Dell HPC Innovation Lab: Democratizing HPC

By Louis Vistola

March 20, 2017

The high performance computing requirements in many businesses are exploding. Across varied industries, the growing use of increasingly sophisticated simulation and modeling algorithms and big data analytics for smarter, faster decision-making are overwhelming IT infrastructures.

What many companies are finding is that they need compute, storage, and networking capabilities that are on a par with those commonly found in the largest academic supercomputing centers and government labs.

Unfortunately, there are many challenges in bringing this technology into the enterprise. This is something the Dell HPC Innovation Lab is trying to address.

HPC for Enterprise

While HPC has been critical to scientific research, Dell EMC is trying to mainstream its use to support enterprises of all sizes as they seek a competitive advantage in an ever increasing digital world.

The Dell EMC HPC Innovation Lab’s goal is to commercialize the benefits of advanced processing, network, and storage technologies, as well as enable open standards across the industry. “We want to make it simpler and easier to design and operate HPC systems,” said Onur Celebioglu, HPC Engineering Director at Dell.

To that end, the 13,000 square-foot facility (containing over 1000 servers of different form factors and generations) is a focal point for Dell EMC’s joint R&D activities with partners and system integrators, as well as with customers. Work focuses on research, development, and integration of HPC solutions. Dell EMC uses the HPC Innovation Lab to evaluate emerging HPC technologies and to find ways to incorporate them into Dell EMC solutions

Knowing that businesses must take economics into account when deploying HPC solutions, the Dell HPC Innovation Lab generates best practices to help customers get the biggest bang for the buck. The staff includes engineers with diverse technical backgrounds including computer science, mechanical engineering, and bioinformatics. “We are developing best practices and exploring how to get the most performance out of a system,” Celebioglu said. For instance, the lab is looking at things including how BIOS settings impact performance and can be adjusted to fine-tune system performance.

As part of the overall efforts, the Dell EMC HPC Innovation Lab builds optimized systems that simplify HPC system design process. And since every organization’s workloads can have very different characteristics, the lab does performance and scalability studies in collaboration with partners and customers.

Embracing the latest technology

Dell announced a new expansion of the Dell HPC Innovation Lab in cooperation with Intel specifically for support of the Intel® Scalable System Framework (SSF). This multi-million dollar expansion to the facility includes additional domain expertise, infrastructure, and technologists.

To evaluate the benefits and potential uses of the new Intel technologies, the lab hosts Dell’s Zenith supercomputer. Zenith is designed on Intel’s SSF and contains 13,824 cores using Intel Xeon E5-2697 v4 processors, 128 GB of memory per node, a non-blocking OmniPath Architecture (OPA) fabric, and 480 TB of Dell HPC NFS storage.

Dell uses Zenith to prototype and characterize the performance of advanced technologies for general HPC use and specifically for target vertical markets, such as genomics and manufacturing.

Applying derived knowledge to the real world

The work done at the lab permeates into the Dell HPC solutions. For example, earlier this year Dell announced the global availability of the Dell HPC Systems portfolio, a family of HPC and data analytics solutions, powered by Intel, that combine the flexibility of customized HPC systems with the speed, simplicity, and reliability of pre-configured systems. Dell engineers and domain experts designed and tuned the new systems for research, life sciences and manufacturing workloads with fully tested and validated building-block systems, backed by a single point of hardware support and service options across the solution lifecycle.

With simplified configuration and ordering, enterprise organizations can more quickly select and deploy Dell HPC Systems today. These systems include the latest Intel® Xeon® processor families, support for Intel OPA fabric, Dell HPC Lustre Storage, and Dell HPC NFS Storage solutions.

Furthermore, Dell EMC’s HPC Innovation Lab is involved with the design, development and performance analysis of Dell EMC’s newly announced PowerEdge C6320p server, based on the latest “Knights Landing” (code named “KNL”, now the 7200 series) generation of Intel Xeon Phi processors.

While Dell EMC has worked with the leading supercomputing centers for years, these recent announcements show how the work done in the HPC Innovation Lab is allowing companies to safely apply advanced computing technologies to commercial endeavors.


For more information about how the Dell HPC Innovation Lab can help your company meet it compute, storage, and networking requirements, visit:

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