UK Creates Massive 200,000-Core ‘HPC Service’

By Tiffany Trader

February 7, 2013

The United Kingdom is rapidly ramping up its HPC capabilities. The nation just launched its third HPC service in the last 12 months, a 200,000-core powerhouse designed to accommodate a wide range of academic and industry workloads.

“Accelerator,” as it’s known, was formed by taking the UK national high performance computing service HECToR, a Cray XE6 platform, and augmenting it with two new machines: an IBM BlueGene/Q and an AMD dual configuration Linux-Windows cluster, nicknamed “Indy,” for its industry-affiliation.

With no fancy middleware or interconnects to bridge them, Accelerator is essentially just three separate machines housed under one roof at the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC). By combining the resources, they can claim, as the press material states, “the largest on-demand supercomputing resource in Europe.”

Accelerator does indeed surpass the capabilities of other UK services like the OCF’s enCORE service (8,000 cores) and the CORE HPC Service, managed by the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London (22,000 cores).

George Graham, Business Development Manager for EPCC, highlights the specifications of the Accelerator machines: HECToR, the prototype for the service, is a Cray machine with 90,112 cores and a peak output of 827 teraflops. The slightly more-equipped BlueGene/Q sports 98,304 cores and boasts a peak performance of 1.26 petaflops. Indy, in comparison, is a small cluster by today’s standards, with 1,576 cores, but, as Graham emphasizes, its main affinity is not peak performance, but openness and ease-of-use.

Indy supports standard installations of Linux and Windows, which allows it to accommodate a wide variety of industry workloads. In contrast, the Cray and IBM supers are more specialized; they require non-standard Linux distros in order to leverage the proprietary system interconnects.

The majority of Accelerator’s funding comes from EPSRC, a UK government agency, but the Indy cluster was financed out of the Edinburgh University budget and supplied by a local HPC provider, Viglen.

All three machines along with petabyte scale data storage are housed inside EPCC’s purpose-built Advanced Compute Facility. The large site has been active for many years, notes Graham, but has undergone continuous renovations to accommodate HECToR and meet the university’s growing computational demands.

The HPC service can cater to nearly every kind of research: life and earth sciences, pharmaceuticals, energy, and all manner of engineering and product development workloads.

“There is no limit to the application domain capability of our service machines,” says Graham. But he adds that ideal use cases of each system do vary.

As best-in-class leadership supercomputing systems, HECToR and BlueGene are targeted at very high-scale, high-resolution simulation and modeling challenges, for example whole nuclear reactor simulations rather than just one rod.

The ability to perform complete system simulations is a truly defining breakthrough, speaking both to how far we’ve come and the awesome potential that lies ahead. “This is the path to exascale,” observes Graham.

Indy is targeted at slightly more constrained challenges – CFD and FEA are common workloads – but nevertheless it’s a type of solution that can be a transformative digital tool for small-to-medium sized enterprises.

Next >>

The machines can be accessed from around the globe using an Internet connection, but it’s not a cloud in the usual sense, says Graham. He describes the setup as very simple remote access, albeit over secure-connection SSH.

“Users have batch-based queueing access for jobs, however we wrap that with user authentication, security and privacy,” he says. “So it provides for a very healthy service.”

Asked if the machines could be configured in such a way that it would be possible to harness all 200,000-cores, Graham considers the idea before responding. “That’s not there now,” he says, “but it’s not unreasonable to think that our research could enable that kind of setup.”

“At EPCC we undertake a lot of research work,” he continues, “and some of it is in the domain of grid and cloud computing, so it’s not unfeasible to think that we would apply some of the lessons learned in order to provide mechanisms through which our independent architecture can be accessed via a holistic service.”

When it comes to data transfer constraints – a common roadblock to remote computing – Graham notes this is not generally an issue on the input side; the challenge is dealing with the large data files that are generated by the compute. However, he is quick to point out several solutions:

The first is that our systems are at an advanced compute facility that is connected to the UK-wide Super-JANET Network which has high data transfer performance across all UK higher education establishments. Any user that can get to a local campus can benefit from the very high data transfer.

Second, we remove the need for users to pull back the large amount of data that has been generated. What we can offer them is via a facility of on-demand serial queues, or working from login nodes, the ability to do post-processing of the data while the data is in-situ on our systems. So they can do post-processing, visualization, and so on while the data is on our system, which drastically reduce the need for data transfer.

And third, we are talking batch-based, queue-based technology and large data storage; we can always ship the data, load it onto a secure portable disk and courier it between us and the user establishment.

Although the expanded service is new, HECToR has been up and running for five years now. It has quite a wide community of users as it meets the needs of UK and European researchers and also satisfies a body of industry users. From a commercial business-development point of view, Graham notes their resources are predominately focused on UK, but they have had users from the States and across continental Europe. There really are no geographical barriers since the service can be accessed over a standard Internet connection.

It’s apparent from the heightened level of activity over the last few years that the UK government has a real objective in driving HPC to improve UK competitiveness, and these types of public-private collaborations are part of their strategy. They’re investing millions of pounds and they expect to see a return on investment in terms of innovation as well as real economic stimulus. As industry users pay to rent time on these big systems they are in effect underwriting the cost of the systems. That’s true, says Graham, but he returns to the collaborative nature of the arrangement: “Think of it as a three-way partnership between government and industry and the higher-education establishments,” he says.

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!

IBM, NVIDIA, Stone Ridge Claim Gas & Oil Simulation Record

April 25, 2017

IBM, NVIDIA, and Stone Ridge Technology today reported setting the performance record for a “billion cell” oil and gas reservoir simulation. Read more…

By John Russell

ASC17 Makes Splash at Wuxi Supercomputing Center

April 24, 2017

A record-breaking twenty student teams plus scores of company representatives, media professionals, staff and student volunteers transformed a formerly empty hall inside the Wuxi Supercomputing Center into a bustling hub of HPC activity, kicking off day one of 2017 Asia Student Supercomputer Challenge (ASC17). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Musk’s Latest Startup Eyes Brain-Computer Links

April 21, 2017

Elon Musk, the auto and space entrepreneur and severe critic of artificial intelligence, is forming a new venture that reportedly will seek to develop an interface between the human brain and computers. Read more…

By George Leopold

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 Engine (GCE) job. Sutherland ran the massive mathematics workload on 220,000 GCE cores using preemptible virtual machine instances. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Remote Visualization Optimizing Life Sciences Operations and Care Delivery

As patients continually demand a better quality of care and increasingly complex workloads challenge healthcare organizations to innovate, investing in the right technologies is key to ensuring growth and success. Read more…

NERSC Cori Shows the World How Many-Cores for the Masses Works

April 21, 2017

As its mission, the high performance computing center for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, NERSC (the National Energy Research Supercomputer Center), supports a broad spectrum of forefront scientific research across diverse areas that includes climate, material science, chemistry, fusion energy, high-energy physics and many others. Read more…

By Rob Farber

Nvidia P100 Shows 1.3-2.3x Speedup Over K80 GPU on Financial Apps

April 20, 2017

When it comes to the true performance of the latest silicon, every end user knows that the best processor is the one that works best for their application. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Adds Global Smarts to StorNext File System

April 20, 2017

Companies that use Quantum’s StorNext platform to store massive amounts of data this week got a glimpse of new storage capabilities that should make it easier to access their data horde from anywhere in the world. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Scaling an HPC Career in Nepal Can Be a Steep Climb

April 20, 2017

Umesh Upadhyaya works as an IT Associate at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Nepal, which supports the country’s one and only HPC facility. He is directly involved in an initiative that focuses on climate change and atmosphere modeling Read more…

By Nages Sieslack

ASC17 Makes Splash at Wuxi Supercomputing Center

April 24, 2017

A record-breaking twenty student teams plus scores of company representatives, media professionals, staff and student volunteers transformed a formerly empty hall inside the Wuxi Supercomputing Center into a bustling hub of HPC activity, kicking off day one of 2017 Asia Student Supercomputer Challenge (ASC17). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

NERSC Cori Shows the World How Many-Cores for the Masses Works

April 21, 2017

As its mission, the high performance computing center for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, NERSC (the National Energy Research Supercomputer Center), supports a broad spectrum of forefront scientific research across diverse areas that includes climate, material science, chemistry, fusion energy, high-energy physics and many others. Read more…

By Rob Farber

Hyperion (IDC) Paints a Bullish Picture of HPC Future

April 20, 2017

Hyperion Research – formerly IDC’s HPC group – yesterday painted a fascinating and complicated portrait of the HPC community’s health and prospects at the HPC User Forum held in Albuquerque, NM. HPC sales are up and growing ($22 billion, all HPC segments, 2016). Read more…

By John Russell

Knights Landing Processor with Omni-Path Makes Cloud Debut

April 18, 2017

HPC cloud specialist Rescale is partnering with Intel and HPC resource provider R Systems to offer first-ever cloud access to Xeon Phi "Knights Landing" processors. The infrastructure is based on the 68-core Intel Knights Landing processor with integrated Omni-Path fabric (the 7250F Xeon Phi). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN openlab Explores New CPU/FPGA Processing Solutions

April 14, 2017

Through a CERN openlab project known as the ‘High-Throughput Computing Collaboration,’ researchers are investigating the use of various Intel technologies in data filtering and data acquisition systems. Read more…

By Linda Barney

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 advanced supercomputers. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Penguin Takes a Run at the Big Cloud Providers

April 12, 2017

HPC specialist Penguin Computing recently re-ran benchmarks from a study of its larger brethren and says the results show its ‘public cloud’ – Penguin on Demand (POD) – is among the leaders in cost and performance. 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 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 phase of neural networks (NN). 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

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

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

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

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

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

Leading Solution Providers

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

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

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

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

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 the successor to Caffe, the deep learning framework developed by Berkeley AI Research and community contributors. 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

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