IDC Posits Processor Possibilities

By Nicole Hemsoth

May 1, 2013

This week at the IDC User Forum in Tucson, a relatively small but tight-knit knot of supercomputing colleagues clustered in the air conditioning to debate the standard host of HPC topics, with the expected refreshers on big data, the various walls to scale, and domain-specific application areas (manufacturing simulations and astrophysics were two such themes).

Naturally, this was chased with plenty of coprocessor and chip chatter—a topic that seemed to generate fierce speculation and strong opinions during one-on-one conversations. To lend some perspective, we sat down with IDC HPC analyst, Steve Conway, to drill down on the differences in new approaches and how they could drive change in the coming few years as the software, programming and performance metrics continue to shake out.

Conway started with the lighter fare by pointing to a 2012 study IDC conducted for an unnamed government agency that sought to visualize what HPC systems would look like five years down the road. Using input from around 50 key ecosystem vendors, the findings detailed how x86 would almost certainly maintain its throne with heterogeneity stepping up ever closer to its side.

Those results are noteworthy, but probably don’t come as much of a surprise, especially since they mesh well with what is easy to observe through conversation and corroborated with other analyst views, including those of Intesect360 Research. However, Conway’s group just rounded out a larger multi-client study to see just how much the processor ecosystem change was affecting life at ground level—and this time, IDC was rather bowled over by the responses to some silicon-specific queries.

Every 18 months IDC checks in with user sites to take the tech investment pulse as it beats against key items. While they expected to see a jump in coprocessor and accelerator uptake, they were wholly unprepared for the overwhelming positive response to GPUs and new entrants into the market, most notably Intel’s shiny new Phi.

Conway said that while accelerator and coprocessor adoption growth was anticipated, they had no idea that it would have been over double what it was from the short time since their last survey.

He noted that while this was a striking finding, it should be balanced with the understanding that these approaches are not the majority of what sites are using since it’s still mostly CPU dominated—but this means big things for the future of companies like NVIDIA and Intel as the processor wars heat up.

On that front, it’s also worth mentioning that there were strong gains on the coprocessor and accelerator from around the industry, although he says that the public sector was the more dominant area. Still, as Conway notes, there is a wide degree of variation, even in this segment. For instance, some labs, Oak Ridge in particular, are snatching up GPUs left and right, while others of similar scale, including NCSA, have had a less enthusiastic buying spree with GPUs because they have different attributes and determined that for their needs (versus Titan’s relatively smaller user base) the payoff just wasn’t present.

The point is, says Conway, “Heterogeneity is very much on the rise. We are moving past the experimental phase, people are doing real work now.” Of Phi in particular he notes that things are moving along,  “but it’s still not clear how easy the new generation will be to program—the real thing here is that it’s going to take time to grow the software ecosystem.”

He continued, noting one primary benefit of GPUs in the wake of their striking results—GPUs have simply been around longer. Everything, including the all-important software side, is farther along, Conway reminisced about the excitement in the air when GPUs were the new kid on the HPC block, pointing to the same reaction to Intel’s push of Phi into the ecosystem.

At this point, he says, it’s all about claims—there are no real ways to determine just how simple to program Phi will actually prove to be, but the possibilities have certainly piqued the interest of more parties than IDC predicted. Further, the performance verdict is still not out in terms of actual performance, but the details are being moved out and by the next census of its kind, there will be a much stronger story to tell on both sides.

The big piece of the puzzle for the coprocessor and accelerator companies to click into place involves the larger HPC ecosystem. FLOPs are valuable as a census of sorts, says Conway, but there are new needs that are pushing us farther away from the “compute-centric” reality we’re still immersed in today.

Acceleration and pushing performance are always going to have a place, but we will need to watch these stories unfold in the larger context of how system vendors pull together to push the interconnect to new heights (another developing story for Intel with its recent acquisitions of both Cray and QLogic interconnect tech), says Conway. Users with “big data” needs are seeking less compute-centric and more data-centric approaches that emphasize the ability to ingest and analyze versus tear through Linpack results to arrive at figures that don’t reflect real application performance.

Again, he agrees that the Top 500 is of great value to the community, but the next years with their innovative memory and interconnect doors to open will start to build the foundation for more balanced HPC systems—and hopefully those with wider appeal and further fine-tuning for data movement versus raw horsepower.

It’s not easy to find analyst groups that agree on the broader level, but in this case, HPC analyst Addison Snell and his group at Intersect360 Research contend that accelerators are a top-of-the-list item to watch, even if compute-centric and data-centric advocates push their points. “Accelerator use is in the early stages but results point to continued penetration of the market.” They added to this in their own list of predictions that CPU cores will proliferate on CPUs and accelerators as users explore the limits of parallelism as processor architectures diversify.”

So with all of this in mind, take a quick look at what select folks in the community are talking about this week via the IDC User Forum Agenda. Some cool astrophysics presentations were to be had this morning—tomorrow comes an extension on this talk with a host of mini-presentations on processor and accelerator advancements.

Related Stories

FLOPS Fall Flat for Intelligence Agency

IDC: Supercomputing Spending Jumps 30 Percent

NVIDIA: 70 Leading Apps Add Support for GPU Accelerators

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!

SRC Spends $200M on University Research Centers

January 16, 2018

The Semiconductor Research Corporation, as part of its JUMP initiative, has awarded $200 million to fund six research centers whose areas of focus span cognitive computing, memory-centric computing, high-speed communicat Read more…

By John Russell

US Seeks to Automate Video Analysis

January 16, 2018

U.S. military and intelligence agencies continue to look for new ways to use artificial intelligence to sift through huge amounts of video imagery in hopes of freeing analysts to identify threats and otherwise put their Read more…

By George Leopold

URISC@SC17 and the #LongestLastMile

January 11, 2018

A multinational delegation recently attended the Understanding Risk in Shared CyberEcosystems workshop, or URISC@SC17, in Denver, Colorado. URISC participants and presenters from 11 countries, including eight African nations, 12 U.S. states, Canada, India and Nepal, also attended SC17, the annual international conference for high performance computing, networking, storage and analysis that drew nearly 13,000 attendees. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake, STEM-Trek Nonprofit

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and NREL Take Steps to Create a Sustainable, Energy-Efficient Data Center with an H2 Fuel Cell

As enterprises attempt to manage rising volumes of data, unplanned data center outages are becoming more common and more expensive. As the cost of downtime rises, enterprises lose out on productivity and valuable competitive advantage without access to their critical data. Read more…

When the Chips Are Down

January 11, 2018

In the last article, "The High Stakes Semiconductor Game that Drives HPC Diversity," I alluded to the challenges facing the semiconductor industry and how that may impact the evolution of HPC systems over the next few years. I thought I’d lift the covers a little and look at some of the commercial challenges that impact the component technology we use in HPC. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

SRC Spends $200M on University Research Centers

January 16, 2018

The Semiconductor Research Corporation, as part of its JUMP initiative, has awarded $200 million to fund six research centers whose areas of focus span cognitiv Read more…

By John Russell

When the Chips Are Down

January 11, 2018

In the last article, "The High Stakes Semiconductor Game that Drives HPC Diversity," I alluded to the challenges facing the semiconductor industry and how that may impact the evolution of HPC systems over the next few years. I thought I’d lift the covers a little and look at some of the commercial challenges that impact the component technology we use in HPC. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

ANL’s Rick Stevens on CANDLE, ARM, Quantum, and More

January 8, 2018

Late last year HPCwire caught up with Rick Stevens, associate laboratory director for computing, environment and life Sciences at Argonne National Laboratory, f Read more…

By John Russell

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The @hpcnotes Predictions for HPC in 2018

January 4, 2018

I’m not averse to making predictions about the world of High Performance Computing (and Supercomputing, Cloud, etc.) in person at conferences, meetings, causa Read more…

By Andrew Jones

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi 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

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Nvidia, Partners Announce Several V100 Servers

September 27, 2017

Here come the Volta 100-based servers. Nvidia today announced an impressive line-up of servers from major partners – Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Delivers 17-Qubit Quantum Chip to European Research Partner

October 10, 2017

On Tuesday, Intel delivered a 17-qubit superconducting test chip to research partner QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The announcement marks a major milestone in the 10-year, $50-million collaborative relationship with TU Delft and TNO, the Dutch Organization for Applied Research, to accelerate advancements in quantum computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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