Lustre Founder Spots Haskell on HPC Horizon

By Nicole Hemsoth

June 24, 2013

As a small 20-person company, Boulder-based Parallel Scientific flies just under the mainstream radar, but for those who have been in the HPC community for a number of years, its CEO and Chief Architect Peter Braam is a recognizable name.

Braam’s major contribution to high performance computing geared up in 1999 at Carnegie Mellon, where he worked on the file system architecture that spun into Lustre. Inspired by that progress, Braam kicked that project out as a business, beginning Cluster File Systems, which was acquired by Sun in 2007. A year later, Braam let the Sun set and embarked on a new adventure with Parallel Scientific.

The company has a rather interesting business model–instead of focusing on particular problem area (outside of the general purview of tailoring environments for large-scale HPC deployments) they are letting the breeze carry them. For instance, they have found themselves focusing on parallel Haskell in the last few years, even though Braam says that such development might just be the shell for something much larger or entirely different as they continue. 

The saying goes that in Haskell, the function is a first-class citizen–and this status might make it a solid fit for a range of high performance computing environments. Despite what Braam admits is a daunting learning curve, there is an open field of possibilities for Haskell to infiltrate HPC. As it stands, there is an active community around it and around 5000 open source and tools available. But the real value for high performance computing, he argues, lies in Haskell’s productivity and correctness–a worth that’s been validated in select industrial use cases.

Arguably, Google and Facebook have brought more attention to Haskell in recent years, but there are a number of other notable uses that highlight Braam’s confidence in the functional language. For instance, Chicago-based Allston Trading, a high frequency trading company, uses Haskell in their trading infrastructure. AT&T is using it in their Network Security group to automate internet abuse complaint processing. Bank of American is using it in their backend data transformation and loading system and Credit Suisse’s Global Modeling and Analytics Group has been using it since 2006 to improve modeler productivity and open access to those models across the organization.

Biotech giant Amgen also uses Haskell for math-heavy models and to “break developers out of their development rut by giving them a new way to think about software. According to the company’s David Balaban, “Our experience is that using functional programming reduces the critical conceptual distance between thought/algorithms design and code.” But the real value says Balaban is the level of correctness they’ve been able to achieve.

As Amgen’s Balaban says “we have been able to develop code quickly and verify–to an applied mathematician’s satisfaction–the correctness of Haskell code straightforwardly; we have yet to achieve this with more traditional mainstream languages.” 

And indeed, there are plenty of mainstream languages that would seem to fit the bill for mathematical models that don’t come with the hike. Braam says that while R might seem like the most practical language for users like Amgen and others noted above, there are opportunities for error in R that Haskell won’t allow. When correctness is key–as it is with all of the above use cases–the learning curve of Haskell is worth the price if total accuracy is inherent. In fact, he laughingly admits that their business could eventually turn to just building a language that is “safer” than R on the correctness front. 

When it comes to the uptake of a language like Haskell with its learning curve and relatively isolated set of non end user-based functionality, Braam says it’s a matter of time. He points to languages like Python, which took a decade or more to wind a path through large-scale environments, HPC and commercial alike. Still, he notes, “you’d be surprised how many companies have a ‘secret’ Haskell department–a group of people that are highly productive dedicated to solving a serious problem. This is especially true in the financial world–mostly because of the correctness element.”

And true to that point, in grazing the user community for Haskell, the trend seems to be that few are using Haskell as an end user tool. However, users want to be able to construct robust software infrastructure that lets users maintain creativity and take advantage of domain-specific languages, which he says are not as difficult as one might think to implement in Haskell. He points to the example of a Square Kilometer Array (SKA) research group, which wants to the right set of primitives built that will allow the hardware to change and run on different hybrid platforms–an area that his company can help with. 

The idea for finding a wider market for parallel Haskell spun from work Braam and colleagues did around an XSTACK proposal which sought programming environments for exascale computers. The team put an emphasis on automatic parallelization via compilers–a trick that Braam said plenty outside of the HPC community (Facebook, for example) has perfected. It just hasn’t caught on in HPC–although said the same Erlang and Haskell tricks that have worked at that scale can automate parallelism across a multitude of HPC systems. 

His team is also hard at work perfecting their “Awesome Haskell FPGA Compiler” whihc lets developers express hardware solutions in a high-level domain specific language in much the same way their work with SKA is allowing. The environment would allow software simulation and testing in an interactive environment to wick away the long development time that are the bane of FPGA design. The solution that can be kicked to the overall environment and ready to run in some unique data-intensive areas, like SKA.

Braam is a Haskell believer in the same way he believed in his pioneering work on Lustre. “People said you’re wasting your time,” he reminisced. While the use cases may be small, as big data and more complex models drive further into both research and enterprise settings, the appeal of a functional language that emphasizes correctness and productivity will reveal itself.

 

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!

Researchers Scale COSMO Climate Code to 4888 GPUs on Piz Daint

October 17, 2017

Effective global climate simulation, sorely needed to anticipate and cope with global warming, has long been computationally challenging. Two of the major obstacles are the needed resolution and prolonged time to compute Read more…

By John Russell

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Cluster Competition coverage has come to its natural home: H Read more…

By Dan Olds

UCSD Web-based Tool Tracking CA Wildfires Generates 1.5M Views

October 16, 2017

Tracking the wildfires raging in northern CA is an unpleasant but necessary part of guiding efforts to fight the fires and safely evacuate affected residents. One such tool – Firemap – is a web-based tool developed b Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Transforming Genomic Analytics with HPC-Accelerated Insights

Advancements in the field of genomics are revolutionizing our understanding of human biology, rapidly accelerating the discovery and treatment of genetic diseases, and dramatically improving human health. Read more…

Exascale Imperative: New Movie from HPE Makes a Compelling Case

October 13, 2017

Why is pursuing exascale computing so important? In a new video – Hewlett Packard Enterprise: Eighteen Zeros – four HPE executives, a prominent national lab HPC researcher, and HPCwire managing editor Tiffany Trader Read more…

By John Russell

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Read more…

By Dan Olds

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

Fujitsu Tapped to Build 37-Petaflops ABCI System for AIST

October 10, 2017

Fujitsu announced today it will build the long-planned AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI) which is set to become the fastest supercomputer system in Japan Read more…

By John Russell

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

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

Intel Debuts Programmable Acceleration Card

October 5, 2017

With a view toward supporting complex, data-intensive applications, such as AI inference, video streaming analytics, database acceleration and genomics, Intel i Read more…

By Doug Black

OLCF’s 200 Petaflops Summit Machine Still Slated for 2018 Start-up

October 3, 2017

The Department of Energy’s planned 200 petaflops Summit computer, which is currently being installed at Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, is on track t Read more…

By John Russell

US Exascale Program – Some Additional Clarity

September 28, 2017

The last time we left the Department of Energy’s exascale computing program in July, things were looking very positive. Both the U.S. House and Senate had pas Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leading Solution Providers

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

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

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

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

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

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Intel, NERSC and University Partners Launch New Big Data Center

August 17, 2017

A collaboration between the Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), Intel and five Intel Parallel Computing Cente Read more…

By Linda Barney

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