A Small Company Builds a Big Supercomputer

By Richard L. Brandt

January 30, 2013

Atipa Technologies may not be on everyone’s radar. It’s a small Kansas company, a division of Microtech Computers, which makes everything from $700 desktop computers to Linux clusters for Atipa’s HPC systems.

It may end up on the radar soon. Atipa just got a big deal. It’s building a $17 million computer for a Department of Energy laboratory. That’s not bad for a Linux cluster company that survived a big shakeout in the Linux cluster business five years ago.

The Atipa computer is destined for the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (ESML) at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington. It should go live by October. It replaces the Chinook, a 163 teraflops system that cost the lab $21.4 million five years ago. Moore’s Law marches on.

“We’re very excited,” says Dana Chang, vice president of technology at Atipa. “It’s a very important sale for us.”

The new computer is a 1,440-node system packed into 42 racks, with a theoretical peak processing speed of 3.4 petaflops and 2.7 petabytes of usable storage. That puts it just ahead of the 2.9 petaflops SuperMUC, built by IBM for the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre in Germany – number six on the November 2012 TOP500 list.

ESML has some specialized computing requirements. It is used by hundreds of researchers around the world to employ molecular-level theory for climate studies, genomics, biological analysis, chemical catalysis, and solid-state physics. It’s computationally-intense work and requires a lot of storage capability. On the Chinook, climate scientists and quantum chemists were using one core and using up all the memory they could get.

To provide that power, the Atipa computer relies heavily on Intel’s Xeon Phi MIC accelerators. Each of its 1,440 compute nodes use x86 processors and the Xeon Phi accelerators, plus 128 GB memory per node. Its 2.7 petabyte storage is a shared parallel filesystem with 60 GB per second read/write.

Atipa was able to create a system to meet the lab’s needs at a great price. “All the bids we received were very similar, not much differentiation [in specs,]” says William Shelton, Associate Director of EMSL. “Atipa had the lowest price. Price became the main selling point.”

DOE can drive very hard bargains, notes Chris Willard, chief research officer at Intersect360 Research. Although not a major supplier, Atipa has proved to be a survivor. “That PNNL would buy a system from a company like this is not surprising,” he says. “PNNL will often go with a smaller company, often because they provide more specialized bids” with tighter margins. Nevertheless, he thinks the price was a good one for the size of the system, and probably allows Atipa to realize a profit.

The computer is also another validation of Intel’s Xeon Phi accelerators – and accelerators in general. Intersect360’s Willard believes that the fact that a computer of this size is dependent on Xeon Phi takes the interest in accelerators in general up a notch. While there’s been a growing interest in accelerators over the past few years, many companies have still just been testing their capabilities. “Accelerators are moving from a technology that people are checking out to one that people are interested in buying in production systems,” he says.

Chang agrees. She says that the Xeon Phi was key to providing the necessary price/performance. “It absolutely reduced the cost per FLOPS,” she says. “It was the Intel Phi being more affordable while increasing the performance. And it will become more and more affordable in 2013. Customers are now showing a strong interest in getting an Intel Phi card.” Atipa has a long-standing relationship with both Intel and AMD as suppliers.

According to Chang and Dan Mantyla, HPC programmer at Atipa, there’s an advantage of being a smaller company rather than a giant public corporation with an eye on quarterly profits. “We’re such a small company, not tiny but not a big corporation, and we build every cluster on a per-customer basis,” says Mantyla. Chang adds that the company’s Midwest roots help. “People feel comfortable talking to us because we don’t have a big company attitude,” she says. “We’re from Kansas.”

This may not be the last interesting deal from the folks from Kansas. Chang confirms that Atipa has interest from other potential customers as well. “We have a few opportunities we’re working on,” she says. “We won’t know much until the next month or so.”

Whether or not those pan out, parent company Microtech computers can already make an interesting boast. It can say its computer selection includes everything from a $700 PC to a $17 million supercomputer.

Related Articles

ARM Muscles In on Intel’s Dominance in Datacenters

HPC Programming in the Age of Multicore: One Man’s View

Berkeley Lab Contemplates Stepping Stone to Exascale Supercomputer

Genome Analysis Center Selects Convey for Next-Gen Sequencing

SGI Announces Software Support for Xeon Phi

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 and American Scientists Achieve 50% Increase in Data Transmission Speed

September 20, 2018

As high-performance computing becomes increasingly data-intensive and the demand for shorter turnaround times grows, data transfer speed becomes an ever more important bottleneck. Now, in an article published in IEEE Tra Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

IBM to Brand Rescale’s HPC-in-Cloud Platform

September 20, 2018

HPC (or big compute)-in-the-cloud platform provider Rescale has formalized the work it’s been doing in partnership with public cloud vendors by announcing its Powered by Rescale program – with IBM as its first named Read more…

By Doug Black

Democratization of HPC Part 1: Simulation Sheds Light on Building Dispute

September 20, 2018

This is the first of three articles demonstrating the growing acceptance of High Performance Computing especially in new user communities and application areas. Major reasons for this trend are the ongoing improvements i Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Introducing the First Integrated System Management Software for HPC Clusters from HPE

How do you manage your complex, growing cluster environments? Answer that big challenge with the new HPC cluster management solution: HPE Performance Cluster Manager. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Clouds Over the Ocean – a Healthcare Perspective

Advances in precision medicine, genomics, and imaging; the widespread adoption of electronic health records; and the proliferation of medical Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile devices are resulting in an explosion of structured and unstructured healthcare-related data. Read more…

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 Gordon Bell Prize used Summit in their work. That’s impres 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

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Accelerates AI Inference in the Datacenter with T4 GPU

September 14, 2018

Nvidia is upping its game for AI inference in the datacenter with a new platform consisting of an inference accelerator chip--the new Turing-based Tesla T4 GPU- Read more…

By George Leopold

DeepSense Combines HPC and AI to Bolster Canada’s Ocean Economy

September 13, 2018

We often hear scientists say that we know less than 10 percent of the life of the oceans. This week, IBM and a group of Canadian industry and government partner Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Rigetti (and Others) Pursuit of Quantum Advantage

September 11, 2018

Remember ‘quantum supremacy’, the much-touted but little-loved idea that the age of quantum computing would be signaled when quantum computers could tackle Read more…

By John Russell

How FPGAs Accelerate Financial Services Workloads

September 11, 2018

While FSI companies are unlikely, for competitive reasons, to disclose their FPGA strategies, James Reinders offers insights into the case for FPGAs as accelerators for FSI by discussing performance, power, size, latency, jitter and inline processing. Read more…

By James Reinders

Update from Gregory Kurtzer on Singularity’s Push into FS and the Enterprise

September 11, 2018

Container technology is hardly new but it has undergone rapid evolution in the HPC space in recent years to accommodate traditional science workloads and HPC systems requirements. While Docker containers continue to dominate in the enterprise, other variants are becoming important and one alternative with distinctly HPC roots – Singularity – is making an enterprise push targeting advanced scale workload inclusive of HPC. Read more…

By John Russell

At HPC on Wall Street: AI-as-a-Service Accelerates AI Journeys

September 10, 2018

AIaaS – artificial intelligence-as-a-service – is the technology discipline that eases enterprise entry into the mysteries of the AI journey while lowering Read more…

By Doug Black

TACC Wins Next NSF-funded Major Supercomputer

July 30, 2018

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has won the next NSF-funded big supercomputer beating out rivals including the National Center for Supercomputing Ap Read more…

By John Russell

IBM at Hot Chips: What’s Next for Power

August 23, 2018

With processor, memory and networking technologies all racing to fill in for an ailing Moore’s law, the era of the heterogeneous datacenter is well underway, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Requiem for a Phi: Knights Landing Discontinued

July 25, 2018

On Monday, Intel made public its end of life strategy for the Knights Landing "KNL" Phi product set. The announcement makes official what has already been wide Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

By John Russell

AMD’s EPYC Road to Redemption in Six Slides

June 21, 2018

A year ago AMD returned to the server market with its EPYC processor line. The earth didn’t tremble but folks took notice. People remember the Opteron fondly Read more…

By John Russell

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

Sandia to Take Delivery of World’s Largest Arm System

June 18, 2018

While the enterprise remains circumspect on prospects for Arm servers in the datacenter, the leadership HPC community is taking a bolder, brighter view of the x86 server CPU alternative. Amongst current and planned Arm HPC installations – i.e., the innovative Mont-Blanc project, led by Bull/Atos, the 'Isambard’ Cray XC50 going into the University of Bristol, and commitments from both Japan and France among others -- HPE is announcing that it will be supply the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with a 2.3 petaflops peak Arm-based system, named Astra. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave Breaks New Ground in Quantum Simulation

July 16, 2018

Last Friday D-Wave scientists and colleagues published work in Science which they say represents the first fulfillment of Richard Feynman’s 1982 notion that Read more…

By John Russell

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas 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

TACC’s ‘Frontera’ Supercomputer Expands Horizon for Extreme-Scale Science

August 29, 2018

The National Science Foundation and the Texas Advanced Computing Center announced today that a new system, called Frontera, will overtake Stampede 2 as the fast Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GPUs Power Five of World’s Top Seven Supercomputers

June 25, 2018

The top 10 echelon of the newly minted Top500 list boasts three powerful new systems with one common engine: the Nvidia Volta V100 general-purpose graphics proc Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Machine Learning Hype Cycle and HPC

June 14, 2018

Like many other HPC professionals I’m following the hype cycle around machine learning/deep learning with interest. I subscribe to the view that we’re probably approaching the ‘peak of inflated expectation’ but not quite yet starting the descent into the ‘trough of disillusionment. This still raises the probability that... Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This