HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

By Tiffany Trader

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its assets. A letter from the company with a listing of assets is included at the end of the article.

PathScale represents one of handful of compiler technologies that are designed for high performance computing, and it is one the last independent HPC compiler companies. In an interview with HPCwire, PathScale Chief Technology Officer and owner Christopher Bergström attributes the company’s financial insolvency to its heavy involvement in Intel alternative architectures.

“Unfortunately in recent years, we bet big on ARMv8 and the partner ecosystem and the hardware has been extremely disappointing,” said Bergström. “Once partners saw how low their hardware performed on HPC workloads they decided to pull back on their investment in HPC software.”

Due to confidentiality agreements, he’s limited to speaking in generalities but argues that the currently available ARMv8 processors deliver very weak performance for HPC workloads.

“ARM is possibly aware of this issue and as a result has introduced SVE (Scalable Vector Extensions),” Bergström told us. “Unfortunately, they focused more on the portability side of vectorization and the jury is still out if they can deliver competitive performance. SVE’s flexible design and freedom to change vector width on the fly will possibly impact the ability to write code tuned specifically for a target processor. In addition, design of the hardware architecture blocks software optimizations that are very common and potentially critical for HPC. And based on the publicly available roadmaps, the floating point to power ratio is not where it needs to be for HPC workloads in order to effectively compete against Intel or GPUs.”

Before coming to these conclusions, PathScale had a statement of work contract with Cavium to help support optimizing compilers for their ThunderX processors. When that funding was pulled, PathScale also lost their ability to gain and support customers for ARMv8. They looked for funders, and had conversations with stakeholders in the private and public sphere, but the money just wasn’t available.

“Show me a company in the HPC space wanting to invest,” said Bergström, “They’re not investing in compiler technology.”

ARM, which was scooped up by Japanese company SoftBank in September 2016 for $31 billion, may be the exception, but according to Bergström the PathScale technology, while it significantly leverages LLVM, doesn’t perfectly align with what they need.

Bergström brokered the deal with Cray that resurrected PathScale from the ashes of SiCortex in 2009 (more on this below) and he’s proud of what he and his team have accomplished over the last seven years. “We love compilers, we love the technology. We want to continue developing this stuff. The team is rock solid, we’re like family. We live eat and breathe compilers, but we’re not on a sustainable business path and we need a bailout or help refocusing. We need people who understand that these kind of technologies add value and LLVM by itself isn’t a panacea.”

Addison Snell, CEO of HPC analyst firm Intersect360 Research, shared some additional perspective on the market dynamics at play for independent tools vendors. “In the Beowulf era, clusters were all mostly the same, so what little differentiation there was came from things like development environments and job management software,” he said. “Independent middleware companies of all types flourished. Now we’re trending back toward an era of architectural specialization. Users are shopping for architectures more than they’re shopping for which compiler to use for a given architecture, and acquisitions have locked up some of the previously dominant players. Vendors’ solutions will have their own integrated stacks. Free open-source versions might still exist, but there will be less room for independent middleware players.”

PathScale has a winding history that dates back to 2001 with the founding of Key Research by Lawrence Livermore alum Tom McWilliams. The company was riding the commodity cluster wave, developing clustered Linux server solutions based on a low-cost 64-bit design. In 2003, contemporaneous with the rising popularity of AMD Opteron processors, Key Research rebranded as PathScale and expanded its product line to include high-performance computing adapters and 64-bit compilers.

PathScale would then pass through a number of corporate hands. In 2006, QLogic acquired PathScale, primarily to gain access to its InfiniBand interconnect technology. The following year, the compiler assets were sold to SiCortex, which sought a solution for its MIPS-based HPC systems.

When SiCortex closed its doors in 2009, Cray bought the PathScale assets and revived the company. Under an arrangement struck with Cray, PathScale would go forward as an independent technology group with an option to buy. In March 2012, PathScale CTO Christopher Bergström acquired all assets and became the sole owner of PathScale Inc.

The PathScale toolchain currently generates code for the latest Intel processors, AMD64, AMD GPUs, Power8, ARMv8, and NVIDIA GPUs in combination with both Power8 and x86.

In a message to the community, Pathscale writes:

We are evaluating all options to overcome this difficult time, including refocusing to provide training and code porting services instead of purely offering compiler licenses and optimization services. Our team deeply understands parallel programming and whether you have crazy C++ or ancient Fortran, we can likely help get it running on GPUs (NVIDIA or AMD) or vectorization targets (like Xeon Phi).

All PathScale engineers would love to continue to work on the compiler as an independent company, but we need the community to help us. We need people who believe in our technical roadmap. We need people who understand the future exascale computing software stack will likely be complex, but that complexity and advanced optimizations will make it easier for end users. At the same time we must be realistic and without immediate assistance start accepting any reasonable offer on the assets as a whole or piece by piece.

Our assets include:

  • PathScale website, trademarks and branding

  • C, C++ and Fortran compilers

  • Complete GPGPU and many-core runtime which supports OMP4 and OpenACC and is portable across multiple architectures (NVIDIA GPU, ARMv8, Power8+NVIDIA and AMD GPU)

  • Significant modifications to CLANG and LLVM to enable support for OpenACC and OpenMP and parallel programming models.

  • Complete engineering team with expertise working on CLANG and LLVM and MIPSPro.

  • Advertising credits with popular websites ($30,000)

A purchase or funding from crowdsourcing or other community event will keep a highly optimizing OpenMP and OpenACC C/C++ and Fortran compiler toolchain plus experienced development team in operation. Succinctly, PathScale preserves architectural diversity and opens the door for competition with a performant compiler for interesting architectures with OpenMP and OpenACC parallelization.

If interested please contact [email protected].


Editor’s note: HPCwire has reached out to Cavium and ARM and we will update the article with any responses we receive.

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!

Democratization of HPC Part 3: Ninth Graders Tap HPC in the Cloud to Design Flying Boats

October 18, 2018

This is the third in a series of articles demonstrating the growing acceptance of high-performance computing (HPC) in new user communities and application areas. In this article we present UberCloud use case #208 on how Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch and Håkon Bull Hove

Penguin Computing Launches Consultancy for Piecing AI Strategies Together

October 18, 2018

AI stands before the HPC industry as a beacon of great expectations, yet market research repeatedly shows that AI adoption is commonly stuck in the talking phase, on the near side of a difficult chasm to cross. In respon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

When Water Quality—Not Quantity—Hinders HPC Cooling

October 18, 2018

Attention has been paid to the sheer quantity of water consumed by supercomputers’ cooling towers – and rightly so, as they can require thousands of gallons per minute to cool. But in the background, another factor can emerge, bottlenecking efficiency and raising costs: water quality. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

One Small Step Toward Mars: One Giant Leap for Supercomputing

Since the days of the Space Race between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, we have continually sought ways to perform experiments in space. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Paper Offers ‘Proof’ of Quantum Advantage on Some Problems

October 18, 2018

Is quantum computing worth all the effort being poured into it or should we just wait for classical computing to catch up? An IBM blog today posed those questions and, you won’t be surprised, offers a firm “it’s wo Read more…

By John Russell

Penguin Computing Launches Consultancy for Piecing AI Strategies Together

October 18, 2018

AI stands before the HPC industry as a beacon of great expectations, yet market research repeatedly shows that AI adoption is commonly stuck in the talking phas Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

When Water Quality—Not Quantity—Hinders HPC Cooling

October 18, 2018

Attention has been paid to the sheer quantity of water consumed by supercomputers’ cooling towers – and rightly so, as they can require thousands of gallons per minute to cool. But in the background, another factor can emerge, bottlenecking efficiency and raising costs: water quality. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Paper Offers ‘Proof’ of Quantum Advantage on Some Problems

October 18, 2018

Is quantum computing worth all the effort being poured into it or should we just wait for classical computing to catch up? An IBM blog today posed those questio Read more…

By John Russell

Dell EMC to Supply U Michigan’s Great Lakes Cluster

October 16, 2018

The University of Michigan (U-M) today announced Dell EMC is the lead vendor for U-M’s $4.8 million Great Lakes HPC cluster scheduled for deployment in first Read more…

By John Russell

Houston to Field Massive, ‘Geophysically Configured’ Cloud Supercomputer

October 11, 2018

Based on some news stories out today, one might get the impression that the next system to crack number one on the Top500 would be an industrial oil and gas mon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Platform Pushes GPUs into Machine Learning, High Performance Data Analytics

October 10, 2018

GPU leader Nvidia, generally associated with deep learning, autonomous vehicles and other higher-end enterprise and scientific workloads (and gaming, of course) Read more…

By Doug Black

Federal Investment in Exascale – What It Really Means

October 10, 2018

Earlier this month, the EuroHPC JU (Joint Undertaking) reached critical mass, and it seems all EU and affiliated member states, bar the UK (unsurprisingly), have or will sign on. The EuroHPC JU was born from a recognition that individual EU member states, and the EU as a whole, were significantly underinvesting in HPC compared to the US, China and Japan, who all have their own exascale investment and delivery strategies (NSCI, 13th 5 Year Plan, Post-K, etc). Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

NERSC-9 Clues Found in NERSC 2017 Annual Report

October 8, 2018

If you’re eager to find out who’ll supply NERSC’s next-gen supercomputer, codenamed NERSC-9, here’s a project update to tide you over until the winning bid and system details are revealed. The upcoming system is referenced several times in the recently published 2017 NERSC annual report. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TACC Wins Next NSF-funded Major Supercomputer

July 30, 2018

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has won the next NSF-funded big supercomputer beating out rivals including the National Center for Supercomputing Ap Read more…

By John Russell

IBM at Hot Chips: What’s Next for Power

August 23, 2018

With processor, memory and networking technologies all racing to fill in for an ailing Moore’s law, the era of the heterogeneous datacenter is well underway, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Requiem for a Phi: Knights Landing Discontinued

July 25, 2018

On Monday, Intel made public its end of life strategy for the Knights Landing "KNL" Phi product set. The announcement makes official what has already been wide Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

By John Russell

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

Leading Solution Providers

HPC on Wall Street 2018 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Arista

Dell EMC

IBM

Intel

RStor

VMWare

TACC’s ‘Frontera’ Supercomputer Expands Horizon for Extreme-Scale Science

August 29, 2018

The National Science Foundation and the Texas Advanced Computing Center announced today that a new system, called Frontera, will overtake Stampede 2 as the fast Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE No. 1, IBM Surges, in ‘Bucking Bronco’ High Performance Server Market

September 27, 2018

Riding healthy U.S. and global economies, strong demand for AI-capable hardware and other tailwind trends, the high performance computing server market jumped 28 percent in the second quarter 2018 to $3.7 billion, up from $2.9 billion for the same period last year, according to industry analyst firm Hyperion Research. Read more…

By Doug Black

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GPUs Power Five of World’s Top Seven Supercomputers

June 25, 2018

The top 10 echelon of the newly minted Top500 list boasts three powerful new systems with one common engine: the Nvidia Volta V100 general-purpose graphics proc Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Germany Celebrates Launch of Two Fastest Supercomputers

September 26, 2018

The new high-performance computer SuperMUC-NG at the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Garching is the fastest computer in Germany and one of the fastest i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

Aerodynamic Simulation Reveals Best Position in a Peloton of Cyclists

July 5, 2018

Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and KU Leuven research group conducts the largest numerical simulation ever done in the sport industry and cycling discipline. The goal was to understand the aerodynamic interactions in the peloton, i.e., the main pack of cyclists in a race. Read more…

Houston to Field Massive, ‘Geophysically Configured’ Cloud Supercomputer

October 11, 2018

Based on some news stories out today, one might get the impression that the next system to crack number one on the Top500 would be an industrial oil and gas mon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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