China Sets Ambitious Goal to Reach Exascale by 2020

By Tiffany Trader

May 2, 2016

At the 12th HPC Connections Workshop in Wuhan, China, Beihang University Professor Depei Qian disclosed new information regarding HPC development in China and exascale plans that are shaping up under China’s 13th five-year plan (2016-2020). Since 1996 Professor Professor Qian has served on the expert committee for the National High-tech Research & Development Program (the 863 program). Currently, he is the chief scientist of the 863 key project on high productivity computer and application service environment.

Professor Qian acknowledged that despite export restrictions on processor and software technology imposed by the US, work continues on two 100 petaflops (peak) systems: the next iteration of Tianhe-2, installed at the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzhou, and the upcoming Sunway system coming to the Jiangnan Institute of Computer Technology in Wuxi, China, near Shanghai. The official line is that these systems will be ready “by the end of the year,” but there have been rumblings that one or both of these systems will be introduced during the ISC’16 event in June.

In a Tuesday session at ISC, Professor Dr. Guangwen Yang, the director of the National Supercomputer Center at Wuxi, China, is slated to deliver talk titled “The New Sunway Supercomputer System at Wuxi.” Dr. Yang will describe the hardware and software elements that make up the system and some of the applications that will be deployed on it. A notice for that talk mentions that the system will be formally announced this summer.

China has been known to play its cards close to the vest before and launched its current supercomputing star, Tianhe-2, two years ahead of schedule. With a theoretical peak speed of 54.9 petaflops and a LINPACK rating of 33.86 petaflops, Tianhe-2 (the name means “Milky Way”) has been the world’s fastest number-cruncher since it debuted on the June 2013 TOP500 list.

The implementation scheme of the second phase of Tienhe-2 was evaluated and approved in July 2014. The original plan was to use next-generation Intel Xeon Phi (Knights Landing) processors for the upgrade path but due to export blocks put in place by the US, China was stimulated to accelerate its native chip development efforts. The new plan relies on Chinese made processors. “The development of the new FeiTeng processor is underway and we are waiting for the processor to upgrade the Tianhe-2 system,” said Professor Quin.

The second 100 petaflops system (Sunway) will use the next-generation Chinese-made ShenWei chips and will be implemented together with a general purpose cluster system of 1 petaflops performance. This configuration is designed to meet a wide variety of application requirements.

Both systems were developed under the auspices of China’s 12th five-year plan (2011 to 2015). Also under this program, China has been exploring new operation models and mechanism for CNGrid (China’s national HPC environment) and developing cloud-like application villages over CNGrid to promote applications.

CNGrid

The CNGrid service environment is a major resource of computing and storage across China. Currently, this environment is enabled by the CNGrid Suite, a software package used for the operation of the environment, Qian noted. There are 14 nodes altogether, more than 8 petaflops aggregated computing power and more than 15 petabytes of storage. The organizers have deployed more than 400 software applications and tools and also use this environment to support more than 1,000 projects.

Domain-oriented application villages are being established on top of CNGrid to provide services to the users. There are three current application villages under development: industrial product design and optimization, new drug discovery and digital media.

China has also deployed a number of parallel software development efforts to support fusion simulation, CFD for aircraft design, drug discovery, rendering for digital media, structural mechanics for large machinery, and simulation for electro-magnetic environment. The level of parallelism required is more than 300,000 cores with an efficiency of more than 30 percent.

Challenges

Depei Qian ASC16 China WeaknessProfessor Qian provided an overview of China’s main weaknesses, the most significant being a gap in kernel technologies and the lack of a suitable accelerator for the Tienhe-2 upgrade on account of the US embargo. “Currently there is no available accelerator to upgrade the system and it’s a major issue from the point of view of the Chinese government,” he said. “We had to change our plan and rely on our own processors. We are in urgent need for the system software, for the domestic processor, for the tool software and also the application software. Without an ecosystem around the domestic processors, we will not succeed in this respect.”

Also noted were a weakness in novel devices — memory storage and network as well as large-scale parallel algorithms and programs, system software, commercial software. “This is a very special phenomenon in China,” said Qian. “Currently China relies on the imported commercial application software, that software is very expensive and also limited in parallelism and limited by regulations. The center in Guangzhou cannot freely purchase system software from the vendor.” The third weakness is one shared by many countries: a talent shortage. “We don’t have enough people to work in HPC because either they only know the IT side or the domain side. We need more talented people that are also cross-disciplinary,” stated Qian.

13th Five-Year Plan Targets Exascale

After updating the continued supercomputing progress being made under the 12th five-year plan, Qian walked through brand-new elements of China’s 13th five-year plan, which puts into motion one of the most ambitious exascale programs in the world. If successful the program will stand up an exaflops (peak) supercomputer by the end of 2020 within a 35 MW power limit.

China is in the midst of overhauling its national research system and restructuring 100 programs into five tracks: Basic research program; mega-research program; key research and development program; enterprise-oriented research program; research centers and talents program.

The new track that is being focused on in the session is the third one – the key research and development program. A proposal for the track-3 key project on HPC was submitted in September 2015 and launched on February 2016.

The primary pillars for the key project are developing exascale computers, promoting computer industry by technology transfer and a China-controlled HPC technology set. The major tasks are next-generation supercomputing development, CNGrid upgrading and transformation, and domain HPC applications development. A robust supercomputing program is seen as a critical for addressing grand challenge problems spanning the environment, energy, climate, medicine, industry and science.

Depei Qian ASC16 Motivations slide

According to Professor Qian, the number one priority task is the development of an exascale supercomputer, based on a multi-objective optimized architecture that balances performance, energy consumption programmability, reliability and cost.

To achieve this goal, China is funding research into novel high performance interconnects with 3-D chip packaging, silicon photonics and on-chip networks. Programming models for heterogeneous computers will emphasize ease in writing programs and exploitation of performance of the heterogeneous architectures.

The program includes the development of prototype systems for verification of the exascale computer technologies. The computer scientists will explore possible exascale computer architectures, interconnects which can support more than 10,000 nodes, and energy efficiency technologies, as power demand is known to be one of the biggest obstacles toward exascale.

The exascale prototype will be about 512 nodes, offering 5-10 teraflops-per-node, 10-20 Gflops/watt, point to point bandwidth greater than 200 Gbps. MPI latency should be less than 1.5 us, said Qian. Development will also include system software and three typical applications that will be used to verify effectiveness.

From there, work will begin on an energy-efficient computing node and a scheme for high-performance processor/accelerator design.

Depei Qian ASC16 exascale key technology slide

“Based on those key technology developments, we will finally build the exascale system,” said Qian. “Our goal is not so ambitious – it is to have exaflops in peak. We are looking for a LINPACK efficiency of greater than 60 percent. Memory is rather limited, about 10 petabytes, with exabyte levels of storage.

“We don’t think we can reach the 20 megawatts system goal in less than five years so our goal is about 35 megawatts for the system; that means 30 Gflops/watt energy efficiency. The expected interconnect performance is greater than 500 Gbps.”

Depei Qian ASC16 exascale system slide

The final goal of the exascale program is technology transfer. Qian said that China will work to field high-end domain-oriented servers based on exascale system technologies. These servers will take advantage of the advances at the node, the interconnect, scalable I/O, storage, energy savings, reliability and application software.

The professor also spoke at length about China’s software strategies.”We cannot distinguish key technologies from applications, so there will be a joint effort in this direction.” Demo applications span a numerical nuclear reactor, a numerical aircraft, a numerical earth and a numerical engine.

The plan is to transfer some of the software into products to be adopted by a minimum of 50 users. To support this effort, China will establish three national-level research and development centers for HPC application software.

The professor emphasized that China’s “self-control” strategy to eliminate dependence on foreign tech doesn’t just refer to the processor and other hardware. “One of the efforts reflected in our plan is to develop parallel algorithms and parallel libraries for the system to improve the capability of developing modern-scale systems,” he said.

The final new element of China’s renovated program is the development of a platform for education that will provide computing resources and service to undergraduate and graduate students.

A call for proposals for the new key project was issued on February 19, 2016. The proposals will be reviewed over the next two months and then the selected projects will be announced.

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!

Battle Brews over Trump Intentions for Funding Science

February 27, 2017

The battle over science funding – how much and for what kinds of science – Read more…

By John Russell

Google Gets First Dibs on New Skylake Chips

February 27, 2017

As part of an ongoing effort to differentiate its public cloud services, Google made good this week on its intention to bring custom Xeon Skylake chips from Intel Corp. Read more…

By George Leopold

Thomas Sterling on CREST and Academia’s Role in HPC Research

February 27, 2017

The US advances in high performance computing over many decades have been a product of the combined engagement of research centers in industry, government labs, and academia. Read more…

By Thomas Sterling, Indiana University

Advancing Modular Supercomputing with DEEP and DEEP-ER Architectures

February 24, 2017

Knowing that the jump to exascale will require novel architectural approaches capable of delivering dramatic efficiency and performance gains, researchers around the world are hard at work on next-generation HPC systems. Read more…

By Sean Thielen

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Manufacturers Reaping the Benefits of Remote Visualization

Today’s manufacturers are operating in an ever-changing atmosphere, and finding new ways to boost productivity has never been more vital.

This is why manufacturers are ramping up their investments in high performance computing (HPC), a trend which has helped give rise to the “connected factory” and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) concepts that are proliferating throughout the industry today. Read more…

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Feb. 23, 2017)

February 23, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

HPE Server Shows Low Latency on STAC-N1 Test

February 22, 2017

The performance of trade and match servers can be a critical differentiator for financial trading houses. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Financial Update (Feb. 2017)

February 22, 2017

In this recurring feature, we’ll provide you with financial highlights from companies in the HPC industry. Check back in regularly for an updated list with the most pertinent fiscal information. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

Rethinking HPC Platforms for ‘Second Gen’ Applications

February 22, 2017

Just what constitutes HPC and how best to support it is a keen topic currently. Read more…

By John Russell

Thomas Sterling on CREST and Academia’s Role in HPC Research

February 27, 2017

The US advances in high performance computing over many decades have been a product of the combined engagement of research centers in industry, government labs, and academia. Read more…

By Thomas Sterling, Indiana University

Advancing Modular Supercomputing with DEEP and DEEP-ER Architectures

February 24, 2017

Knowing that the jump to exascale will require novel architectural approaches capable of delivering dramatic efficiency and performance gains, researchers around the world are hard at work on next-generation HPC systems. Read more…

By Sean Thielen

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDC: Will the Real Exascale Race Please Stand Up?

February 21, 2017

So the exascale race is on. And lots of organizations are in the pack. Government announcements from the US, China, India, Japan, and the EU indicate that they are working hard to make it happen – some sooner, some later. Read more…

By Bob Sorensen, IDC

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Drug Developers Use Google Cloud HPC in the Fight Against ALS

February 16, 2017

Within the haystack of a lethal disease such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis / Lou Gehrig’s Disease) there exists, somewhere, the needle that will pierce this therapy-resistant affliction. Read more…

By Doug Black

Azure Edges AWS in Linpack Benchmark Study

February 15, 2017

The “when will clouds be ready for HPC” question has ebbed and flowed for years. Read more…

By John Russell

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular offerings such as Caffe, Theano, and Torch. Read more…

By John Russell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell Knights Landing Machine Sets New STAC Records

November 2, 2016

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, commonly known as STAC, has released a new report characterizing the performance of the Knight Landing-based Dell PowerEdge C6320p server on the STAC-A2 benchmarking suite, widely used by the financial services industry to test and evaluate computing platforms. The Dell machine has set new records for both the baseline Greeks benchmark and the large Greeks benchmark. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

What Knights Landing Is Not

June 18, 2016

As we get ready to launch the newest member of the Intel Xeon Phi family, code named Knights Landing, it is natural that there be some questions and potentially some confusion. Read more…

By James Reinders, Intel

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