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!

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 cryptocurr 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

Nvidia CEO Predicts AI ‘Cambrian Explosion’

May 25, 2017

The processing power and cloud access to developer tools used to train machine-learning models are making artificial intelligence ubiquitous across computing pl Read more…

By George Leopold

PGAS Use will Rise on New H/W Trends, Says Reinders

May 25, 2017

If you have not already tried using PGAS, it is time to consider adding PGAS to the programming techniques you know. Partitioned Global Array Space, commonly kn Read more…

By James Reinders

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Exploring the Three Models of Remote Visualization

The explosion of data and advancement of digital technologies are dramatically changing the way many companies do business. With the help of high performance computing (HPC) solutions and data analytics platforms, manufacturers are developing products faster, healthcare providers are improving patient care, and energy companies are improving planning, exploration, and production. Read more…

Exascale Escapes 2018 Budget Axe; Rest of Science Suffers

May 23, 2017

President Trump's proposed $4.1 trillion FY 2018 budget is good for U.S. exascale computing development, but grim for the rest of science and technology spend Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Hedge Funds (with Supercomputing help) Rank First Among Investors

May 22, 2017

In case you didn’t know, The Quants Run Wall Street Now, or so says a headline in today’s Wall Street Journal. Quant-run hedge funds now control the largest Read more…

By John Russell

IBM, D-Wave Report Quantum Computing Advances

May 18, 2017

IBM said this week it has built and tested a pair of quantum computing processors, including a prototype of a commercial version. That progress follows an an Read more…

By George Leopold

PRACEdays 2017 Wraps Up in Barcelona

May 18, 2017

Barcelona has been absolutely lovely; the weather, the food, the people. I am, sadly, finishing my last day at PRACEdays 2017 with two sessions: an in-depth loo Read more…

By Kim McMahon

PGAS Use will Rise on New H/W Trends, Says Reinders

May 25, 2017

If you have not already tried using PGAS, it is time to consider adding PGAS to the programming techniques you know. Partitioned Global Array Space, commonly kn Read more…

By James Reinders

Exascale Escapes 2018 Budget Axe; Rest of Science Suffers

May 23, 2017

President Trump's proposed $4.1 trillion FY 2018 budget is good for U.S. exascale computing development, but grim for the rest of science and technology spend Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Offers Supercomputing as a Service, Targets Biotechs First

May 16, 2017

Leading supercomputer vendor Cray and datacenter/cloud provider the Markley Group today announced plans to jointly deliver supercomputing as a service. The init Read more…

By John Russell

HPE’s Memory-centric The Machine Coming into View, Opens ARMs to 3rd-party Developers

May 16, 2017

Announced three years ago, HPE’s The Machine is said to be the largest R&D program in the venerable company’s history, one that could be progressing tow Read more…

By Doug Black

What’s Up with Hyperion as It Transitions From IDC?

May 15, 2017

If you’re wondering what’s happening with Hyperion Research – formerly the IDC HPC group – apparently you are not alone, says Steve Conway, now senior V Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Launches Servers, Services, and Collaboration at GTC

May 10, 2017

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today launched a new liquid cooled GPU-driven Apollo platform based on SGI ICE architecture, a new collaboration with NVIDIA, a Read more…

By John Russell

IBM PowerAI Tools Aim to Ease Deep Learning Data Prep, Shorten Training 

May 10, 2017

A new set of GPU-powered AI software announced by IBM today brings automation to many of the tedious, time consuming and complex aspects of AI project on-rampin Read more…

By Doug Black

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. Just how close real-wo 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 cam Read more…

By John Russell

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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 a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Last week, Google reported that its custom ASIC Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) was 15-30x faster for inferencing workloads than Nvidia's K80 GPU (see our coverage Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

Since our first formal product releases of OSPRay and OpenSWR libraries in 2016, CPU-based Software Defined Visualization (SDVis) has achieved wide-spread adopt Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

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 ne Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is 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 w Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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 Read more…

By Steve Campbell

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Eng 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 Read more…

By John Russell

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

As China continues to prove its supercomputing mettle via the Top500 list and the forward march of its ambitious plans to stand up an exascale machine by 2020, 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 networ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of "quantum supremacy," researchers are stretching the limits of today's most advance Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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