Focus Sharpens on New HPC Benchmark

By Nicole Hemsoth

January 6, 2014

Over the last few years in particular, discussions about the limitations of the current measurement for the Top500, the LINPACK benchmark, have echoed louder. The result of these lines of questioning have led to a new benchmarking possibility–one that takes real world application needs and current architectural and system design trends into greater account.

LINPACK creator, Jack Dongarra, in addition to Michael Heroux at Sandia National Laboratory, have addressed supercomputing benchmark limitations with the new HPCG benchmark, which we’ve detailed a number of times. Now that the benchmark is in full swing with vendor and community action tied around it, new questions have emerged about its viability, reliability and progress to date. There has been some confusion around it, says Dongarra, who took time to explain some of the issues as the new year gets underway.

As it stands, there have been HPCG benchmark results reported from about a dozen leadership-class systems and a significant amount of vendor and community involvement to continue to refine the benchmark. However, Dongarra says he left SC13 with the impression that there was some confusion about status of HPCG after several people approached him to ask where the new list could be found. For the record, there is no fresh list of pure HPCG results—and we should not expect one soon.

He stressed that HPCG is an evolving effort and an increased push will be underway over the next several months before the new LINPACK results are in. The idea that hundreds of machines will have results co-listed on the next Top500 is not correct; again, only a relatively small number of systems have reported their results but he expects growth—over a significant period of time. The current goal is to hope that there are several machines that report both LINPACK and HPCG results on successive lists, “but it will be a number of years before we have both results for hundreds of machines,” he said.

“We’re learning as we’re running it and we’re adjusting how it’s presented,” Dongarra explained. “Today, in some sense, we have a beta version and it’s going to be refined over the next six months and at that point we’ll have something we’re happier with and that users are going to be happy with.” He detailed how the vendor and user community have given valuable feedback and encouragement, but noted that their biggest challenge (beyond the general misunderstanding about how widespread results might be) is a lack of understanding about the benchmark and its potential misuse.

Dongarra explained that the benchmark probes a number of features of a system—many more than the current LINPACK standard. In order to be effective, however, just as with LINPACK, there are necessary optimizations that require a comprehensive understanding of both the benchmark and its rules as well as the underlying system architecture. “If you just take the reference implementation for LINPACK and ran that, you wouldn’t get the high performance and it wouldn’t measure what we intend to measure.” Optimizations are critical—some of those who have been critical of HPCG (notably those who say that it is just like the STREAM benchmark) have not optimized appropriately, argues Dongarra. He notes that running LINPACK according the base reference implementation would also produce a STREAM-like result. The meat of the results are stuck to the bones of those critical first steps.

Optimization, as alluded to previously, is not necessary a simple task since certain parts of the benchmark need to be worked on and written for a given machine or architecture. Dongarra and team have reports that describe how it’s done, where the critical parts of the benchmark are, but the success of obtaining results from HPCG depends on having knowledge of the hardware and benchmark. Comparatively, LINPACK measures a smaller set of factors, but there are more components that will ultimately expose more about the architecture, hence the added effort. Both of these things take time—just as the evolution of LINPACK took a great deal of time to mature and round out with a knowledge bank.

According to Michael Heroux, a co-author of the HPCG benchmark, every major vendor except AMD has paid close attention to the new measurement and offered substantial feedback. Dongarra and others have been steadily working with the vendor community to help them understand what to expect, what the rules are, how to optimize, in addition to their post-optimization feedback rounds on bugs and other problems.

Several vendors across the HPC spectrum have plenty of cause to help the HPCG cause as they know it will provide another point of view on how their machines will perform in more realistic computing environments. They want their hardware to shine in this light and know that the community, which has been vocal about the real world performance limitations of LINPACK numbers, will look to these companion results for a more thorough review of actual system performance.

Of course, this makes one consider just how one might “game the system” of this benchmark in creative ways. Heroux claims that they are onto certain tricks and those are explicitly stated as banned. Again, there are other subtle things that they’re exploring to keep the benchmark open that will be ruled in or out as HPCG progresses.

In addition to offering a more comprehensive view of real-world application performance, Heroux says that ultimately, another benefit of the benchmark is that they’re gaining a better understanding from vendors (and early HPCG runners) about some system deficiencies that will be harder to hide. From network performance to gaps in sparse libraries from vendors, HPCG will continue to highlight the need for diverse improvements.

In sum, as Dongarra said, “after six months we want to make sure people understand what the benchmark is trying to do, let them know it requires a certain amount of effort to implement and see the benefits–and help them understand that we have made changes as a result of input coming from the community. We want to encourage further input from the community so it can represent a true community effort that better reflects the kinds of things we do on high end systems.”

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!

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

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

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

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

“Lunch & Learn” to Explore the Growing Applications of Genomic Analytics

In the digital age of medicine, healthcare providers are rapidly transforming their approach to patient care. Traditional technologies are no longer sufficient to process vast quantities of medical data (including patient histories, treatment plans, diagnostic reports, and more), challenging organizations to invest in a new style of IT to enable faster and higher-quality care. Read more…

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 and will begin operation in fiscal 2018 (starts in April). A 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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

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