Moonshot Highlights HPC’s Longshot

By Nicole Hemsoth

April 11, 2013

For those who followed the news this week about HP’s Moonshot Project, which is their super-compact server pitch for “hyperscale datacenters”, the idea of plugging this into some high performance computing context likely wasn’t first in the thought-queue. However, according to some at the edge of low power computing, including Calexda’s Karl Freund, “the potential says something about the future.”

Without some background, that quote might sound rather vague until one thinks about all the speculation that’s been pumped into ARM-based and low-power x86 architectures. The attention around this has increased now that we’re looking at a 64-bit and double-precision-ready reality around the bend within the next couple of years.

While Moonshot might be wooing the mobile and hosting camp, there is something more compelling here for HPC–at least in the coming years. This concept presents high-density, low-power servers with the ability to swap in accelerators, DSPs, GPUs, FPGAs to create an efficient heterogeneous platform that is tailored around specific workloads.

Add to that an integrated cluster fabric and embedded low latency switches and this should strike the HPC crowd as a “blade on steroids” where storage and other workload-specific needs can (eventually) be snapped in. Again, it’s still down the road for the needs of high performance computing, but we did explore the possibilities with a few folks this week.

During a conversation about how HP and others who take this type of swing at big datacenters might be able to strong-ARM their way through the gilded HPC gates, Freund cited some heavy-hitters taking an honest shine to lightweight approaches. He rattled off a long list of national labs, from Sandia to Los Alamos, Argonne, Oak Ridge, and others who are actively exploring the potential of ARM and how it might help them tackle exascale-class problems efficiently. He was referring to his company’s own ARM-based cartridges, which HP will offer as an option (although they were a first choice during the initial phases of Moonshot) to the core Intel Atom S1200 “Centerton” in addition to other offerings from ARM vendors.

While the labs might be turning a theoretical eye to the low power field, at this point it’s more on the level of playing with a few boxes to get a sense of scale and capability. So far, they (and some in the life sciences and oil and gas industries who aren’t concerned with striking double-precision gold) are pleased, but there is still a great deal of development to be done, including the (likely late) 2014 release of 64-bit ARM and then the critical tooling required to make it all function.

But it’s not all a power/efficiency play for the labs and those thinking about new server approaches, says Freund—it’s just as much a matter of flexibility and being able to build out boxes based on specific elements that are wrapped around specific workload needs. The labs and others at such scale have been “told by Intel that you get what everyone else gets” unless you’re willing to fork over a bunch of bucks to have them cobble together a specialized chip. This just isn’t the way systems are going to be built if we look ahead, Freund argues.

What HP showed off this week in the form of the very hopeful-sounding “Project Moonshot” is a glimpse into that application-centric future. Is any of it ready for HPC primetime? Of course not—in fact, in their current form sporting Intel Atom processors, they’re really only good for cloud datacenters munching pretty common tasks in an efficient but unimpressive (performance-wise) way. But there is a little twinkling there that’s bright enough to lull the forward-looking on the supercomputing side.

That sparkle is in flexibility, Freund argues—it’s a glimmer that is hard for the labs to ignore. And when the light hits Moonshot just right, this crew is seeing the promise of stitching all sorts of pretties to the naked boxes; from GPUs on the same die, to FPGAs finding their way in, to 60 gigabit fabric switches, sprinklings of DSPs (ala Texas Instruments) and additional offload engines, at least from Freund’s vantage point.

As HP noted when they slung out Moonshot this week, “There is a solid return for investing in finding an optimal balance of density, costs and expenses for each workload class. Given the rapid rate of workload and application evolution, finding optimal performance pints will be a continuous process for at least the next few years; it demands flexible hardware and software infrastructure.”

One could argue even further that Freund’s simple statement about possibility is far deeper than anything else he could have said in more words. And the synergies don’t end there, nor do they really even begin with HP for that matter either.

What HP has done is thrown out a holistic view of how the future could, when ideally imagined, work, for the big boys of HPC and the enterprise peasants alike. Even if for now the messaging is trumpeted to the cloud datacenters serving up vanilla apps, this unified vision resonates. They plan on “enabling a variety of partner silicon and component vendors to accelerate hypersale workloads for customers. This includes the lowest power CPUs and adds to it APUs, GPUs, DSPs, and FPGAs at scales those vendors would not be able to access on their own.” This is music to vendor ears, but on the receiving end, they note that “HP’s customers will benefit via broader access to innovative accelerators at a faster pace than HP achieve on its own.” They note (quite humbly despite the grandiosity of the project name) that their “success in bootstrapping and sustaining their Pathfinder Innovation Ecosystem will determine their future in the hyperscale infrastructure market.”

He imagines that at ISC in Leipzig and other shows with an HPC-heavy cast, HP will try to shine its Moonshot diamond in such a way that there’s a visible “big data” glint. The issue here is, HPC in this case isn’t really the same thing as big data as it fits in the Moonshot box. One of the biggest weaknesses of an architecture like the one they’ve crammed into the teensy space is that it rather sucks at floating point performance. And that’s kind of, well, you know , like really, really important. Still, for the I/O and integer-intensive stuff, which also has a place in the hallowed halls of HPC, there is a story angle. Again, that tale will have to play out following some maturing post 64-bit release.

Even after that release and the addition of double-precision capability, there’s something of a chicken and egg problem. Since no one is investing in the tools and software side until 64-bit double-precision emerges (no money, no develop-y), even the experiments at this early stage have their limits—and the development needed after the basics are in place will add even more time to the process. It will be slow going, but it could be all worth the wait if an efficient, flexible and fine-tuned server approach emerges that pulls the exascale dream a little closer.

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!

Exascale Computing Project Names Doug Kothe as Director

September 20, 2017

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) has named Doug Kothe as its new director effective October 1. He replaces Paul Messina, who is stepping down after two years to return to Argonne National L Read more…

Takeaways from the Milwaukee HPC User Forum

September 19, 2017

Milwaukee’s elegant Pfister Hotel hosted approximately 100 attendees for the 66th HPC User Forum (September 5-7, 2017). In the original home city of Pabst Blue Ribbon and Harley Davidson motorcycles the agenda addresse Read more…

By Merle Giles

NSF Awards $10M to Extend Chameleon Cloud Testbed Project

September 19, 2017

The National Science Foundation has awarded a second phase, $10 million grant to the Chameleon cloud computing testbed project led by University of Chicago with partners at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), Ren Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Prepares Customers for Success with the HPC Software Portfolio

High performance computing (HPC) software is key to harnessing the full power of HPC environments. Development and management tools enable IT departments to streamline installation and maintenance of their systems as well as create, optimize, and run their HPC applications. Read more…

NERSC Simulations Shed Light on Fusion Reaction Turbulence

September 19, 2017

Understanding fusion reactions in detail – particularly plasma turbulence – is critical to the effort to bring fusion power to reality. Recent work including roughly 70 million hours of compute time at the National E Read more…

Exascale Computing Project Names Doug Kothe as Director

September 20, 2017

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) has named Doug Kothe as its new director effective October 1. He replaces Paul Messina, who is s Read more…

Takeaways from the Milwaukee HPC User Forum

September 19, 2017

Milwaukee’s elegant Pfister Hotel hosted approximately 100 attendees for the 66th HPC User Forum (September 5-7, 2017). In the original home city of Pabst Blu Read more…

By Merle Giles

Kathy Yelick Charts the Promise and Progress of Exascale Science

September 15, 2017

On Friday, Sept. 8, Kathy Yelick of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, delivered the keynote address on “Breakt Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DARPA Pledges Another $300 Million for Post-Moore’s Readiness

September 14, 2017

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched a giant funding effort to ensure the United States can sustain the pace of electronic innovation vital to both a flourishing economy and a secure military. Under the banner of the Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI), some $500-$800 million will be invested in post-Moore’s Law technologies. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Breaks Ground for Complex Quantum Chemistry

September 14, 2017

IBM has reported the use of a novel algorithm to simulate BeH2 (beryllium-hydride) on a quantum computer. This is the largest molecule so far simulated on a quantum computer. The technique, which used six qubits of a seven-qubit system, is an important step forward and may suggest an approach to simulating ever larger molecules. Read more…

By John Russell

Cubes, Culture, and a New Challenge: Trish Damkroger Talks about Life at Intel—and Why HPC Matters More Than Ever

September 13, 2017

Trish Damkroger wasn’t looking to change jobs when she attended SC15 in Austin, Texas. Capping a 15-year career within Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories, she was acting Associate Director for Computation at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Her mission was to equip the lab’s scientists and research partners with resources that would advance their cutting-edge work... Read more…

By Jan Rowell

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

MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab Targets Algorithms, AI Physics

September 7, 2017

Investment continues to flow into artificial intelligence research, especially in key areas such as AI algorithms that promise to move the technology from speci Read more…

By George Leopold

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

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

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

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 cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

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

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

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

IBM Clears Path to 5nm with Silicon Nanosheets

June 5, 2017

Two years since announcing the industry’s first 7nm node test chip, IBM and its research alliance partners GlobalFoundries and Samsung have developed a proces 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

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in 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

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

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

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

GlobalFoundries: 7nm Chips Coming in 2018, EUV in 2019

June 13, 2017

GlobalFoundries has formally announced that its 7nm technology is ready for customer engagement with product tape outs expected for the first half of 2018. The Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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