Something for Everyone at GPU Technology Conference

By Tiffany Trader

March 23, 2015

Once relegated to the category of specialized gaming hardware, today’s graphics processors are solving some of the world’s toughest computing problems. During GTC15 last week in San Jose, the full breadth and depth of session topics provided even more evidence of how far graphics processors have come from their gaming roots.

And while this year deep learning and self-driving cars were front and center (literally, the entrance hall was brimming with automotive eye candy), with nearly 500 sessions to choose from, there were still plenty of interesting and relevant sessions targeting the big compute side of GPUs – not to mention the impromptu hallway moments.

If you missed the show this year or if you weren’t able to make it to every session on your agenda, fear not because NVIDIA has once again posted all of the keynotes and a majority of the sessions online.

To get you started, we’ve compiled our top twelve picks for the HPC set. Included in the list are standouts from the very first OpenPOWER summit, which shared the convention space with GTC. If there’s an event you enjoyed that you don’t see, drop me an email ( or mention it in the comments section.

#1 — The Keynotes

In GTC’s opening keynote address, NVIDIA CEO and co-founder Jen-Hsun Huang discusses the latest breakthroughs in visual computing, including the company’s inroads into deep learning. On hand to discuss the future of autonomous vehicles was special guest, 21st century visionary Elon Musk.

And if you’re following the burgeoning deep learning space, check out the other two keynotes here and here, featuring Jeff Dean, Senior Fellow with Google’s Knowledge Group, and Andrew Ng, Chief Scientist at Baidu.


Heterogeneous HPC, Architectural Optimization, and NVLink
Steve Oberlin, CTO, Accelerated Computing, NVIDIA

In this talk, Oberlin explores heterogeneous node design and architecture and describes the role of NVLink, NVIDIA’s scalable node integration channel set to debut with the Pascal GPU in 2016. The technology is a key piece of the DOE CORAL Summit and Sierra supercomputer systems.


E4-ARKA: ARM64+GPU+IB is Now Here
Piero Altoè, Project Manager, E4 Computer Engineering

E4 Computer Engineering Project Manager Piero Altoè presents on ARKA, said to be the first server solution based on ARM 64 bit SoC dedicated to HPC. The compute node is boosted by discrete GPU NVIDIA K20 cards, and features both 10GbE and FDR InfiniBand fabrics. The hardware configuration of the compute node is described in detail to demonstrate the unique capabilities of the ARM+GPU+IB combination. Benchmarks are also discussed with particular attention paid to molecular dynamics software.


A CUDA Implementation of the High Performance Conjugate Gradient (HPCG) Benchmark
Everett Phillips, HPC Software Engineer, NVIDIA

NVIDIA’s Everett Phillips describes a CUDA implementation of the HPCG benchmark, including key optimization strategies and performance results on a wide range of GPU systems: from the smallest CUDA capable platform to the largest GPU supercomputers. Comparing it with the long-standing LINPACK benchmark, Phillips points out that HPCG is more representative of common computation patterns found in modern applications, which rather than being solely compute-intensive are more memory-heavy and require more network communication.


GPU Errors on HPC Systems: Characterization, Quantification and Implications for Architects and Operations
James Rogers, Director of Operations, Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)

The fastest US supercomputer, Titan, installed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has more than 18,000 GPUs that are used for a broad range of scientific workloads. In this talk, Rogers points out that while the performance efficiency of GPUs is well understood, their resilience characteristics in a large-scale computing system have not been fully evaluated. He goes on to describe a study, drawn from 300,000,000 Titan node hours, that was undertaken to boost understanding of GPU errors on large-scale heterogenous machines. The work has implications for future GPU architects and HPC centers that use graphics processors.


Attacking HIV with Petascale Molecular Dynamics Simulations on Titan and Blue Waters
James Phillips, Senior Research Programmer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Starting with a description of the HIV infectious cycle, University of Illinois’ James Phillips discusses how the highly parallel molecular dynamics code NAMD is being used to perform petascale biomolecular simulations on the GPU-accelerated Cray XK7 Blue Waters and ORNL Titan machines.


Power 8 Microprocessor
Satish Kumar Sadasivam, Senior Performance Engineer and Master Inventor, IBM STG

The first OpenPOWER Summit took place this year in tandem with GTC15. In addition to the main keynotes on Wednesday,  sessions spanned many topics, including this standing-room-only talk about IBM’s first OpenPOWER processor, POWER8. Starting with an overview of the microarchitecture, IBM’s Satish Kumar Sadasivam looks at performance monitoring features in POWER8 and other factors important to optimizing application performance, as well as the POWER8 pipeline.


OpenACC for Fortran Programmers
Michael Wolfe, Compiler Engineer, NVIDIA

Michael Wolfe, who will be familiar to HPCwire readers for his popular “Compilers and More” column, describes how to program NVIDIA GPUs using Fortran with OpenACC directives. The first half of the talk covers the basic material necessary to start using GPUs for Fortran programs and then gets into more advanced material, with hints and tips for Fortran programmers with larger applications that they want to accelerate with a GPU.


Achieving Near-Native GPU Performance in the Cloud
John Paul Walters, Project Leader, University of Southern California, Information Sciences Institute (ISI)

If you’re wondering about the current state of HPC in the cloud, this session is not to be missed. John Paul Walters, technical lead for ISI’s HPC OpenStack initiative and the PI of ISI’s NVIDIA CUDA Research Center, begins with the question of whether it is possible to provide HPC class performance in the GPU-equipped cloud. Approaches described include PCI passthrough, SR-IOV and GPUDirect in tandem with multi-node GPUs with results showing near-native performance.


Porting Apps to Titan: Results from the Inaugural GPU Hackathon

Fernanda Foertter, HPC User Assistance Specialist, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Seth Johnson, R&D Staff, Monte Carlo Methods, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

The results of the inaugural GPU Hackathon held at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility are showcased in this 50 minute session, along with lessons learned. The event hosted six teams paired with mentors over a week where applications were ported to GPUs using OpenACC directives. According to ORNL’s Fernanda Foertter, the experience was so successful, three more GPU-porting hackathons are underway.


Using Docker in High Performance Computing in OpenPOWER Environment
Sam Sanjabi, Advisory Software Engineer, IBM Systems & Technology Lab (Canada)

Popular container technology Docker has been widely used in cloud, but increasingly we are hearing about its potential for high-performance computing. Are there benefits of Docker in HPC? There are according to IBM’s Sam Sanjabi. During an OpenPOWER session at GTC15, Sanjabi talks about an integration that was done between IBM’s Platform LSF job scheduler and Docker on the OpenPOWER platform. He gives a short overview of both of these technologies and then describes the results of combining them.


GPU vs Xeon Phi: Performance of Bandwidth Bound Applications with a Lattice QCD Case Study
Mathias Wagner, Postdoc, Indiana University

A very popular session delivered by theoretical physicist Mathias Wagner addresses the performance benefits of accelerators, which continue to make inroads in HPC. More specifically, Wagner sheds light on whether GPUs or Phi coprocessors make the most sense for bandwidth bound applications. He compares their performance using a Lattice QCD application as a case study and describes what it takes to achieve great performance on both architectures.

Didn’t see your favorite session listed? For the full agenda, go to and play with the keyword search to find what you are looking for. More information on the first OpenPOWER summit is available here.

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