Bull Charges Ahead in Supercomputing Despite Big Data Refocus

By Nicole Hemsoth

July 2, 2014

In many ways, Bull has been a mirror, reflecting companies like Cray from across the Atlantic. One on the one hand, both companies have deep roots in supercomputing, with particularly strong continental bases. Conversely, the arrival of the big data phenomenon has marked a chance for both companies to wrench free from strict supercomputing affiliations and find a new path to deliver high-end, high performance systems to an entirely new and rapidly class of potential enterprise users—customers who might not consider what they do to be exactly “HPC” but who have serious computational and data-driven needs that vanilla servers or database approaches can’t tackle.

While Cray, SGI, and a few other HPC-oriented companies have focused on rolling out appliances directed at the larger big data market (consider the Urika appliance from Cray as an example) Bull has seen the same opportunities in Europe (where it does 85% of its overall business) and taken similar steps to bake their reputation for large-scale computing for science and industrial supercomputing into new offerings aimed at more mainstream enterprise big data problems. Their “OneBull” vision, which was spelled out at the beginning of this year, is aimed at integrating the new business around big data and cloud computing as a top priority with 6% of all revenues being pushed into research and development, where they fit HPC and security together.

Breakdown of Bull's business reach by sector. Recall that 85% of this is in Europe, with 55% in its native France.
Breakdown of Bull’s business reach by sector. Recall that 85% of this is in Europe, with 55% in its native France.

Representative of this newly weighted approach to the extreme scale market (which can include both supercomputing and large-scale enterprise) is today’s announcement from Bull of their new line of servers. Called the Bullion S, these are more designed for the big data and cloud spaces. The new severs are designed to support up to 240 Xeon E7-based nodes with up to 24 TB of memory, making them a fit for in-memory, data-intensive workloads, but also those that require significant compute. Earlier in the year the company echoed what other HPC-rooted companies are doing to extend their customer base into the mainstream enterprise market with a big data appliance in conjunction with real-time search company Sinequa.

Although Bull is making moves to shake free from the narrower supercomputing distinction, the company is not leaving its HPC segment in the enterprise big data dust. The company had a strong showing at ISC last week in Leipzig, Germany in terms of news around fresh deployments and new technologies that will be integrated into future supercomputers. Still, the company has only a total of 17 systems on the Top500, with the top site at CEA (#26) and all but one of their systems in Europe (the exception being the Helios machine at the International Fusion Energy Research Center). This is an improvement for Bull, which had 10 systems total on the Top 500 in 2011 and a mere 5 machines in 2009.

Among new additions to their coming Top500 growth, the French national high performance computing organization, GENCI, is set to acquire a 2,106-node warm water-cooled system from Bull to boost a wide range of research projects. The new supercomputer, which is expected to come online in January 2015, will be called OCCIGEN and will be housed at CINES in Montpellier. It will be equipped with what Bull calls “next-generation Xeon processors” but there is no confirmation about which processors they’re referring to, but the logical assumption, since no one expects the real next-generation Xeon for HPC (Knight’s Landing) to emerge in time for an early 2015-slated system. Is that this means Xeon E7 v2 and/or Xeon Phi. Bull says only that at this point, the system has been designed to “accommodate hybrid technologies.”

The 2-petaflop OCCIGEN machine is expected to boast 200 TB of memory with an IO system to allow it to push data to task at over 100GB/s to meet the demands of large-scale scientific simulation and data-intensive research. The cold plate, warm water cooling system, which is designed to deliver component-level chilling, will push the PUE of the system to an expected 1.1 rating.

The National Center for Genome Analysis in Barcelona, which is one of the top genetic research sites in Europe, has also tapped Bull for a new system that will target large-scale gene sequencing projects. While details about the node count or type of system that was purchased are not public, the center’s director says that their problems demand more than “traditional computing” they’ve had to rely on in the past. “The solution is not to increase the number of sequencers. The key lies in the balance between sequencing and HPC. It’s not only about increasing sequencing capacity by acquiring new hardware, but designing and appropriate computing infrastructure…it is essential to choose a flexible architecture that can grow without limits the keep pace with genome projects,” he remarked.

In addition to the user stories we learned about during International Supercomputing Conference Week, Bull also announced a strategic partnership with another recently acquired company. Bull can now resell Xyratex (now part of Seagate) can resell ClusterStor offerings as part of their future system. The deal was inked with news about a technical partnership between the two for a contract at Deutsches Klimarechenzentrum (DKRZ) wherein Bull designed and installed a 3-petaflop Bullx B720 super outfitted with 45 petabytes of ClusterStor CS9000 parallel storage capable of 1TB/s of performance, which will help the climate simulation facility better handle its growing volumes of data.

With the One Bull plan in full effect and a recent acquisition by a company that is solely focused on enterprise big data and cloud computing, it will be interesting to see how the company’s investments in supercomputing will persist. At ISC there were no signs of reduced investment and the news of new wins show that there is still value in pursuing large-scale HPC sites.

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!

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 “pre-exascale” award), parsed out additional information ab Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tsinghua Crowned Eight-Time Student Cluster Champions at ISC

June 22, 2017

Always a hard-fought competition, the Student Cluster Competition awards were announced Wednesday, June 21, at the ISC High Performance Conference 2017. Amid whoops and hollers from the crowd, Thomas Sterling presented t Read more…

By Kim McMahon

GPUs, Power9, Figure Prominently in IBM’s Bet on Weather Forecasting

June 22, 2017

IBM jumped into the weather forecasting business roughly a year and a half ago by purchasing The Weather Company. This week at ISC 2017, Big Blue rolled out plans to push deeper into climate science and develop more gran Read more…

By John Russell

Intersect 360 at ISC: HPC Industry at $44B by 2021

June 22, 2017

The care, feeding and sustained growth of the HPC industry increasingly is in the hands of the commercial market sector – in particular, it’s the hyperscale companies and their embrace of AI and deep learning – tha Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Creating a Roadmap for HPC Innovation at ISC 2017

In an era where technological advancements are driving innovation to every sector, and powering major economic and scientific breakthroughs, high performance computing (HPC) is crucial to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. Read more…

At ISC – Goh on Go: Humans Can’t Scale, the Data-Centric Learning Machine Can

June 22, 2017

I've seen the future this week at ISC, it’s on display in prototype or Powerpoint form, and it’s going to dumbfound you. The future is an AI neural network designed to emulate and compete with the human brain. In thi Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray Brings AI and HPC Together on Flagship Supers

June 20, 2017

Cray took one more step toward the convergence of big data and high performance computing (HPC) today when it announced that it’s adding a full suite of big data and artificial intelligence software to its top-of-the-l Read more…

By Alex Woodie

AMD Charges Back into the Datacenter and HPC Workflows with EPYC Processor

June 20, 2017

AMD is charging back into the enterprise datacenter and select HPC workflows with its new EPYC 7000 processor line, code-named Naples, announced today at a “global” launch event in Austin TX. In many ways it was a fu Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion: Deep Learning, AI Helping Drive Healthy HPC Industry Growth

June 20, 2017

To be at the ISC conference in Frankfurt this week is to experience deep immersion in deep learning. Users want to learn about it, vendors want to talk about it, analysts and journalists want to report on it. Deep learni Read more…

By Doug Black

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

Tsinghua Crowned Eight-Time Student Cluster Champions at ISC

June 22, 2017

Always a hard-fought competition, the Student Cluster Competition awards were announced Wednesday, June 21, at the ISC High Performance Conference 2017. Amid wh Read more…

By Kim McMahon

GPUs, Power9, Figure Prominently in IBM’s Bet on Weather Forecasting

June 22, 2017

IBM jumped into the weather forecasting business roughly a year and a half ago by purchasing The Weather Company. This week at ISC 2017, Big Blue rolled out pla Read more…

By John Russell

Intersect 360 at ISC: HPC Industry at $44B by 2021

June 22, 2017

The care, feeding and sustained growth of the HPC industry increasingly is in the hands of the commercial market sector – in particular, it’s the hyperscale Read more…

By Doug Black

At ISC – Goh on Go: Humans Can’t Scale, the Data-Centric Learning Machine Can

June 22, 2017

I've seen the future this week at ISC, it’s on display in prototype or Powerpoint form, and it’s going to dumbfound you. The future is an AI neural network Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray Brings AI and HPC Together on Flagship Supers

June 20, 2017

Cray took one more step toward the convergence of big data and high performance computing (HPC) today when it announced that it’s adding a full suite of big d Read more…

By Alex Woodie

AMD Charges Back into the Datacenter and HPC Workflows with EPYC Processor

June 20, 2017

AMD is charging back into the enterprise datacenter and select HPC workflows with its new EPYC 7000 processor line, code-named Naples, announced today at a “g Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion: Deep Learning, AI Helping Drive Healthy HPC Industry Growth

June 20, 2017

To be at the ISC conference in Frankfurt this week is to experience deep immersion in deep learning. Users want to learn about it, vendors want to talk about it Read more…

By Doug Black

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

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

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is the successor to Caffe, the deep learning framework developed by Berkeley AI Research and community contributors. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Engine (GCE) job. Sutherland ran the massive mathematics workload on 220,000 GCE cores using preemptible virtual machine instances. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

Groq This: New AI Chips to Give GPUs a Run for Deep Learning Money

April 24, 2017

CPUs and GPUs, move over. Thanks to recent revelations surrounding Google’s new Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), the computing world appears to be on the cusp of Read more…

By Alex Woodie

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of “quantum supremacy,” researchers are stretching the limits of today’s most advanced supercomputers. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Messina Update: The US Path to Exascale in 16 Slides

April 26, 2017

Paul Messina, director of the U.S. Exascale Computing Project, provided a wide-ranging review of ECP’s evolving plans last week at the HPC User Forum. Read more…

By John Russell

Knights Landing Processor with Omni-Path Makes Cloud Debut

April 18, 2017

HPC cloud specialist Rescale is partnering with Intel and HPC resource provider R Systems to offer first-ever cloud access to Xeon Phi "Knights Landing" processors. The infrastructure is based on the 68-core Intel Knights Landing processor with integrated Omni-Path fabric (the 7250F Xeon Phi). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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