New HPC Benchmark Delivers Promising Results

By Nicole Hemsoth

June 26, 2014

One of the undisputed themes at ISC14 was the continued speculation about how the Top500 Linpack benchmark will keep pace with evolving system and application demands. We have been following progress with the HPCG companion metric that Linpack co-founders Dr. Jack Dongarra, Piotr Luszczek (both at the University of Tennessee/Oak Ridge National Lab) and Michael Heroux at Sandia proposed well over a year ago. Following a session today at the close of ISC by Jack Dongarra, we now have a clearer sense of how this tool might round out current rankings.

The goals of the new benchmark are to stress a balance of floating point and communication bandwidth and latency and to tighten the focus on messaging, memory, and parallelization. As the benchmark continues to develop, the team hopes that it will become easier to use and optimize as well as simpler to check results within. The goal is longevity—one of the key strengths of Linpack, which was taken 20 years of development and outreach to promote. Dongarra hopes it will have more relevance to a broad collection of important applications, all defined within a single number.

There are plenty of materials available for delving into the specifics of the benchmark, so we shall leave you to it if interested. For now, we wanted to report the first detailed results of the benchmark we expect to see far more of listed alongside the Top500 results. What one can see below, even without detailed kernel-level research, is how the differences between the systems look less dramatic when other considerations, particularly the local memory system performance and low latency cooperative threading, are given significant weight.


From an initial view, not only do the results appear a bit less dramatic, as noted previously, the differences between machines that today are profound, there does not appear much variation. However, if one considers from an outsider perspective what the original numbers might mean to those who do not follow supercomputer rankings, they might have seemed just as insignificant. The point is, the complementay benchmark is critical to vendors because it reflect their customer requirements. And if those demands are being met, it is vital because it means a more comprehensive approach all around to high end computing. That means scientific and enterprise benefit–it will just be a matter of time and communication to ensure this is accepted. It doesn´t happen overnight, as Dongarra has noted.

High performance Linpack is no longer strongly tied to real application performance, particularly for the growing base of HPC applications that are reliant on partial differential equations, says Dongarra. Further, he adds, designing a system with HPL at the forefront can actually lead to design choices that are not a good fit for the actual application mix and can add extraneous elements to the machine. The drivers for this complementary benchmark are already critical and the issues that make Linpack a faulty metric will become increasingly pronounced.

As Dongarra and team have reiterated since the creation of the new benchmark was announced, this will not replace or diminish the role of the Top500 as an important metric for larger trends in supercomputing. There are many advantages to Linpack, not the least of which is that it allows the community to see long-term trends. Twice per year, the world pays close attention to supercomputing, even if it tends to fall off the mainstream radar otherwise, because of the historical attention that is focused on the world´s fastest supercomputers. Outside of the trend analysis and wider recognition the list brings, Linpack is relatively easy to understand and run, it´s not difficult to check the results for site participants.

Even still, a great deal of the Top500 aspirations are fed by a benchmark that itself is 37 years old (the Top500 is over 20 years). Dongarra admits that it is being used as a marketing tool and that it is not feasible for machines to be based on a singular number. And with those limitations, when one considers the days spent running the actual benchmark, it just no longer adds up for users. And while peak performance numbers are sexy, actual usage of the machines does not live up to the hype with most systems achieving half or three-quarters (best case) of those benchmarked results. In the end, it constrains system choices for those looking to meet the benchmark and that is not useful–especially in the era of increasingly data-intensive problems.

Dongarra says more details will be worked out at SC during a BoF series. At this point, the team is considering a Top 50 while the early kinks are worked out.

For fun, and to honor the longevity of the benchmark, take a look at the Linpack mobile. That’s Jack on the left, and to the right, Cleve Moler, Pete Stewart, and Jim Bunch. Cool fellows then and now….


Note – Please forgive any temporary punctuation or formatting errors. Your author is traveling post-ISC and it turns out that German keyboards are…special.

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 Touts OpenPOWER Ecosystem, Announces New Customers, Products for AI and Hyperscale

March 20, 2018

At SC17 in Denver four months ago, Ken King, GM, OpenPOWER, IBM Systems Group, told a somewhat jaundiced trio of journalists that 2018 would, finally, after several years of expectations, be the year OpenPOWER and IBM’ Read more…

By Doug Black

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 scientists the ability to use machine learning to identify e Read more…

By Rob Farber

Mellanox Reacts to Activist Investor Pressures in Letter to Shareholders

March 16, 2018

Activist investor Starboard Value has been exerting pressure on Mellanox Technologies to increase its returns. In response, the high-performance networking company on Monday, March 12, published a letter to shareholders outlining its proposal for a May 2018 extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of shareholders and highlighting its long-term growth strategy and focus on operating margin improvement. Read more…

By Staff

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Harness the Full Power of HPC Servers with an Effective Cooling Approach

High performance computing (HPC) innovation is rapidly transforming the way we operate – with an onslaught of cutting-edge technologies designed to optimize applications and workloads, increase productivity, and enable better business outcomes. Read more…

Quantum Computing vs. Our ‘Caveman Newtonian Brain’: Why Quantum Is So Hard

March 15, 2018

Quantum is coming. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon enough. Within 10 to 12 years, we’re told, special-purpose quantum systems will enter the commercial realm. Assuming this happens, we can also assume that quantum will, over extended time, become increasingly general purpose as it delivers mind-blowing power. Read more…

By Doug Black

IBM Touts OpenPOWER Ecosystem, Announces New Customers, Products for AI and Hyperscale

March 20, 2018

At SC17 in Denver four months ago, Ken King, GM, OpenPOWER, IBM Systems Group, told a somewhat jaundiced trio of journalists that 2018 would, finally, after sev Read more…

By Doug Black

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

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

Stephen Hawking, Legendary Scientist, Dies at 76

March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking passed away at his home in Cambridge, England, in the early morning of March 14; he was 76. Born on January 8, 1942, Hawking was an English theo Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Hyperion Tackles Elusive Quantum Computing Landscape

March 13, 2018

Quantum computing - exciting and off-putting all at once - is a kaleidoscope of technology and market questions whose shapes and positions are far from settled. Read more…

By John Russell

Part Two: Navigating Life Sciences Choppy HPC Waters in 2018

March 8, 2018

2017 was not necessarily the best year to build a large HPC system for life sciences say Ari Berman, VP and GM of consulting services, and Aaron Gardner, direct Read more…

By John Russell

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

SciNet Launches Niagara, Canada’s Fastest Supercomputer

March 5, 2018

SciNet and the University of Toronto today unveiled "Niagara," Canada's most-powerful supercomputer, comprising 1,500 dense Lenovo ThinkSystem SD530 high-perfor Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and 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

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. 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

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

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

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

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

V100 Good but not Great on Select Deep Learning Aps, Says Xcelerit

November 27, 2017

Wringing optimum performance from hardware to accelerate deep learning applications is a challenge that often depends on the specific application in use. A benc Read more…

By John Russell

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

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

World Record: Quantum Computer with 46 Qubits Simulated

December 18, 2017

Scientists from the Jülich Supercomputing Centre have set a new world record. Together with researchers from Wuhan University and the University of Groningen, Read more…

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Te Read more…

By John Russell

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