Colorado Convention Center in Denver for the larg Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC17 Keynote – HPC Powers SKA Efforts to Peer Deep into the Cosmos

November 17, 2017

This week’s SC17 keynote – Life, the Universe and Computing: The Story of the SKA Telescope – was a powerful pitch for the potential of Big Science projects that also showcased the foundational role of high performance computing in modern science. It was also visually stunning. Read more…

By John Russell

How Cities Use HPC at the Edge to Get Smarter

November 17, 2017

Cities are sensoring up, collecting vast troves of data that they’re running through predictive models and using the insights to solve problems that, in some cases, city managers didn’t even know existed. Speaking Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Harness Scalable Petabyte Storage with HPE Apollo 4510 and HPE StoreEver

As a growing number of connected devices challenges IT departments to rapidly collect, manage, and store troves of data, organizations must adopt a new generation of IT to help them operate quickly and intelligently. Read more…

SC17 Student Cluster Competition Configurations: Fewer Nodes, Way More Accelerators

November 16, 2017

The final configurations for each of the SC17 “Donnybrook in Denver” Student Cluster Competition have been released. Fortunately, each team received their equipment shipments on time and undamaged, so the teams are r Read more…

By Dan Olds

SC Bids Farewell to Denver, Heads to Dallas for 30th

November 17, 2017

After a jam-packed four-day expo and intensive six-day technical program, SC17 has wrapped up another successful event that brought together nearly 13,000 visit Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC17 Keynote – HPC Powers SKA Efforts to Peer Deep into the Cosmos

November 17, 2017

This week’s SC17 keynote – Life, the Universe and Computing: The Story of the SKA Telescope – was a powerful pitch for the potential of Big Science projects that also showcased the foundational role of high performance computing in modern science. It was also visually stunning. Read more…

By John Russell

How Cities Use HPC at the Edge to Get Smarter

November 17, 2017

Cities are sensoring up, collecting vast troves of data that they’re running through predictive models and using the insights to solve problems that, in some Read more…

By Doug Black

Student Cluster LINPACK Record Shattered! More LINs Packed Than Ever before!

November 16, 2017

Nanyang Technological University, the pride of Singapore, utterly destroyed the Student Cluster Competition LINPACK record by posting a score of 51.77 TFlop/s a Read more…

By Dan Olds

Hyperion Market Update: ‘Decent’ Growth Led by HPE; AI Transparency a Risk Issue

November 15, 2017

The HPC market update from Hyperion Research (formerly IDC) at the annual SC conference is a business and social “must,” and this year’s presentation at S Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia Focuses Its Cloud Containers on HPC Applications

November 14, 2017

Having migrated its top-of-the-line datacenter GPU to the largest cloud vendors, Nvidia is touting its Volta architecture for a range of scientific computing ta Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Launches ARM-based Apollo System for HPC, AI

November 14, 2017

HPE doubled down on its memory-driven computing vision while expanding its processor portfolio with the announcement yesterday of the company’s first ARM-base Read more…

By Doug Black

OpenACC Shines in Global Climate/Weather Codes

November 14, 2017

OpenACC, the directive-based parallel programming model used mostly for porting codes to GPUs for use on heterogeneous systems, came to SC17 touting impressive Read more…

By John Russell

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

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

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue 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

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

Leading Solution Providers

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

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

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

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he 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

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