Wrangler and Comet Reflect Changing NSF Priorities

By Tiffany Trader

May 4, 2015

“Early operations mode” describes the status of two NSF-funded systems that are on track to support a wider range of user than is traditionally served by elite-level supercomputing. Wrangler is the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) system that we reported on last week, so now we turn our attention to Comet, the petascale supercomputer readying for launch at San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC).

Comet is the outcome of a $12.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to field a system that expands access and capacity across traditional and non-traditional research domains and accommodates the long-tail of science, a concept that refers to more modest-scale jobs that make up a significant portion of research. This move towards broader engagement speaks to NSF’s larger cyberinfrastructure strategy too, a topic we’ll return to after a brief rundown on Comet.

The Dell-integrated cluster occupies 27 racks, with 72 nodes per rack for a total of 1,944 compute nodes. Each node is outfitted with two Intel Xeon E5-2600 v3 12-core processors (running at 2.5GHz), 128 gigabytes of traditional DRAM and 320 gigabytes of local flash memory. A total of 46,656 cores contribute to a peak performance of 2 petaflops.

To optimize capacity for modest-scale jobs, each rack has a full bisection InfiniBand FDR interconnect from Mellanox, with a 4:1 over-subscription across the racks. Comet also claims 7.6 petabytes of Lustre-based high-performance storage, plus 6 petabytes of durable storage for data reliability, as well as 100 Gbps connectivity to Internet2 and ESNet.

The standard Xeon nodes will provide the bulk of the compute capability, but Comet also has 36 GPU nodes, equipped with four NVIDIA GPUs and two Intel processors. And soon it will also have large-memory nodes, outfitted with four Intel processors and 1.5 TB of memory. The heterogeneous configuration will enable Comet to more optimally target specific workloads, such as visualization, molecular dynamics simulations or de novo genome assembly.

Like SDSC’s Gordon supercomputer, as well as TACC’s Wrangler, Comet will become part of the XSEDE (eXtreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment) system. Comet replaces Trestles, which entered production in early 2011 under an earlier NSF grant.

One of Comet’s more interesting features is its support for high-performance Single Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV) at the multi-node cluster level. Comet’s use of SR-IOV will allow virtual sub-clusters to run applications over InfiniBand at near-native speeds. This ‘secret sauce’ lowers the entry barrier for a wide range of researchers by permitting them to use their own software environment, but still attain supercomputer-level performance.

“Comet is really all about providing high-performance computing to a much larger research community – what we call ‘HPC for the 99 percent’ – and serving as a gateway to discovery,” said SDSC Director Michael Norman, the project’s principal investigator. “Comet has been specifically configured to meet the needs of researchers in domains that have not traditionally relied on supercomputers to solve their problems.”

Both Wrangler (at TACC) and Comet (at SDSC) were funded by NSF’s Track 2 program, which formed in 2006 with the mission to award $30 million on a competitive basis every year to deploy a new supercomputer into XSEDE. (Former SDSC User Services Consultant Glenn Lockwood provides a helpful summary of these now archived awards.)

Currently the NSF is investigating a new funding methodology in keeping with its vision for Advanced Computing Infrastructure. As part of the Cyberinfrastructure Framework for 21st Century Science and Engineering (CIF21), the program focuses “specifically on ensuring that the science and engineering community has ready access to the advanced computational and data-driven capabilities required to tackle the most complex problems and issues facing today’s scientific and educational communities.”

In the most recent solicitation for HPC system acquisition (posted Feb. 14, 2014), the NSF called for “new and creative approaches to delivering innovative computational resources to an increasingly diverse community and portfolio of scientific research and education.”

The shift toward “a more inclusive computing environment” is further clarified in the program guidelines with some of the more salient paragraphs copied below:

Recent developments in computational science have begun to focus on complex, dynamic and diverse workflows, which integrate computation into all areas of the scientific process. Some of these involve applications that are extremely data intensive and may not be dominated by floating point operation speed. While a number of the earlier acquisitions have addressed a subset of these issues, the previous solicitation NSF 13-528 and the current solicitation emphasize these aspects even further.

…Consistent with the Advanced Computing Infrastructure: Vision and Strategic Plan (February 2012), the current solicitation is focused on expanding the use of high-end resources to a much larger and more diverse community. To quote from that strategic plan, the goal is to “… position and support the entire spectrum of NSF-funded communities … and to promote a more comprehensive and balanced portfolio …. to support multidisciplinary computational and data-enabled science and engineering that in turn supports the entire scientific, engineering and educational community.” Thus, while continuing to provide essential and needed resources to the more traditional users of HPC, this solicitation expands the horizon to include research communities that are not users of traditional HPC systems, but who would benefit from advanced computational capabilities at the national level. Building, testing, and deploying these resources within the collaborative ecosystem that encompasses national, regional and campus resources continues to remain a high priority for NSF and one of increasing importance to the science and engineering community.

The results of this solicitation were unveiled in November with the announcement of “Bridges,” focused on problems related to data movement, at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and “Jetstream,” a cloud-based system, co-located at the Indiana University Pervasive Technology Institute and the Texas Advanced Computing Center. The new resources, valued at $16 million, are anticipated to come online in early 2016.

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!

InfiniBand Still Tops in Supercomputing

July 19, 2018

In the competitive global HPC landscape, system and processor vendors, nations and end user sites certainly get a lot of attention--deservedly so--but more than ever, the network plays a crucial role. While fast, perform Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC for Life: Genomics, Brain Research, and Beyond

July 19, 2018

During the past few decades, the life sciences have witnessed one landmark discovery after another with the aid of HPC, paving the way toward a new era of personalized treatments based on an individual’s genetic makeup Read more…

By Warren Froelich

WCRP’s New Strategic Plan for Climate Research Highlights the Importance of HPC

July 19, 2018

As climate modeling increasingly leverages exascale computing and researchers warn of an impending computing gap in climate research, the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) is developing its new Strategic Plan – and high-performance computing is slated to play a critical role. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Introducing the First Integrated System Management Software for HPC Clusters from HPE

How do you manage your complex, growing cluster environments? Answer that big challenge with the new HPC cluster management solution: HPE Performance Cluster Manager. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Are Your Software Licenses Impeding Your Productivity?

In my previous article, Improving chip yield rates with cognitive manufacturing, I highlighted the costs associated with semiconductor manufacturing, and how cognitive methods can yield benefits in both design and manufacture.  Read more…

U.S. Exascale Computing Project Releases Software Technology Progress Report

July 19, 2018

As is often noted the race to exascale computing isn’t just about hardware. This week the U.S. Exascale Computing Project (ECP) released its latest Software Technology (ST) Capability Assessment Report detailing progress so far. Read more…

By John Russell

InfiniBand Still Tops in Supercomputing

July 19, 2018

In the competitive global HPC landscape, system and processor vendors, nations and end user sites certainly get a lot of attention--deservedly so--but more than Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC for Life: Genomics, Brain Research, and Beyond

July 19, 2018

During the past few decades, the life sciences have witnessed one landmark discovery after another with the aid of HPC, paving the way toward a new era of perso Read more…

By Warren Froelich

D-Wave Breaks New Ground in Quantum Simulation

July 16, 2018

Last Friday D-Wave scientists and colleagues published work in Science which they say represents the first fulfillment of Richard Feynman’s 1982 notion that Read more…

By John Russell

AI Thought Leaders on Capitol Hill

July 14, 2018

On Thursday, July 12, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology heard from four academic and industry leaders – representatives from Berkeley Lab, Argonne Lab, GE Global Research and Carnegie Mellon University – on the opportunities springing from the intersection of machine learning and advanced-scale computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Serves as a ‘Rosetta Stone’ for the Information Age

July 12, 2018

In an age defined and transformed by its data, several large-scale scientific instruments around the globe might be viewed as a ‘mother lode’ of precious data. With names seemingly created for a ‘techno-speak’ glossary, these interferometers, cyclotrons, sequencers, solenoids, satellite altimeters, and cryo-electron microscopes are churning out data in previously unthinkable and seemingly incomprehensible quantities -- billions, trillions and quadrillions of bits and bytes of electro-magnetic code. Read more…

By Warren Froelich

Tsinghua Powers Through ISC18 Field

July 10, 2018

Tsinghua University topped all other competitors at the ISC18 Student Cluster Competition with an overall score of 88.43 out of 100. This gives Tsinghua their s Read more…

By Dan Olds

HPE, EPFL Launch Blue Brain 5 Supercomputer

July 10, 2018

HPE and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausannne (EPFL) Blue Brain Project yesterday introduced Blue Brain 5, a new supercomputer built by HPE, which displ Read more…

By John Russell

Pumping New Life into HPC Clusters, the Case for Liquid Cooling

July 10, 2018

High Performance Computing (HPC) faces some daunting challenges in the coming years as traditional, industry-standard systems push the boundaries of data center Read more…

By Scott Tease

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17


AMD @ SC17


ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack



DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17


IBM @ SC17


IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17


Lenovo @ SC17


Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17


Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17


Tyan @ SC17


Univa @ SC17


  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This