The Top Supercomputing Led Discoveries of 2013

By Nicole Hemsoth

January 2, 2014

Oil and Gas, Renewable Energy

natureOil and gas supercomputers are finding their way into the upper ranks of the Top500 with many of the major companies retrofitting their existing systems or cutting the ribbon on new centers.

Back in October, BP announced that it has opened a new facility in Houston, Texas, that is designed house the “world’s largest supercomputer for commercial research.” The Center for High-Performance Computing is part of BP’s five-year, $100 million investment in computing.

As we reported this year, BP’s newest supercomputer was built by HP and Intel. With 2.2 petaflops of data-crunching potential, the new supercomputer has almost twice as much computing power as BP’s previous machine. The new supercomputer also comes with 1,000 TB of total memory and 23.5 petabytes of disk space (which is equivalent of over 40,000 average laptop computers).

Last December, HPCwire learned that BP planned to derive its FLOPs from a CPU-only strategy. The new system would employ about 67,000 CPUs, but no GPUs or Phis. At the time, Keith Gray, BP’s HPC center manager, told HPCwire that the British firm wasn’t ready to make the leap to heterogeneous computing. “We continue to test accelerators,” he shared in an email, “but have not built a strong business case for our complete application base.”

Also in oil and gas news this year was a new system from SGI tweaked from its ICE X HPC system for French oil and gas giant, Total. The approximately $78 million ICE X based system will clock in about ninth place on the Top 500 list as it stands now, ringing in at around 2.3 petaflops, at least in terms of its peak Linpack calculations. SGI expects it to pull the title of top commercial system this year, which is probably not an unreasonable assumption given its predicted performance across its 110,592 Xeon E5-2670 cores and 442 TB of memory that is split on this distributed-memory system.

On the specs front, SGI points to the data management capabilities, consisting of 7 PB of storage, including its native InfiniteStorage disk arrays (17,000 of them to be exact) and their DMF tiered storage virtualization backed by integrated Lustre.

In a partnership with Sandia National Lab, GE Global Research, the technology development arm of the General Electric Company, announced research that could significantly impact the design of future wind turbine blades. Utilizing the power of high-performance computing (HPC) to perform complex calculations, GE engineers have overcome previous design constraints, allowing them to begin exploring ways to design reengineered wind blades that are low-noise and more prolific power-producers.

Back in May, the Colorado School of Mines revealed its new 155 teraflop supercomputer dubbed “BlueM” which is designed to allow researchers to run large simulations in support of the university’s core research areas while operating on the forefront of algorithm development using a powerful hybrid system. The system will be housed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in a major new collaboration between the two organizations.

Earthquakes, Tornadoes and Natural Disasters

tornadoWhizzing through 213 trillion calculations per second, newly upgraded supercomputers of NOAA’s National Weather Service are now more than twice as fast in processing sophisticated computer models to provide more accurate forecasts further out in time. Nicknamed “Tide,” the supercomputer in Reston, Va., and its Orlando-based backup named “Gyre,” are operating with 213 teraflops (TF) — up from the 90 TF with the computers that preceded them. This higher processing power allows the National Weather Service to implement an enhanced Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) model.

The MET Office, the UK’s National Weather Service, relies on more than 10 million weather observations from sites around the world, a sophisticated atmospheric model and a £30 million IBM supercomputer to generate 3,000 tailored forecasts every day. Thanks to this advanced forecasting system, climate scientists were able to predict the size and path of Monday’s St. Jude’s Day storm four days before it formed.

University of Oklahoma associate professor Amy McGovern is working to revolutionize tornado and storm prediction. McGovern’s ambitious tornado modeling and simulation project seeks to explain why some storms generate tornadoes while others don’t. The research is giving birth to new techniques for identifying the likely path of twisters through both space and time.

The deadly EF5 tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma on May 20 was unique in several ways. Not only was it one of the strongest twisters ever recorded, but forecasters were able to issue a tornado warning 36 minutes in advance, saving lives. As our own Alex Woodie reported, playing a part in that forecast was a Cray supercomputer at the National Institute for Computational Sciences (NICS). Darter, which has nearly 12,000 Intel Sandy Bridge cores and 250 teraflops of peak capacity, was used to calculate the detailed Storm-scale Ensemble Forecasts (SSEF) that regional weather forecasters–such as the National Weather Service office in Norman, Oklahoma that issued the 36-minute, life-saving warning on May 20–rely on to predict tornados and other severe weather events.

Under the sponsorship of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation R&D, Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory have partnered to develop a 3-D model of the Earth’s mantle and crust called SALSA3D, or Sandia-Los Alamos 3D. The purpose of this model is to assist the US Air Force and the international Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna, Austria, more accurately locate all types of explosions.

Back in June, SGI, a leader in technical computing and Big Data, has announced its NVIDIA Tesla GPU-powered SGI Rackable servers have been deployed in the Department of Geosciences at Princeton University to drive next-generation earthquake research. The department will utilize five main open-source software packages and is leveraging NVIDIA GPUs for the SPECFEM3D ‘Sesame’ application, which simulates seismic wave propagation on regional and global scales.

Military and Defense

findata2We’ll leave the discussions about the NSA and mass surveillance for other publications, although it’s hard to imagine all of the system and software innovations that are going toward those efforts now—and did in 2013. While that topic has grabbed the mainstream ear this year, there are some noteworthy developments in national security and defense that were lost in the headlines.

Geospatial intelligence data collection methods are increasingly complex—and accordingly, the amount and quality of the data they produce are opening new opportunities for governments to exploit for military and defense purposes. GPU giant NVIDIA reached out to this growing area this year by offering up a platform for the geospatial intelligence community with its GeoInt Accelerator. The goal of the packaged offering is to provide an integrated suite of tools for geospatial intelligence analysts as well as that community’s specialty developers that are primed to take advantage of GPU speedups.

In addition to offering a number of key applications relevant to this community (from situational awareness, satellite imagery and object detection software) they’ve also pulled together a number of relevant libraries for defense contractors and integrators to use for building GPU-accelerated applications, including their own Performance Primitives, MATLAB Imaging Toolkit, CUDA FFT, Accelereyes’ ArrayFire and other contents.

Centers that take advantage of military and defense data are also growing. For instance, the Air Force Research Laboratory Supercomputing Resource Center (DSRC) has a new addition to its fleet of supers via its new SGI ICE X system called Spirit, which will be housed at the Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio. The top 20-level system, which is capable of 1.4 petaflops, will support various research, development, testing and evaluation projects, particularly on the aircraft and ship design fronts. Spirit boasts 4,608 nodes and 73,728 Xeon cores humming at 2.6 GHz, as well as 146 TB of memory and 4.6 PB of disk space.

The US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) took the wraps off a new supercomputing center in 2013—this center is set to advance the service’s war-fighting capability. Two HPC systems have been installed at the ARL Supercomputing Center at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, which was the home of ENIAC, the world’s first general-purpose electronic computer. It goes without saying that the two iDataPlex systems at the ARL Supercomputing Center have vastly more processing capacity than ENIAC, which was installed by the Army at APG in 1946 to do ballistics calculations. Whereas the new Army’s new supercomputers have the capability to process trillions of floating-point operations per second, or teraflops, ENIAC could manage hundreds per second.

As Alex Woodie reported, “Army scientists and engineers will use the supercomputers to model and evaluate a wide range of soldier- and combat-vehicle-related materials in advance of actual manufacturing. This will accelerate product development by allowing the Army to invest the time and money for actual physical testing for only the products showing the highest promise through modeling.”

Financial Markets

finmkts2As we see each time HPC on Wall Street happens during the year, and of course throughout the news cycle, the financial services sector as a whole is one of the first adopters—and among the greatest commercial innovators when it comes to HPC technologies.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that computers are always the worthy allies markets need them to be. Recall that there were some glitches in 2013, which led us to speculate on what the future of reliability will look like going forward.

There were some striking technology developments this year for the sector, despite some of the more mainstream controversies about placing our utter faith in the “hands” of machines. For instance, London-based bank HSBC demonstrated that it may be able to save millions of dollars in computer costs by moving a portfolio pricing process from a grid of Intel Xeon processors to NVIDIA Tesla GPUs, reports Xcelerit, the company that helped the bank with its experiment by providing CUDA programming tools.

In April, Xcelerit reported on the promising experiment conducted by the Quantitative Risk and Valuation Group (QRVG) at HSBC, which reported more than $2.6 trillion in assets in 2012. The QRVG is responsible for running Credit Value Adjustment (CVA) processes every night over HSBC’s entire portfolio to compute its risk exposure, per Basel III requirements.

While we’re on the topic of financial services and the new year, make sure to take a look at what’s cooking for the 2014 HPC for Wall Street event.

Looking Ahead to 2014

We can expect to see these same general areas in next year’s summary, but the performance, capability and programmability will hopefully continue to improve, leading to more insights. Outside of these broader industry and research segments, we look forward to delivering more interesting topics that don’t fit the mold (like this year’s stories about GPUs and the mysteries of flying snakes or tracking the first dinosaur steps).

Thanks for joining us for another exciting year!

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!

IBM Launches Commercial Quantum Network with Samsung, ORNL

December 14, 2017

In the race to commercialize quantum computing, IBM is one of several companies leading the pack. Today, IBM announced it had signed JPMorgan Chase, Daimler AG, Samsung and a number of other corporations to its IBM Q Net Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TACC Researchers Test AI Traffic Monitoring Tool in Austin

December 13, 2017

Traffic jams and mishaps are often painful and sometimes dangerous facts of life. At this week’s IEEE International Conference on Big Data being held in Boston, researchers from TACC and colleagues will present a new Read more…

By HPCwire Staff

AMD Wins Another: Baidu to Deploy EPYC on Single Socket Servers

December 13, 2017

When AMD introduced its EPYC chip line in June, the company said a portion of the line was specifically designed to re-invigorate a single socket segment in what has become an overwhelmingly two-socket landscape in the d Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Explore the Origins of Space with COSMOS and Memory-Driven Computing

From the formation of black holes to the origins of space, data is the key to unlocking the secrets of the early universe. Read more…

Microsoft Wants to Speed Quantum Development

December 12, 2017

Quantum computing continues to make headlines in what remains of 2017 as several tech giants jockey to establish a pole position in the race toward commercialization of quantum. This week, Microsoft took the next step in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Launches Commercial Quantum Network with Samsung, ORNL

December 14, 2017

In the race to commercialize quantum computing, IBM is one of several companies leading the pack. Today, IBM announced it had signed JPMorgan Chase, Daimler AG, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Wins Another: Baidu to Deploy EPYC on Single Socket Servers

December 13, 2017

When AMD introduced its EPYC chip line in June, the company said a portion of the line was specifically designed to re-invigorate a single socket segment in wha Read more…

By John Russell

Microsoft Wants to Speed Quantum Development

December 12, 2017

Quantum computing continues to make headlines in what remains of 2017 as several tech giants jockey to establish a pole position in the race toward commercializ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Iron, Soft, Data, People – It Takes an Ecosystem!

December 11, 2017

Cutting edge advanced computing hardware (aka big iron) does not stand by itself. These computers are the pinnacle of a myriad of technologies that must be care Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

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

Microsoft Spins Cycle Computing into Core Azure Product

December 5, 2017

Last August, cloud giant Microsoft acquired HPC cloud orchestration pioneer Cycle Computing. Since then the focus has been on integrating Cycle’s organization Read more…

By John Russell

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

HPE In-Memory Platform Comes to COSMOS

November 30, 2017

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is on a mission to accelerate space research. In August, it sent the first commercial-off-the-shelf HPC system into space for testing Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leading Solution Providers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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