New Haswells Spark Open Season for HPC Systems

By Nicole Hemsoth

September 15, 2014

What do you get when you add more cores, improved memory bandwidth, and a notable uptick in performance out of a freshly-launched chip? One hell of a lot of announcements from a broad, hungry base of server makers. And to be fair, a lot of excitement from the HPC user community to boot.

While one can expect a sweep of server upgrades from the “big box” server makers, for a processor family like the new Xeon E5-2600 v3 series that that targets a range of HPC workloads, there are set to be a bevy of tailored options from HPC-oriented vendors. From the big system vendors in high performance computing to the workstation gearheads, the much-anticipated release of the new “Haswell” chips, several variants of which are aimed squarely at HPC, has unleashed a storm of new offerings.

Before we launch into some select systems set to sport the new Haswells, it’s worth mentioning that a number of machines have felt an early impact of the arrival, including Intel early ship customers like the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, whose “Magnus” system just tipped into petascale territory following a final stage upgrade of the new E5-2600 v3s to complete its 35,000 core Cray XC30 masterpiece. Other centers, including Finland’s CSC with its “Sisu” system, are finding far-reaching upgrades with the new cores. The size of the system has almost quadrupled with the addition of the new Haswells, offering 5x the performance over the previous state of the machine, bringing it to a theoretical peak performance point of 1.7 petaflops to power Finland’s scientific computing goals.

Both of these publicized early ship customers of the new Xeons are for large Cray systems. The supercomputing vendor was among many HPC hardware partners who announced the availability of the E5-2600 v3 series into their lines. Cray will be adding the new Haswells to its air and liquid-cooled CS and XC family of supercomputers and now has some early users to showcase well in advance of the rapidly-approaching SC14 event in New Orleans.

Not to be outdone, SGI also announced the availability of the new processors on its HPC systems, with the additional news that they achieved SPEC performance world records for the new Haswells on their ICE X system using the 12-core, 2.6 GHz (3.5 GHz at max Turbo) E5-2690 v3 chips. They also pointed to their upgrade story with the new processors outfitted on an ICE X machine at Imperial College London, where users saw nearly double the performance following the fitting for the newest Xeons.

Supermicro followed suit with its building block approach to high performance servers. The company rolled out its X10 line with the new Haswell chips, emphasizing the new 1U/2U Ultra SuperServers that can hit the max 18 core, 1.5TB of DDR4 limits with room support the Xeon Phi.

“Combined with our new X10 TwinPro, MicroBlade and FatTwin systems as well as the industry’s widest range of server building blocks with Titanium level high efficiency power supplies, Supermicro is delivering total solutions to address the critical power, space and cost challenges facing today’s data driven businesses,” said Charles Liang, CEO and President of Supermicro, whom we spoke with in advance of the release about the company’s larger emphasis on HPC workloads.

Other HPC-oriented vendors, including Penguin Computing, have added to their offerings with the addition of the Open Computing Project designed “Tundra” cluster platform, which is now available in the new Haswell flavor. The Tundra platform, which was announced at SC13, is capable of supporting 108 servers in a rack by leveraging an OCP-inspired approach that lets the company insert three nodes in 36 “open units,” which means they can fit 90 nodes into a traditional 42U rack. With the original rack, this led to a total of 40 teraflops for a single rack, which while there are still some variables if you’re trying to math out the current performance on those figures, is still far greater with the new Haswells—almost double at highest estimation using the 18-core variant. For the speculators, I’ll just leave this chart right here…


The dense design is coupled with their IceBreaker storage an Arctica switches for HPC and enterprise environments, providing what Penguin CEO, Tom Coull, describes as “TCO advantages for current large-scale HPC deployments while designed to accommodate future exascale HPC components such as coprocessors and new fabrics.”

NEC announced the launch of two new models of its Express5800 Series sporting the new E5-2600 v3 series. According to NEC, the new 2-socket rack-mount servers, equipped with high speed DDR4 memory, “enable processing performance to be improved by up to 40% when compared to previous models in addition to the 12Gb/s SAS RAID controllers and hard drives, which have strengthened I/O performance.”

The list of server makers who are ready to ship the new Haswell-based machines is quite long. Other notable mentions include AMAX, which has integrated the latest Xeon processor E5-2600 v3 family into its ever-broadening array of offerings in the HPC and big data arenas as well as smaller companies that are becoming more familiar names in HPC, including Silicon Mechanics and Advanced Clustering with their Pinnacle server line.

It’s not just the system vendors who are finding an in to talk about performance improvements that are around the bend with the new launch. Mellanox, for instance, verified that their InfiniBand and Ethernet offerings have been well-optimized for the new v3 product family with the target of delivering 100Gb/s bandwidth speeds and end-to-end latencies in the 650ns range.

“Intel’s new platform provides end-users with even greater application performance provided they are connected with interconnects supporting 100Gb/s and above bandwidth speeds,” said Gilad Shainer, vice president of marketing at Mellanox Technologies. “Mellanox EDR 100Gb/s InfiniBand and 40/56Gb/s Ethernet interconnect solutions will ensure that IT managers achieve the highest performance and return-on-investment in their data center server and storage upgrades.”

The real test of performance, efficiency, and overall real-world application will prove itself on the upcoming TOP500 list, which will provide a fair number of systems that were early customers for Intel’s newest addition to the Xeon family.

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