The Week in HPC Research

By Tiffany Trader

March 7, 2013

The top research stories of the week have been hand-selected from prominent journals and leading conference proceedings. Here’s another diverse set of items, including novel methods of data race detection; a comparison of predictive laws; a review of FPGA’s promise; GPU virtualization using PCI Direct pass-through; and an analysis of the Amazon Web Services High-IO platform.

Scalable Data Race Detection

A team of researchers from Berkeley Lab and the University of California Berkeley are investigating cutting-edge programming languages for HPC. These are languages that promote hybrid parallelism and shared memory abstractions using a global address space. It’s a programming style that is especially prone to data races that are difficult to detect, and prior work in the field has demonstrated 10X-100X slowdowns for non-scientific programs.

In a recent paper, the computer scientists present what they say is “the first complete implementation of data race detection at scale for UPC programs.” UPC stands for Unified Parallel C, an extension of the C programming language developed by the HPC community for large-scale parallel machines. The implementation used by the Berkeley-based team tracks local and global memory references in the program. It employs two methods for reducing overhead 1) hierarchical function and instruction level sampling; and 2) exploiting the runtime persistence of aliasing and locality specific to Partitioned Global Address Space applications.

Experiments show that the best results are attained when both techniques are used in tandem. “When applying the optimizations in conjunction our tool finds all previously known data races in our benchmark programs with at most 50% overhead,” the researchers state. “Furthermore, while previous results illustrate the benefits of function level sampling, our experiences show that this technique does not work for scientific programs: instruction sampling or a hybrid approach is required.”

Their work is published in the Proceedings of the 18th ACM SIGPLAN symposium on Principles and Practice of Parallel Programming.

Next >>

Predicting the Progress of Technology

A fascinating new study applies the scientific method to some of our most popular predictive models. A research team from MIT and the Santa Fe Institute compared several different approaches for predicting technological improvement – including Moore’s Law and Wright’s Law – to known cases of technological progress using past performance data from different industries.

Moore’s Law, theorized by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965, predicts that a chip’s transistor count will double every 18 months. In more general terms, it suggests that technologies advance exponentially with time. Wright’s Law was first formulated by Theodore Wright in 1936. Also called the Rule of Experience, it holds that progress increases with experience. Other alternative models were proposed by Goddard, Sinclair et al., and Nordhaus.

The study, which employed hindcasting, used a statistical model to rank the performance of the postulated laws. The comparison data came from a database on the cost and production of 62 different technologies. The expansive knowledge-base enabled researchers to test six different prediction principles against real-world data.

The results revealed that the law with the greatest accuracy was Wright’s Law, but Moore’s Law was a very close second. In fact, the laws themselves are more similar than previously realized.

“We discover a previously unobserved regularity that production tends to increase exponentially,” write the authors. “A combination of an exponential decrease in cost and an exponential increase in production would make Moore’s law and Wright’s law indistinguishable…. We show for the first time that these regularities are observed in data to such a degree that the performance of these two laws is nearly the same.”

“Our results show that technological progress is forecastable, with the square root of the logarithmic error growing linearly with the forecasting horizon at a typical rate of 2.5% per year,” they conclude.

The team includes Bela Nagy of the Santa Fe Institute, J. Doyne Farmer of the University of Oxford and the Santa Fe Institute, Quan Bui of St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM, and Jessika E. Trancik of the Santa Fe Institute and MIT. Their findings are published in the online open-access journal PLOS ONE.

Next >>

FPGA Programming for the Masses

FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays) have been around for many years and show real potential for advancing HPC, but their popularity has been restricted because they are difficult to work with. This is the assertion of a group of researchers from the T.J. Watson Research Center. They argue that FPGAs won’t become mainstream until their various programmability challenges are addressed.

In a paper published last month in ACM Queue, the research team observes that there exists a spectrum of architectures, with general-purpose processors at one end and ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits) on the other. Architectures like PLDs (programmable logic devices), they argue, have that best-of-both-worlds potential in that they are closer to the hardware and can be reprogrammed. The most prominent PLD is in fact an FPGA.

The authors write:

FPGAs were long considered low-volume, low-density ASIC replacements. Following Moore’s law, however, FPGAs are getting denser and faster. Modern-day FPGAs can have up to 2 million logic cells, 68 Mbits of BRAM, more than 3,000 DSP slices, and up to 96 transceivers for implementing multigigabit communication channels. The latest FPGA families from Xilinx and Altera are more like an SoC (system-on-chip), mixing dual-core ARM processors with programmable logic on the same fabric. Coupled with higher device density and performance, FPGAs are quickly replacing ASICs and ASSPs (application-specific standard products) for implementing fixed function logic. Analysts expect the programmable IC (integrated circuit) market to reach the $10 billion mark by 2016.

The researchers note that “despite the advantages offered by FPGAs and their rapid growth, use of FPGA technology is restricted to a narrow segment of hardware programmers. The larger community of software programmers has stayed away from this technology, largely because of the challenges experienced by beginners trying to learn and use FPGAs.”

The rest of this excellent paper addresses the various challenges in detail and brings attention to the lack of support for device drivers, programming languages, and tools. The authors drive home the point that the community will only be able to leverage the benefits of FPGAs if the programming aspects are improved.

Next >>

GPU Virtualization using PCI Direct Pass-Through

The technical computing space has seen several trends develop over the past decade, among them are server virtualization, cloud computing and GPU computing. It’s clear that GPGPU computing has a role to play in HPC systems. Can these trends be combined? A research team from Chonbuk National University in South Korea has written a paper in the periodical Applied Mechanics and Materials, proposing exactly this. The investigate a method of GPU virtualization that exploits the GPU in a virtualized cloud computing environment.

The researchers claim their approach is different from previous work, which mostly reimplemented GPU programming APIs and virtual device drivers. Past research focused on sharing the GPU among virtual machines, which increased virtualization overhead. The paper describes an alternate method: the use of PCI direct pass-through.

“In our approach, bypassing virtual machine monitor layer with negligible overhead, the mechanism can achieve similar computation performance to bare-metal system and is transparent to the GPU programming APIs,” the authors write.

Next >>

Analysis of I/O Performance on AWS High I/O Platform

The HPC community is still exploring the potential of the cloud paradigm to discern the most suitable use cases. The pay-per-use basis of compute and storage resources is an attractive draw for researchers, but so is the illusion of limitless resources to tackle large-scale scientific workloads.

In the most recent edition of the Journal of Grid Computing, computer scientists from the Department of Electronics and Systems at the University of A Coruña in Spain evaluate the I/O storage subsystem on the Amazon EC2 platform, specifically the High I/O instance type, to determine its suitability for I/O-intensive applications. The High I/O instance type, released in July 2012, is backed by SSD and also provides high levels of CPU, memory and network performance.

The study looked at the low-level cloud storage devices available in Amazon EC2, ephemeral disks and Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes, both on local and distributed file systems. It also assessed several I/O interfaces, notably POSIX, MPI-IO and HDF5, that are commonly employed by scientific workloads. The scalability of a representative parallel I/O code was also analyzed based on performance and cost.

As the results show, cloud storage devices have different performance characteristics and usage constraints. “Our comprehensive evaluation can help scientists to increase significantly (up to several times) the performance of I/O-intensive applications in Amazon EC2 cloud,” the researchers state. “An example of optimal configuration that can maximize I/O performance in this cloud is the use of a RAID 0 of 2 ephemeral disks, TCP with 9,000 bytes MTU, NFS async and MPI-IO on the High I/O instance type, which provides ephemeral disks backed by Solid State Drive (SSD) technology.”

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!

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

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

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…

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

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

Intel Open Sources All Lustre Work, Brent Gorda Exits

April 19, 2017

In a letter to the Lustre community posted on the Intel website, Vice President of Intel's Data Center Group Trish Damkroger writes that effective immediately the company will be contributing all Lustre development to the open source community. Damkroger also announced that Brent Gorda, General Manager, High Performance Data Division at Intel is leaving the company. 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

HPC and the Colocation Datacenter – a Bridge Too Far?

April 7, 2017

A more standardised HPC platform approach is making the running of HPC projects within increasing financial reach. Read more…

By Clive Longbottom, Quocirca

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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