Why HPC Matters

By Tiffany Trader

November 19, 2014

When the SC14 show floor opened in New Orleans Monday night, signage everywhere proclaimed this year’s theme: HPC Matters. The new program, first announced at last year’s show in Denver, is all about broader engagement. It’s about getting the word out to the public – to policymakers, educators and regular people – about the role HPC plays in helping humanity solve its hardest problems. But it’s also a reminder for this sometimes niche-oriented community to take stock of their collective accomplishments.

HPC may be daunting to the uninitiated, but it’s touching ordinary folks in ways they may not even realize. To drive home this point, the SC committee welcomed Dr. Eng Lim Goh, senior vice president CTO of SGI, and Dr. Piyush Mehrotra, chief of the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) Division, to present at the very first HPC Matters plenary, in tandem with the event launch on Monday night. In keeping with the theme of community, the plenary was open and free to the general public.

In the words of HPC Matters Chair Wilfred Pinfold who spoke at the event, “the plenary session marks the start of a new communications campaign to highlight the extraordinary value that investments in computational simulation and modeling bring to every man, woman and child on the planet.”

The compelling presentation shed light on some of the most profound HPC use cases of our time, spanning nearly every aspect of society and ranging from advanced manufacturing to disaster warning systems to improving care for cancer patients. Dr. Goh makes the case that whether it’s meeting basic needs, reducing hardships, promoting industry or answering the profound questions of the universe, HPC is there.

Life on Earth

It is a basic fact that without potable water, people can’t survive. Despite over 70 percent of the earth’s surface being covered in water, 95 percent of it is off-limits for consumption due to its salt content. However, if you have limitless power, you can have a water desalinization plant on every coast, extracting salt from water and generating fresh water for all, says Dr. Goh.

Getting this unlimited power is the promise of fusion science, which despite decades of investment is not yet viable. ITER is one of the main projects working to create the energy of the sun on earth, and Goh believes they are getting close. Key to the technology is a magnetic confinement device, called a tokamak. Currently, the reaction inside the tokamak cannot survive long enough before it falls apart. To become tractable, the reaction will need to be sustained for days. It’s a turbulence problem that supercomputing is getting closer to solving.

Moving onto the field of health care, Goh recounts examples of how HPC is being used to diagnose and treat cancer, and also improve the safety of treatments. Researchers at Mass General Hospital at Harvard Medical School, for example, have developed practical strategies for reducing radiation dose associated with CT and PET scans.

“CT scans are useful but the radiation is high,” relates Goh. “The goal of MGH/Harvard Medical is to try and reduce the radiation dosage that you get from a CT scanner. 3 millisievert is what we get normally in one year on most places on earth. You just go for one CT scan and you will reach that limit very quickly.”

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans show which tissue is consuming the most energy, thereby highlighting the area of cancer, but to do that, you need to inject radiated glucose. A researcher at Harvard Medical is experimenting with using lower radiation levels. The images come back grainy, but by applying supercomputing, he is able to extract the low signal from the high noise.

Wider access to compute power is having a democratizing effect that is leading to some interesting use cases far from HPC’s roots. The United States Post Office, for example, is using supercomputing and scanning devices to sort through half a billion pieces of mail a day to ensure that the postage is correct and authentic. Supercomputing also left its mark on the stock exchange. After the May 6, 2010, mega-glitch, aka the Flash Crash, caused the Dow Jones Industrial Average to plummet by about 10 percent, only to bounce right back, a researcher from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign collected two years of data and put it on two supercomputers, one at Pittsburgh and one at the DOE. The work uncovered a source of market manipulation that prompted the SEC to enact more transparent reporting requirements.

At the same time as HPC grows into new markets and segments, the traditional application areas are as relevant and vital as ever. High-resolution global climate models, for example, continue to push the supercomputing envelope. Goh spotlights some of the main findings of these models and the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Even the most modest carbon emission scenario shows a temperature raise of 2 degrees, he says, which translates into a 2-3 foot sea level rise. This may not sound like much to the layperson, but a rendering shows how severe the result will be.

SC14 HPC Matters plenary sea level rise graphic

Rounding out the session, Goh and his NASA colleague describe some of the remarkable space research that is enabled by HPC, including the search for exoplanets as part of the Kepler project. NASA, ESA, CERN and others are also doing awe-inspiring work peering into the deepest darkest recesses of the cosmos, in attempt to reveal a time before light. “How do you peer back even further,” asks Goh, “One way is to simulate that far back, and that’s being done by Large Hadron Collider.”

In closing, Goh issues this challenge:

“For those who are HPC experts, feel united in this, for those who are new to HPC, leverage it, make a difference with it. And because of that, we the HPC experts must remember this: it is very important to convince the few to get your funding, we must also work very hard to convince and delight the many, through our simplified explanation of why HPC matters, so we can get more people using HPC together.”

Expect to see more of the HPC Matters program through 2015 and beyond and if you weren’t able to attend the inaugural event, look for the lecture on YouTube in the coming weeks.

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!

GigaIO Gets $14.7M in Series B Funding to Expand Its Composable Fabric Technology to Customers

September 16, 2021

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, GigaIO introduced its Universal Composable Fabric technology, which allows enterprises to bring together any HPC and AI resources and integrate them with networking, Read more…

What’s New in HPC Research: Solar Power, ExaWorks, Optane & More

September 16, 2021

In this regular feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

Cerebras Brings Its Wafer-Scale Engine AI System to the Cloud

September 16, 2021

Five months ago, when Cerebras Systems debuted its second-generation wafer-scale silicon system (CS-2), co-founder and CEO Andrew Feldman hinted of the company’s coming cloud plans, and now those plans have come to fruition. Today, Cerebras and Cirrascale Cloud Services are launching... Read more…

AI Hardware Summit: Panel on Memory Looks Forward

September 15, 2021

What will system memory look like in five years? Good question. While Monday's panel, Designing AI Super-Chips at the Speed of Memory, at the AI Hardware Summit, tackled several topics, the panelists also took a brief glimpse into the future. Unlike compute, storage and networking, which... Read more…

ECMWF Opens Bologna Datacenter in Preparation for Atos Supercomputer

September 14, 2021

In January 2020, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) – a juggernaut in the weather forecasting scene – signed a four-year, $89-million contract with European tech firm Atos to quintuple its supercomputing capacity. With the deal approaching the two-year mark, ECMWF... Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Supporting Climate Model Simulations to Accelerate Climate Science

The Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative (ASDI), AWS is donating cloud resources, technical support, and access to scalable infrastructure and fast networking providing high performance computing (HPC) solutions to support simulations of near-term climate using the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Earth System Model Version 2 (CESM2) and its Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM). Read more…

Quantum Computer Market Headed to $830M in 2024

September 13, 2021

What is one to make of the quantum computing market? Energized (lots of funding) but still chaotic and advancing in unpredictable ways (e.g. competing qubit technologies), the quantum computing landscape is transforming Read more…

Cerebras Brings Its Wafer-Scale Engine AI System to the Cloud

September 16, 2021

Five months ago, when Cerebras Systems debuted its second-generation wafer-scale silicon system (CS-2), co-founder and CEO Andrew Feldman hinted of the company’s coming cloud plans, and now those plans have come to fruition. Today, Cerebras and Cirrascale Cloud Services are launching... Read more…

AI Hardware Summit: Panel on Memory Looks Forward

September 15, 2021

What will system memory look like in five years? Good question. While Monday's panel, Designing AI Super-Chips at the Speed of Memory, at the AI Hardware Summit, tackled several topics, the panelists also took a brief glimpse into the future. Unlike compute, storage and networking, which... Read more…

ECMWF Opens Bologna Datacenter in Preparation for Atos Supercomputer

September 14, 2021

In January 2020, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) – a juggernaut in the weather forecasting scene – signed a four-year, $89-million contract with European tech firm Atos to quintuple its supercomputing capacity. With the deal approaching the two-year mark, ECMWF... Read more…

Quantum Computer Market Headed to $830M in 2024

September 13, 2021

What is one to make of the quantum computing market? Energized (lots of funding) but still chaotic and advancing in unpredictable ways (e.g. competing qubit tec Read more…

Amazon, NCAR, SilverLining Team for Unprecedented Cloud Climate Simulations

September 10, 2021

Earth’s climate is, to put it mildly, not in a good place. In the wake of a damning report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientis Read more…

After Roadblocks and Renewals, EuroHPC Targets a Bigger, Quantum Future

September 9, 2021

The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU) was formalized in 2018, beginning a new era of European supercomputing that began to bear fruit this year with the launch of several of the first EuroHPC systems. The undertaking, however, has not been without its speed bumps, and the Union faces an uphill... Read more…

How Argonne Is Preparing for Exascale in 2022

September 8, 2021

Additional details came to light on Argonne National Laboratory’s preparation for the 2022 Aurora exascale-class supercomputer, during the HPC User Forum, held virtually this week on account of pandemic. Exascale Computing Project director Doug Kothe reviewed some of the 'early exascale hardware' at Argonne, Oak Ridge and NERSC (Perlmutter), while Ti Leggett, Deputy Project Director & Deputy Director... Read more…

IBM Introduces its First Power10-based Server, the Power E1080; Targets Hybrid Cloud

September 8, 2021

IBM today introduced the Power E1080 server, its first system powered by a Power10 IBM microprocessor. The new system reinforces IBM’s emphasis on hybrid cloud markets and the new chip beefs up its inference capabilities. IBM – like other CPU makers – is hoping to make inferencing a core capability... Read more…

Ahead of ‘Dojo,’ Tesla Reveals Its Massive Precursor Supercomputer

June 22, 2021

In spring 2019, Tesla made cryptic reference to a project called Dojo, a “super-powerful training computer” for video data processing. Then, in summer 2020, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted: “Tesla is developing a [neural network] training computer called Dojo to process truly vast amounts of video data. It’s a beast! … A truly useful exaflop at de facto FP32.” Read more…

Berkeley Lab Debuts Perlmutter, World’s Fastest AI Supercomputer

May 27, 2021

A ribbon-cutting ceremony held virtually at Berkeley Lab's National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) today marked the official launch of Perlmutter – aka NERSC-9 – the GPU-accelerated supercomputer built by HPE in partnership with Nvidia and AMD. Read more…

Google Launches TPU v4 AI Chips

May 20, 2021

Google CEO Sundar Pichai spoke for only one minute and 42 seconds about the company’s latest TPU v4 Tensor Processing Units during his keynote at the Google I Read more…

Esperanto, Silicon in Hand, Champions the Efficiency of Its 1,092-Core RISC-V Chip

August 27, 2021

Esperanto Technologies made waves last December when it announced ET-SoC-1, a new RISC-V-based chip aimed at machine learning that packed nearly 1,100 cores onto a package small enough to fit six times over on a single PCIe card. Now, Esperanto is back, silicon in-hand and taking aim... Read more…

Enter Dojo: Tesla Reveals Design for Modular Supercomputer & D1 Chip

August 20, 2021

Two months ago, Tesla revealed a massive GPU cluster that it said was “roughly the number five supercomputer in the world,” and which was just a precursor to Tesla’s real supercomputing moonshot: the long-rumored, little-detailed Dojo system. “We’ve been scaling our neural network training compute dramatically over the last few years,” said Milan Kovac, Tesla’s director of autopilot engineering. Read more…

CentOS Replacement Rocky Linux Is Now in GA and Under Independent Control

June 21, 2021

The Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation (RESF) is announcing the general availability of Rocky Linux, release 8.4, designed as a drop-in replacement for the soon-to-be discontinued CentOS. The GA release is launching six-and-a-half months after Red Hat deprecated its support for the widely popular, free CentOS server operating system. The Rocky Linux development effort... Read more…

Intel Completes LLVM Adoption; Will End Updates to Classic C/C++ Compilers in Future

August 10, 2021

Intel reported in a blog this week that its adoption of the open source LLVM architecture for Intel’s C/C++ compiler is complete. The transition is part of In Read more…

Iran Gains HPC Capabilities with Launch of ‘Simorgh’ Supercomputer

May 18, 2021

Iran is said to be developing domestic supercomputing technology to advance the processing of scientific, economic, political and military data, and to strengthen the nation’s position in the age of AI and big data. On Sunday, Iran unveiled the Simorgh supercomputer, which will deliver.... Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

AMD-Xilinx Deal Gains UK, EU Approvals — China’s Decision Still Pending

July 1, 2021

AMD’s planned acquisition of FPGA maker Xilinx is now in the hands of Chinese regulators after needed antitrust approvals for the $35 billion deal were receiv Read more…

Hot Chips: Here Come the DPUs and IPUs from Arm, Nvidia and Intel

August 25, 2021

The emergence of data processing units (DPU) and infrastructure processing units (IPU) as potentially important pieces in cloud and datacenter architectures was Read more…

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from Julialang.org. I Read more…

HPE Wins $2B GreenLake HPC-as-a-Service Deal with NSA

September 1, 2021

In the heated, oft-contentious, government IT space, HPE has won a massive $2 billion contract to provide HPC and AI services to the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA). Following on the heels of the now-canceled $10 billion JEDI contract (reissued as JWCC) and a $10 billion... Read more…

Intel Launches 10nm ‘Ice Lake’ Datacenter CPU with Up to 40 Cores

April 6, 2021

The wait is over. Today Intel officially launched its 10nm datacenter CPU, the third-generation Intel Xeon Scalable processor, codenamed Ice Lake. With up to 40 Read more…

Quantum Roundup: IBM, Rigetti, Phasecraft, Oxford QC, China, and More

July 13, 2021

IBM yesterday announced a proof for a quantum ML algorithm. A week ago, it unveiled a new topology for its quantum processors. Last Friday, the Technical Univer Read more…

Frontier to Meet 20MW Exascale Power Target Set by DARPA in 2008

July 14, 2021

After more than a decade of planning, the United States’ first exascale computer, Frontier, is set to arrive at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) later this year. Crossing this “1,000x” horizon required overcoming four major challenges: power demand, reliability, extreme parallelism and data movement. Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire