Fujitsu Launches M12 Servers; Emphasizes Commitment to SPARC

By John Russell

April 4, 2017

Delivering on their promised SPARC roadmap, Fujitsu and Oracle today introduced two new servers – the M12-2 and M12-2S – featuring the new SPARC64 XII chip announced last year and a new hybrid liquid/vapor cooling system. The new servers, says Fujitsu, “achieve the world’s highest per CPU core performance in arithmetic processing, offering dramatic improvements for a wide range of database workloads, from mission-critical systems on premises to big data processing in the cloud.”

A big part of the intended message here is that Fujitsu’s commitment to the SPARC ecosystem remains strong. “We feel this is a good empirical marker to show we are continuing to invest in the SPARC platform. This is not a softball product release. These are all significant advances and represent a lot of time and effort,” said Alex Lam, vice president and head of North America strategy.

Fujitsu, of course, is a major chip supplier and systems builder. The company notably jumped from the SPARC chip, which it used in building Japan’s K computer, to ARM for the post K computer now under development as part of Japan’s Flagship 2020 Project. The latter project has experienced delay which many observers attributed to challenges adapting the ARM architecture for supercomputing (see HPCwire article, Japan’s Post-K Computer Hits 1-2 Year Speed Bump). In any case, delivering on its SPARC roadmap may reassure the SPARC camp, including a large Oracle customer base, that Fujitsu isn’t planning to walk away from them.

Fujitsu M12 Servers

Akira Kabemoto, Fujitsu senior vice president, is quoted in the official release saying, “In addition to the Fujitsu SPARC M12, which is a result of close collaboration between Fujitsu and Oracle, Fujitsu will continue to develop cutting-edge technology that contributes to the creation of new value and supports customers in expanding their businesses.”

The M12-2 and M12-2S replace the M10 top-of-the-line servers and are aimed primarily at enterprise applications. That said, Fujitsu also sees opportunity for the new offerings in deep learning applications, according to Lam.

It’s probably worth noting that SPARC technology is not widely used in traditional HPC today.

“The HPC industry was at one point dominated by RISC processors, but x86 took over in the Beowulf cluster revolution. IBM POWER is the most noteworthy RISC processor still in the market, followed by SPARC systems from Fujitsu. Most of the original volume of SPARC came from Sun Microsystems, but Oracle (which acquired Sun) rarely sells HPC systems. With a new SPARC server, Fujitsu can continue to serve its existing customer base, but it is difficult to recapture market share from x86. IBM has at least addressed one major hurdle by making POWER “endian” compatible with x86 in data handling, which makes the migration easier,” noted Addison Snell, CEO, Intersect360 Research

Given the blurring of lines between traditional HPC and data-driven computing with deep learning as a centerpiece, perhaps SPARC may find room to grow amid a frothy landscape of alternative processors all seeking inroads.

Among improvements to the new servers are increased clock rates – 4.25 GHz in the M12-2S and 3.9GHz in the M12-2 – which contribute to performance gains of up to 2.5X over the M10 servers according to Lam. Combined with SPARC64’s flexible core activation the higher performance should allow reduced software licensing costs and time-to-solution. With core-level CPU activation, a minimum of just two processor cores must be activated initially. Core resources can be gradually expanded, as needed, in increments of a single core using activation keys. Benchmarks supporting Fujitsu’s “World’s highest performing core” claim are shown at the end of the article.

The M12-2S is positioned as a highly scalable platform while the M12-2S as a mid-range server. Both have core-based CPU activation, the hybrid cooling system, and Fujitsu’s Software-on-Chip instructions designed to enhance any applications such as encryption and data base acceleration Here’s a brief snapshot:

  • M12-2S. Up to 32 12-core, 4.25 GHz SPARC64 XII processors for a total of 384 cores and 3,072 threads. Main memory configurations range from 64 GB to 32 TB and support mixed DIMM capacities. Fujitsu says the M12-2S offers, “superior performance for mission-critical enterprise workloads and cloud computing. Employing proven Fujitsu supercomputer technology for highly parallel computing and an innovative cooling technology to achieve low latency access time between memory and CPU, the Fujitsu SPARC M12 servers can process large amounts of data in a short period of time.” Summary data sheet shown below.
  • M12-2. It is available in single- and dual-processor configurations that can scale to 24 cores and 192 threads. Flexible main memory configurations range from 64 GB to 2 TB and supporting mixed DIMM capacities. The server is a 4U form factor. Fujitsu says, “It is an ideal server for traditional enterprise-class workloads such as online transaction processing (OLTP), business intelligence and data warehousing (BIDW), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and customer relationship management (CRM), as well as new environments in cloud computing or big data processing.”

The enhanced M12 cooling system is called Vapor Liquid and Loop Cooling (or VLLC for short). It is twice as effective as the earlier liquid only system used on the M10. Think of the new system as a two chamber approach, explained Lam. The liquid flows through one, but a fraction is allowed to seep out into a second chamber where it vaporizes absorbing more heat before being returned to the main flow.

“The system’s liquid is essentially water, which is the same base liquid used in the M10. The difference in the M12 is the inclusion of a pressurized VLLC chamber which has a lower air pressure. So while water normally vaporizes at 100 degree Celsius (212 degree Fahrenheit), in the VLLC the water is able to vaporize at a much lower temperature (e.g., 50 degrees C) due to the lower air pressure,” said Lam.

“Water in the VLLC (M12) is vaporized by the heat of CPU because the air pressure in the VLLC chamber is low, whereas in the M10 there isn’t this pressurized chamber, hence the much higher boiling point of the liquid.” It a little hard to visualize but the result, said Lam, is a 2X efficiency improvement.

Both systems are available now. Pricing depends on the configuration. Lam said a base configuration of the M12-2 systems would be in the $35,000 range.

CPU Core Performance Benchmark

  • Comparison based on registered results per core in the SPECint_rate2006 and SPECfp_rate2006 benchmark tests.
  • SPECint_rate2006 performance results and measurement environment: Fujitsu SPARC M12-2S Performance result (peak): 102 per CPU core Measurement environment: SPARC64 XII (4.25GHz) x1 core, Oracle Solaris 11.3, Version 12.6 of Oracle Developer Studio
  • SPECfp_rate2006 performance results and measurement environment: Fujitsu SPARC M12-2S Performance result (peak): 102 per CPU core Measurement environment: SPARC64 XII (4.25GHz) x1 core, Oracle Solaris 11.3, Version 12.6 of Oracle Developer Studio
  • These performance results were submitted to SPEC (The Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation) on April 3, 2017.

Link to the Fujitsu press release:

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