GPUs Add Up For ARM Chips In HPC

By Timothy Prickett Morgan

June 23, 2014

The first wave of credible 64-bit ARM processors are coming to market late this year or early next, and as is usually the case, the high-performance computing community is getting first crack at figuring out how these chips might be deployed to run various kinds of simulations more efficiently or cost effectively.

Applied Micro, which has first mover status in the 64-bit ARM server chip race with its X-Gene 1, is teaming up with Nvidia, maker of the Tesla GPU accelerators, at the International Super Computing conference in Leipzig, Germany to promote X-Gene and Tesla as the first of several dynamic duos. Three vendors – Cirrascale, E4 Computer Engineering, and Eurotech – are also previewing hybrid ARM-Tesla systems at the conference, and others will no doubt follow soon as more ARM chips come to market towards the end of this year and into early next year.

Given the ubiquity of Xeon processors in the supercomputing space, Nvidia has to integrate well with rival Intel’s Xeon processors and has to compete against the Xeon Phi parallel X86 coprocessors, too. But Nvidia, like many system buyers, wants a second or third option when it comes to processors, and that is why Nvidia was a founding member of the OpenPower Foundation, which seeks to establish multiple sources of IBM’s Power8 and follow-on processors and to link accelerators tightly to them. Nvidia is also waving the ARM banner high as well, and wants to be the accelerator of choice for ARMv8 platforms.

“GPUs make 64-bit ARM competitive in HPC on day one,” explains Ian Buck, general manager of GPU computing software at Nvidia. “We are clearly seeing viable and compelling ARM64 platforms coming online. It is obvious that there is excitement around ARM, and there are two reasons for that. One is that we haven’t had new, innovative CPUs for a while. Some of the ARM architectures are going up to 24 cores, and they are playing with what is on die, what is off, and Broadcom and Cavium come from the networking world and there are lots of networking angles they can play. The second reason for the excitement is choice. ARM represents choice, and a very diverse one.

nvidia-arm-hpc

While network devices like to have plenty of threads, the chips used in such gear are not generally equipped with lots of floating point math processing capability, says Buck. Nvidia, you can quickly guess, wants its Tesla to be the coprocessor of choice for 64-bit ARM platforms. Having created the CUDA programming environment, which supports 64-bit ARM chips starting with the 6.5 release, and a library of hundreds of third party simulation and analytics workloads to hybrid processor-GPU, Nvidia thinks it is well placed to help customers port their applications to ARM-Tesla hybrids.

“Based on our experience with ARM to date, the porting seems to go fairly quickly if you have well-structured code,” says Buck. “A lot of HPC codes have been around long enough that they don’t have a lot of intrinsics in there, the X86isms, and code seems to move fairly easily. If the code is already GPU-accelerated, then the performance just carries straight over. These ARM64 chips can drive full GPU performance.”

Applied Micro is going to have plenty of competition in the ARMv8 processor space, with AMD, Cavium, and Broadcom all putting forth very strong contenders to go up against the hegemony of Intel’s Xeon processors and its very credible defensive position with Atom chips for modest compute and low-power needs. Intel has a substantial lead in chip manufacturing processes – something between one and two nodes, depending on how you want to count it – and is behaving as if it has a bunch of AMDs on its heels. Never before in its history has Intel been so willing to tweak its processor designs to make them better fit the workloads of supercomputing and hyperscale customers alike, from adding special instructions to Xeons to baking special versions of the Xeons that run hotter or clock higher to actually welding an FPGA into a Xeon chip, as Intel last week announced it was going to do.

This newfound openness is one way Intel is going to counter the onslaught of different 64-bit ARM processors and the various ways their makers will accelerate workloads using GPUs, DSPs, FPGAs, and other specialized circuits. In effect, Intel is adopting the malleable approach of the ARM community to defend against ARM processors.

The initial X-Gene 1 processor from Applied Micro has been sampling since early 2013, and production wafers for the chip were started at the end of March and production chips are due around now. The X-Gene 1 chip is implemented in a 40 nanometer process at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp; it has eight custom ARMv8 cores, designed by Applied Micro itself, on each system-on-chip. The cores on the X-Gene 1 run at 2.4 GHz, and Sanchayan Sinha, senior product manager, tells HPCwire that in terms of single-threaded performance, the X-Gene 1 has about the same level of oomph as a four-core “Haswell” Xeon E3 and about the same memory bandwidth as a “Sandy Bridge” Xeon E5.

Sinha stressed that these were very rough comparisons and that real benchmarks would eventually result in harder figures than these approximations. That is, in fact, what the development systems being shown off at ISC’14 are all about. The company is working with server partners to run the High Performance Conjugate Gradients (HPCG) benchmark, which is being proposed as a follow-on to the more widely used Linpack parallel Fortran matrix math test, on X-Gene 1 systems. Sinha says that Applied Micro and Nvidia will be able to show that an X-Gene 1 plus a Tesla K20 coprocessor will be equivalent to an X86 processor plus the same Tesla K20 floating point motor.

x-gene-1-block

The X-Gene 2 chip is a rev on the initial design and also includes eight ARM cores, but it is implemented in a 28 nanometer process at TSMC. This shrink of the process will allow Applied Micro to crank up the clock speed and add more features to its SoC. One interesting feature that the company has divulged it will add to the X-Gene 2 is support for Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) on the network ports on the chip. Specifically, the Ethernet ports on the chip will be able to run RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE), which brings the low-latency access of InfiniBand to the Ethernet protocol. This will make the X-Gene 2 chip not only suitable for HPC workloads that are latency sensitive, but also for database, storage, and transaction processing workloads in enterprise datacenters that also like low latency.

Further out beyond this, Applied Micro has teamed up with TSMC to use its 16 nanometer FinFET 3D transistor process to create X-Gene 3. Little is known about this processor except that it will have at least 16 cores on the SoC.

This early revs of the X-Gene 1 were put on development boards called “Mustang” internally by Applied Micro and known as the X-Gene XC-1 outside of the company. The ARM-based HPC systems that are being previewed by Cirrascale and E4 Computer Engineering are based on production-grade X-Gene 1 chips and the Mustang boards.

The Cirrascale development machine puts two Mustang boards and two Tesla K20 or K20X GPU accelerators in a compact 1U server chassis:

cirrascale-x-gene

This machine is called the RM1905D in the Cirrascale product catalog, and like other Mustang board it supports a maximum of 64 GB of memory for each X-Gene 1 chip across the processor’s two memory slots. The system has four Ethernet ports: three for data and one for system management. Two of the ports for data exchange run at 1 Gb/sec and the remaining one runs at 10 Gb/sec; the management port runs at 1 Gb/sec. The Mustang board has one PCI-Express 3.0 x8 slot, which is used to link the processor to the Tesla GPU, and the chassis has room to plug in a single SATA-2 drive (a 6 Gb/sec link). Each node in the chassis has a 400 watt power supply.

The feeds and speeds of E4 Computer Engineering’s EK003 were not available at press time, but Nvidia tells HPCwire that the machine will include two X-Gene 1 system boards in a 3U enclosure that has two Tesla K20 GPU coprocessors, and that the development machine will be aimed at seismic, signal and image processing, video analytics, track analysis, Web applications, and MapReduce workloads.

Cirrascale and E4 Computer Engineering plan to ship their development machines in July, according to Nvidia.

Eurotech has a custom motherboard design using the X-Gene 1 chip that has main memory soldered onto the board to give it a very low profile and therefore high density for its ARM-based Aurora system. The compute elements in this new Aurora machine are based on what the company calls its “brick technology,” and will employ direct hot-water cooling of the components in the brick. It will include a combination of ARM processors and Tesla coprocessors. Further details for this Eurotech Aurora system were not yet available at press time, but we will hunt them down. The company expects to ship production machines later this 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!

Pfizer HPC Engineer Aims to Automate Software Stack Testing

January 17, 2019

Seeking to reign in the tediousness of manual software testing, Pfizer HPC Engineer Shahzeb Siddiqui is developing an open source software tool called buildtest, aimed at automating software stack testing by providing the community with a central repository of tests for common HPC apps and the ability to automate execution of testing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Senegal Prepares to Take Delivery of Atos Supercomputer

January 16, 2019

In just a few months time, Senegal will be operating the second largest HPC system in sub-Saharan Africa. The Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation Mary Teuw Niane made the announcement on Monday (Jan. 14 Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Cloud Platform Extends GPU Instance Options

January 16, 2019

If it's Nvidia GPUs you're after to power your AI/HPC/visualization workload, Google Cloud has them, now claiming "broadest GPU availability." Each of the three big public cloud vendors has by turn touted the latest and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Systems With Intel Omni-Path: Architected for Value and Accessible High-Performance Computing

Today’s high-performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI) users value high performing clusters. And the higher the performance that their system can deliver, the better. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Resource Management in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

New challenges demand fresh approaches

Fueled by GPUs, big data, and rapid advances in software, the AI revolution is upon us. Read more…

STAC Floats ML Benchmark for Financial Services Workloads

January 16, 2019

STAC (Securities Technology Analysis Center) recently released an ‘exploratory’ benchmark for machine learning which it hopes will evolve into a firm benchmark or suite of benchmarking tools to compare the performanc Read more…

By John Russell

Google Cloud Platform Extends GPU Instance Options

January 16, 2019

If it's Nvidia GPUs you're after to power your AI/HPC/visualization workload, Google Cloud has them, now claiming "broadest GPU availability." Each of the three Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

STAC Floats ML Benchmark for Financial Services Workloads

January 16, 2019

STAC (Securities Technology Analysis Center) recently released an ‘exploratory’ benchmark for machine learning which it hopes will evolve into a firm benchm Read more…

By John Russell

A Big Data Journey While Seeking to Catalog our Universe

January 16, 2019

It turns out, astronomers have lots of photos of the sky but seek knowledge about what the photos mean. Sound familiar? Big data problems are often characterize Read more…

By James Reinders

Intel Bets Big on 2-Track Quantum Strategy

January 15, 2019

Quantum computing has lived so long in the future it’s taken on a futuristic life of its own, with a Gartner-style hype cycle that includes triggers of innovation, inflated expectations and – though a useful quantum system is still years away – anticipatory troughs of disillusionment. Read more…

By Doug Black

IBM Quantum Update: Q System One Launch, New Collaborators, and QC Center Plans

January 10, 2019

IBM made three significant quantum computing announcements at CES this week. One was introduction of IBM Q System One; it’s really the integration of IBM’s Read more…

By John Russell

IBM’s New Global Weather Forecasting System Runs on GPUs

January 9, 2019

Anyone who has checked a forecast to decide whether or not to pack an umbrella knows that weather prediction can be a mercurial endeavor. It is a Herculean task: the constant modeling of incredibly complex systems to a high degree of accuracy at a local level within very short spans of time. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Computing Will Never Work

November 27, 2018

Amid the gush of money and enthusiastic predictions being thrown at quantum computing comes a proposed cold shower in the form of an essay by physicist Mikhail Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Unveils Shasta, Lands NERSC-9 Contract

October 30, 2018

Cray revealed today the details of its next-gen supercomputing architecture, Shasta, selected to be the next flagship system at NERSC. We've known of the code-name "Shasta" since the Argonne slice of the CORAL project was announced in 2015 and although the details of that plan have changed considerably, Cray didn't slow down its timeline for Shasta. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Sets Up for Epyc Epoch

November 16, 2018

It’s been a good two weeks, AMD’s Gary Silcott and Andy Parma told me on the last day of SC18 in Dallas at the restaurant where we met to discuss their show news and recent successes. Heck, it’s been a good year. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

US Leads Supercomputing with #1, #2 Systems & Petascale Arm

November 12, 2018

The 31st Supercomputing Conference (SC) - commemorating 30 years since the first Supercomputing in 1988 - kicked off in Dallas yesterday, taking over the Kay Ba Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Contract Signed for New Finnish Supercomputer

December 13, 2018

After the official contract signing yesterday, configuration details were made public for the new BullSequana system that the Finnish IT Center for Science (CSC Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia’s Jensen Huang Delivers Vision for the New HPC

November 14, 2018

For nearly two hours on Monday at SC18, Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, presented his expansive view of the future of HPC (and computing in general) as only he can do. Animated. Backstopped by a stream of data charts, product photos, and even a beautiful image of supernovae... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 18 Virtual Booth Video Tour

Advania @ SC18 AMD @ SC18
ASRock Rack @ SC18
DDN Storage @ SC18
HPE @ SC18
IBM @ SC18
Lenovo @ SC18 Mellanox Technologies @ SC18
NVIDIA @ SC18
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

HPE No. 1, IBM Surges, in ‘Bucking Bronco’ High Performance Server Market

September 27, 2018

Riding healthy U.S. and global economies, strong demand for AI-capable hardware and other tailwind trends, the high performance computing server market jumped 28 percent in the second quarter 2018 to $3.7 billion, up from $2.9 billion for the same period last year, according to industry analyst firm Hyperion Research. Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC Reflections and (Mostly Hopeful) Predictions

December 19, 2018

So much ‘spaghetti’ gets tossed on walls by the technology community (vendors and researchers) to see what sticks that it is often difficult to peer through Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Confirms 48-Core Cascade Lake-AP for 2019

November 4, 2018

As part of the run-up to SC18, taking place in Dallas next week (Nov. 11-16), Intel is doling out info on its next-gen Cascade Lake family of Xeon processors, specifically the “Advanced Processor” version (Cascade Lake-AP), architected for high-performance computing, artificial intelligence and infrastructure-as-a-service workloads. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Germany Celebrates Launch of Two Fastest Supercomputers

September 26, 2018

The new high-performance computer SuperMUC-NG at the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Garching is the fastest computer in Germany and one of the fastest i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Houston to Field Massive, ‘Geophysically Configured’ Cloud Supercomputer

October 11, 2018

Based on some news stories out today, one might get the impression that the next system to crack number one on the Top500 would be an industrial oil and gas mon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft to Buy Mellanox?

December 20, 2018

Networking equipment powerhouse Mellanox could be an acquisition target by Microsoft, according to a published report in an Israeli financial publication. Microsoft has reportedly gone so far as to engage Goldman Sachs to handle negotiations with Mellanox. Read more…

By Doug Black

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer 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