RSC Packs a Petaflops of Xeon Phi in a Rack

By Timothy Prickett Morgan

November 27, 2013

RSC Group, a four-year-old maker of clusters based in Moscow that has created some of the most energy efficient machines installed in Russia, got plenty of attention last week at SC13 with its new PetaStream system.

Like many top-end systems created today, the PetaStream is a hybrid design, and in this case it mixes a modest number of Xeon processors from Intel with a much larger number of Xeon Phi X86 coprocessors to get more than 1 petaflops of aggregate double-precision number-crunching power into a single rack.

The PetaStream system cheats a little bit on the server density by using a non-standard rack that is a meter wide (3.28 feet). A standard server rack is 19 inches on the inside and usually around 24 inches (two feet) on the outside. That said, the PetaStream system still points the way to the kind of dense packaging of compute capacity that will be necessary to approach exascale compute capacities in the next decade.

The PetaStream system has an Intel Xeon E5-2690 v2 processor as the basis of each node in the machine. This is the new ten-core “Ivy Bridge-EP” processor, which was announced by Intel in September and which clocks at 3 GHz. RSC is using Intel’s S1600JP motherboard, which was designed for single-socket, half-wide server nodes but which can accept the E5-2690 v2 chip, which was made for two-socket machines. Each one of the Xeon E5 processors has eight Xeon Phi coprocessors hanging off its PCI-Express bus. The system has an embedded version of the Xeon Phi that has 60 cores and 240 threads on each “Knights Corner” chip, which delivers over 1 teraflops of peak performance on double-precision calculations. This Xeon Phi card has 8 GB of GDDR5 memory and runs a skinny Linux operating system for workloads that are offloaded from the CPU.

Customers can use Intel True Scale or Mellanox Connect-IB adapter cards on the server nodes to link out to InfiniBand or Ethernet interconnects. With the two PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots, RSC suggests that four InfiniBand ports running at 40 Gb/sec (QDR) or 56 Gb/sec (FDR) coming out of the module is a reasonable configuration where high bandwidth and low latency are important.

The Xeon and Xeon Phi components are packaged up in a compute module that has direct liquid cooling on all of the hot components in the module. Either water or glycol can be used as the coolant for the machine, according to Alexander Moskovsky, CEO at RSC Group. The liquid cooling system is designed to allow as much as 400 kilowatts of electricity to be consumed by the rack’s components and then pulled off as heat.


The PetaStream modules have room for five solid state drives for local storage on the cluster, and RSC has chosen Intel’s DC S3700 or DC S3500 series drives for the PetaStream machine, which have 800 GB of capacity. With all 640 SSDs in the rack, that gives 512 TB of storage.

The PetaStream system rack slides compute modules in both the back and the front of the rack, for a total of 128 modules. That yields 1,024 Xeon Phi coprocessors for a total of 61,440 cores and 245,760 threads, all crammed into a rack that is 7.2 feet tall and measures 3.28 feet on a side.

“Our calculations show that one rack of RSC PetaStream is close to eight racks of X86 servers,” Alexey Shmelev, chief operations officer and co-founder of RSC, explained at the launch of the machine at SC13 last week. “This is not the measurement of peak theoretical performance, but the measurement on real applications.” And, he added, the PetaStream system required half of the energy as the X86 machine to solve the same problem.

Because the machine can be configured in a number of different ways, RSC was reluctant to provide a base price for the PetaStream rack. But Moskovsky said that the Xeon Phi cards were a big part of the system cost, which stands to reason given that there are 1,024 of them in the rack. When pressed about how the PetaStream machine would compare to a plain vanilla cluster of X86 servers, Moskovsky said that that the “flops per dollar would be price competitive” and left it at that.

The idea that is espoused again and again in cluster designs with compute offload, liquid cooling, or both is that the benefits of these technologies pay for themselves in savings in space, power, and cooling. That is true so long as a customer has the kind of software that can be tweaked to offload routines to the Xeon Phi coprocessor – and the time to make such changes to their code.

The PetaStream machine will be even more interesting when Intel ships its next generation “Knights Landing” Xeon Phi chip, which Intel talked a bit more about at SC13 last week. This Xeon Phi chip will have its own local memory on the die as well as DDR4 memory on the package; it will also plug into its own socket on a system board and will be available as a standalone compute module that no longer needs a Xeon processor telling it what to do over the PCI bus.

The roadmaps that we have seen show the Knights Landing chip delivering around 3 teraflops of double-precision math and coming to market in 2015 or so. In theory, a PetaStream rack could triple up to 3 petaflops in its rack without too much effort. It looks like the Knights Landing chip will have about the same thermal envelope as the current Knights Corner Xeon Phi chips, so putting a larger number of Xeon Phi chips into a PetaStream rack is probably not going to be easy even if it is possible. Then again, that is what engineering is all about, and RSC has time to figure out how to cram even more compute into a rack.

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!

AMD’s EPYC Road to Redemption in Six Slides

June 21, 2018

A year ago AMD returned to the server market with its EPYC processor line. The earth didn’t tremble but folks took notice. People remember the Opteron fondly but later versions of the Bulldozer line not so much. Fast f Read more…

By John Russell

Why Student Cluster Competitions are Better than World Cup

June 21, 2018

My last article about the ISC18 Student Cluster Competition, titled “World Cup is Lame Compared to This Competition”, may have implied that I believe Student Cluster Competitions are better than World Cup soccer in s Read more…

By Dan Olds

European HPC Summit Week and PRACEdays 2018: Slaying Dragons and SHAPEing Futures One SME at a Time

June 20, 2018

The University of Ljubljana in Slovenia hosted the third annual EHPCSW18 and fifth annual PRACEdays18 events which opened May 29, 2018. The conference was chaired by PRACE Council Vice-Chair Sergi Girona (Barcelona Super Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake (STEM-Trek for HPCwire)

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPC and AI Convergence is Accelerating New Levels of Intelligence

Data analytics is the most valuable tool in the digital marketplace – so much so that organizations are employing high performance computing (HPC) capabilities to rapidly collect, share, and analyze endless streams of data. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Preview the World’s Smartest Supercomputer at ISC 2018

Introducing an accelerated IT infrastructure for HPC & AI workloads Read more…

An Overview of ‘OpenACC for Programmers’ from the Book’s Editors

June 20, 2018

In an era of multicore processors coupled with manycore accelerators in all kinds of devices from smartphones all the way to supercomputers, it is important to train current and future computational scientists of all dom Read more…

By Sunita Chandrasekaran and Guido Juckeland

AMD’s EPYC Road to Redemption in Six Slides

June 21, 2018

A year ago AMD returned to the server market with its EPYC processor line. The earth didn’t tremble but folks took notice. People remember the Opteron fondly Read more…

By John Russell

European HPC Summit Week and PRACEdays 2018: Slaying Dragons and SHAPEing Futures One SME at a Time

June 20, 2018

The University of Ljubljana in Slovenia hosted the third annual EHPCSW18 and fifth annual PRACEdays18 events which opened May 29, 2018. The conference was chair Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake (STEM-Trek for HPCwire)

Cray Introduces All Flash Lustre Storage Solution Targeting HPC

June 19, 2018

Citing the rise of IOPS-intensive workflows and more affordable flash technology, Cray today introduced the L300F, a scalable all-flash storage solution whose p Read more…

By John Russell

Sandia to Take Delivery of World’s Largest Arm System

June 18, 2018

While the enterprise remains circumspect on prospects for Arm servers in the datacenter, the leadership HPC community is taking a bolder, brighter view of the x86 server CPU alternative. Amongst current and planned Arm HPC installations – i.e., the innovative Mont-Blanc project, led by Bull/Atos, the 'Isambard’ Cray XC50 going into the University of Bristol, and commitments from both Japan and France among others -- HPE is announcing that it will be supply the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with a 2.3 petaflops peak Arm-based system, named Astra. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Machine Learning Hype Cycle and HPC

June 14, 2018

Like many other HPC professionals I’m following the hype cycle around machine learning/deep learning with interest. I subscribe to the view that we’re probably approaching the ‘peak of inflated expectation’ but not quite yet starting the descent into the ‘trough of disillusionment. This still raises the probability that... Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Xiaoxiang Zhu Receives the 2018 PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC

June 13, 2018

Xiaoxiang Zhu, who works for the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Technical University of Munich (TUM), was awarded the 2018 PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC for her outstanding contributions in the field of high performance computing (HPC) in Europe. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake

U.S Considering Launch of National Quantum Initiative

June 11, 2018

Sometime this month the U.S. House Science Committee will introduce legislation to launch a 10-year National Quantum Initiative, according to a recent report by Read more…

By John Russell

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda 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

Hennessy & Patterson: A New Golden Age for Computer Architecture

April 17, 2018

On Monday June 4, 2018, 2017 A.M. Turing Award Winners John L. Hennessy and David A. Patterson will deliver the Turing Lecture at the 45th International Sympo Read more…

By Staff

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17


AMD @ SC17


ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack



DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17


IBM @ SC17


IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17


Lenovo @ SC17


Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17


Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17


Tyan @ SC17


Univa @ SC17


Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google I/O 2018: AI Everywhere; TPU 3.0 Delivers 100+ Petaflops but Requires Liquid Cooling

May 9, 2018

All things AI dominated discussion at yesterday’s opening of Google’s I/O 2018 developers meeting covering much of Google's near-term product roadmap. The e Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Ups Hardware Game with 16-GPU DGX-2 Server and 18-Port NVSwitch

March 27, 2018

Nvidia unveiled a raft of new products from its annual technology conference in San Jose today, and despite not offering up a new chip architecture, there were still a few surprises in store for HPC hardware aficionados. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Pattern Computer – Startup Claims Breakthrough in ‘Pattern Discovery’ Technology

May 23, 2018

If it weren’t for the heavy-hitter technology team behind start-up Pattern Computer, which emerged from stealth today in a live-streamed event from San Franci Read more…

By John Russell

Part One: Deep Dive into 2018 Trends in Life Sciences HPC

March 1, 2018

Life sciences is an interesting lens through which to see HPC. It is perhaps not an obvious choice, given life sciences’ relative newness as a heavy user of H Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Pledges First Commercial Nervana Product ‘Spring Crest’ in 2019

May 24, 2018

At its AI developer conference in San Francisco yesterday, Intel embraced a holistic approach to AI and showed off a broad AI portfolio that includes Xeon processors, Movidius technologies, FPGAs and Intel’s Nervana Neural Network Processors (NNPs), based on the technology it acquired in 2016. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Charts Two-Dimensional Quantum Course

April 26, 2018

Quantum error correction, essential for achieving universal fault-tolerant quantum computation, is one of the main challenges of the quantum computing field and it’s top of mind for Google’s John Martinis. At a presentation last week at the HPC User Forum in Tucson, Martinis, one of the world's foremost experts in quantum computing, emphasized... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’ Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This