NSF Forges Further Beyond FLOPs

By Nicole Hemsoth

May 22, 2013

The NSF recently sent out a high performance system solicitation to broaden their range of capabilities and provide a more “inclusive computing environment” for science and engineering, which while closed to new submissions, has opened the door to a few questions.

According to the agency, some of the new problem areas they want to address involve applications “that are extremely data intensive and may not be dominated by floating point operation speed.  While a number of the earlier acquisitions have addressed a subset of these issues, the current solicitation emphasizes this even further.”

With NSF-funded systems like Blue Waters and Stampede up and running, the agency says that there are other needs the scientific community has expressed, particularly as they relate to solving data-intensive challenges. Although this is not to say that they’ve turned a blind eye to hyper-performance systems, the solicitation makes little mention of what similar solicitations yielded when they decided on systems like Stampede, for instance,

In other words, we gave your FLOPs already, folks. It’s time for something new.

Among the elements that the NSF has deemed worthy of funding are:

  • Complement existing XD capabilities with new types of computational resources attuned to less traditional computational science communities;
  • Incorporate innovative and reliable services within the HPC environment to deal with complex and dynamic workflows that contribute significantly to the advancement of science and are difficult to achieve within XD;
  • Facilitate transition from local to national environments via the use of virtual machines;
  • Introduce highly useable and cost efficient cloud computing capabilities into XD to meet national scale requirements for new modes of computationally intensive scientific research; 
  • Expand the range of data intensive and/or computationally-challenging science and engineering applications that can be tackled with current XD resources;
  • Provide reliable approaches to scientific communities needing a high-throughput capability:
  • Provide a useful interactive environment for users needing to develop and debug codes using hundreds of cores or for scientific workflows/gateways requiring highly responsive computation;
  • Deal effectively with scientific applications needing a few hundred to a few thousand cores;
  • Efficiently provide a high degree of stability and usability by January, 2015

To better understand how these “big data” driven needs intersect with other large-scale computing initiatives, including exascale ambitions, we talked with Barry Schneider and Irene Qualters, both program directors in the division of advanced cyberinfrastructure in the computer and information scinces directorate.

The two dealt directly with the acquisitions of Blue Waters, Stampede, Kraken, Gordon, Blacklight, and other research systems. They also work within the XSEDE program to ensure that researchers have access to required computational resources. Qualters says that the NSF has focused on large-scale, high performance systems in the form of Blue Waters and Stampede, “and those are highly usable and fit what people need computationally.” Still, she says, the NSF is not just trying to expand the number of services—they’re trying to broaden the scope of them.

Qualters and Schneider agree that when it comes to pushing funding toward exascale systems or data-intensive challenges, there is not an either/or distinction since both areas feed different streams of research. However, the NSF has gathered details from user communities about what they require and the broadening array of new scientific instruments (everything from new telescopes to gene sequencers) has yielded a definite call to deal with ever-larger, more diverse, and complex data from across several fields.

 “We have been interested in data-intensive for quite some time and that focus is there but we’re also recognizing that new communities are having diff computational needs based on the types of research they’re involved with—this could data-intensive tools or just an expansion of visualization capability, for instance. We want to make sure that they have the cyberinfratructure to do so and do it at a national level,” said Qualters.

Schneider explained that it would send the wrong message to send if it came across that this solicitation was a purely data-intensive call since his team is looking for a balanced set of resources for XSEDE projects and researchers who have stretched the current capabilities of their university machines. However, he said that research groups need to have access to other resources, including everything from virtual machines to new hardware and software tools to allow them to make use of broadening data types and volumes.

“Not everyone needs 100,000 cores,” Schneider said. Most of the researchers they work with via XSEDE and the systems that form its backbone are simply looking for the most efficient way to get their science on the table. He noted that for now the focus is on these new hardware and software tools to support the new needs, but there is nothing preventing them from switching course in two years and funding another system to trump Blue Waters or Stampede. It’s all about what the community tells them is needed, he stressed.

To arrive at the priorities included in their goals for data, software, campus bridging, security and education within the larger computational and data-driven science and engineering, the NSF gathers input from their own internal experts and six task force committees dedicated to specific areas. Last February, the NSF released their vision for the next generation of advanced computing infrastructure for science and engineering, the goal of which was to ensure that research communities had access to the needed computational resources to move forward.

This set of principles guides their funding course for the current cycle and while exascale projects are nowhere in sight, there are some unique technologies that are finally getting a chance to shine. As for exascale in general, Qualters says that for the NSF, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a question of how and when. She emphasized the belief that there is a big difference between what her agency sees as exascale and what the benchmarks show are different—but reiterated that funding decisions won’t be an question of choosing exascale over “big data” science, it will be a decision based on what the research community needs at the time and what is practical for real-world applications.

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!

Battle Brews over Trump Intentions for Funding Science

February 27, 2017

The battle over science funding – how much and for what kinds of science – Read more…

By John Russell

Google Gets First Dibs on New Skylake Chips

February 27, 2017

As part of an ongoing effort to differentiate its public cloud services, Google made good this week on its intention to bring custom Xeon Skylake chips from Intel Corp. Read more…

By George Leopold

Thomas Sterling on CREST and Academia’s Role in HPC Research

February 27, 2017

The US advances in high performance computing over many decades have been a product of the combined engagement of research centers in industry, government labs, and academia. Read more…

By Thomas Sterling, Indiana University

Advancing Modular Supercomputing with DEEP and DEEP-ER Architectures

February 24, 2017

Knowing that the jump to exascale will require novel architectural approaches capable of delivering dramatic efficiency and performance gains, researchers around the world are hard at work on next-generation HPC systems. Read more…

By Sean Thielen

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Manufacturers Reaping the Benefits of Remote Visualization

Today’s manufacturers are operating in an ever-changing atmosphere, and finding new ways to boost productivity has never been more vital.

This is why manufacturers are ramping up their investments in high performance computing (HPC), a trend which has helped give rise to the “connected factory” and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) concepts that are proliferating throughout the industry today. Read more…

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Feb. 23, 2017)

February 23, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

HPE Server Shows Low Latency on STAC-N1 Test

February 22, 2017

The performance of trade and match servers can be a critical differentiator for financial trading houses. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Financial Update (Feb. 2017)

February 22, 2017

In this recurring feature, we’ll provide you with financial highlights from companies in the HPC industry. Check back in regularly for an updated list with the most pertinent fiscal information. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

Rethinking HPC Platforms for ‘Second Gen’ Applications

February 22, 2017

Just what constitutes HPC and how best to support it is a keen topic currently. Read more…

By John Russell

Thomas Sterling on CREST and Academia’s Role in HPC Research

February 27, 2017

The US advances in high performance computing over many decades have been a product of the combined engagement of research centers in industry, government labs, and academia. Read more…

By Thomas Sterling, Indiana University

Advancing Modular Supercomputing with DEEP and DEEP-ER Architectures

February 24, 2017

Knowing that the jump to exascale will require novel architectural approaches capable of delivering dramatic efficiency and performance gains, researchers around the world are hard at work on next-generation HPC systems. Read more…

By Sean Thielen

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

IDC: Will the Real Exascale Race Please Stand Up?

February 21, 2017

So the exascale race is on. And lots of organizations are in the pack. Government announcements from the US, China, India, Japan, and the EU indicate that they are working hard to make it happen – some sooner, some later. Read more…

By Bob Sorensen, IDC

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

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

Drug Developers Use Google Cloud HPC in the Fight Against ALS

February 16, 2017

Within the haystack of a lethal disease such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis / Lou Gehrig’s Disease) there exists, somewhere, the needle that will pierce this therapy-resistant affliction. Read more…

By Doug Black

Azure Edges AWS in Linpack Benchmark Study

February 15, 2017

The “when will clouds be ready for HPC” question has ebbed and flowed for years. Read more…

By John Russell

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

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

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

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

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

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

Leading Solution Providers

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

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

Dell Knights Landing Machine Sets New STAC Records

November 2, 2016

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, commonly known as STAC, has released a new report characterizing the performance of the Knight Landing-based Dell PowerEdge C6320p server on the STAC-A2 benchmarking suite, widely used by the financial services industry to test and evaluate computing platforms. The Dell machine has set new records for both the baseline Greeks benchmark and the large Greeks benchmark. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel and Trump Announce $7B for Fab 42 Targeting 7nm

February 8, 2017

In what may be an attempt by President Trump to reset his turbulent relationship with the high tech industry, he and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich today announced plans to invest more than $7 billion to complete Fab 42. Read more…

By John Russell

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