As deputy chair of Industrial Day at ISC next week, my goal is to help bring clarity to the key opportunities and challenges afforded by HPC-scale technologies, including the specific barriers commercial companies are likely to encounter as they deploy new solutions or upgrade existing ones.
Our Industrial Day agenda will focus on choosing infrastructure products and services that provide higher ROI and greater flexibility, and on deploying practical solutions that help maximize innovation potential, increase market share and support new business models.
Industrial HPC users can be grouped into two categories: those who operate their own data centres and those who buy or access on-demand HPC resources. At this first iteration of Industrial Day, we’ll be focusing mostly on the first category, the on-prem data centre, which has been increasing steadily over the last 30 years.
Fifty percent of systems on the TOP500 list are now deployed in corporations, including four systems in the TOP50 and 10 in the TOP100. Many of them are based in Europe, owned and operated by leaders in energy and power, aeronautics, automotive, telecommunications, finance and other industries. Notable high-end users include Airbus, BMW, and Total, which now operates the world’s largest HPC system in the private sector.
Industrial Day will focus on recent developments in the European HPC community that are of interest to commercial organizations and that we believe will have a cascading effect on future solutions and usage models. Topics will include: how to qualify exascale performance, infrastructure selection, and the development of high performance data analytics (HPDA) use cases.
The Benefits of Exascale Performance
Complex, fundamental research in areas such as fusion, material science and quantum chromodynamics continue to move high performance computing to higher scale. However, the growing number of industrial users have different decision criteria and often operate at smaller scales. If many of the top-end solutions and lessons learned offer value for commercial users, other advances also are laying the foundation for future innovation that should be considered when evaluating options.
At Industrial Day, we’ll have experts speak in detail about the benefits exascale computing will provide for aircraft design and for complex multi-disciplinary simulations. We’ll also be talking about the software challenges of exascale computing, and the great value offered by projects such as EXA2CT, which is boot strapping exascale code enhancement by creating libraries and proto-applications of direct interest to industrial users: examples include fast Fourier transforms, linear algebra functions, and other core computations.
ISC will provide many additional opportunities to interact with experts breaking new ground in exascale computing. A great deal of collaborative research is underway in European HPC community. environments.
Selecting and Scaling Infrastructure, Services and Software
Universities and research organizations have extensive experience in procuring, connecting, and sharing HPC resources, and they tend to be among the earliest evaluators and adopters of new technology. Many are contributing to advances in HPC system software, virtualization and cloud computing that are redefining how HPC resources are deployed. For Intel, as for other technology vendors introducing new options at every layer of the solution stack — compute, memory, storage, fabric, and software — the experience and insights of these organizations can be invaluable.
Examples include the DEEP and DEEP-ER projects at the Jülich Supercomputing Centre, focused on creating an innovative HPC system architecture that distributes workloads across a standard HPC cluster and a highly-parallel booster system using an MPI-like software layer. Other projects we run in collaboration with our partners include high-density compute options—such as Intel Xeon Phi processors and FPGAs—into mainstream usage.
At Industrial Day, we’ll take a practical look at how these processes are being handled and how to balance requirements and suppliers to achieve higher value, higher reliability, conquer new market segments while containing costs. We’ll also talk about innovations in software extending the value of simulation-based design to other areas of the enterprise, such as innovation for new materials management, product design or service offering. Using design models to generate high-definition 3D images, for example, can be a useful tool for attracting customers earlier in the product design lifecycle.
Evaluating High Performance Data Analytics (HPDA)
HPC and big data analytics have evolved in relative isolation, but they are coming together quickly and have enormous potential for extracting actionable insights from rich and complex data sets. A great deal of research is focused on these areas, and high-value use cases are beginning to appear. HPC brings speed and scale to deep neural network training and other machine learning strategies that become progressively smarter on their own. HPDA opens the door to real-time and near-real time solutions that that can radically improve critical decision making in data-rich industrial environments.
Industrial Day will focus on examples in railway traffic control, IoT data analysis, and product performance lifecycle management. Industrial HPC users will gain a better understanding of machine learning and other HPDA technologies and better insight into the kinds of resources required for practical solutions that combine HPC best practices for operating very large systems with the latest advances in data analytics.
Jumpstarting a Two-Way Conversation
Investment in HPC has never been higher and Europe is an important locus for R&D, with a high density of universities and research organizations collaborating on large projects. The EU is fueling innovation with investments of €700M by the end of the decade. Programs such as Horizon 2020 and platforms such as the European Technology Platform for HPC (ETP4HPC) bring EU decision makers together with HPC leaders to refine the agenda and keep R&D efforts on track.
The breadth and depth of this activity makes ISC High Performance 2017 an important event for HPC users. As deputy chair of Industrial Day, I’ll be leading an HPC user round table to discuss the opportunities and challenges that are most relevant to industrial users. Next year, I’ll be Industrial Day chair, and I’ll be using that information — and the feedback we receive — to extend and focus the agenda for Industrial Day at ISC High Performance 2018, so we can provide a richer exchange platform for industrial users.
 Source. “Europe Towards Exascale: A Lookback on 5 Years of European Exascale Research Collaboration,” produced by European Exascale Projects, June 2016. http://exascale-projects.eu/EuroExaFinalBrochure_v1.0.pdf
Dr. Marie-Christine Sawley is the Intel manager of the ECR lab in Paris, HTC collaboration with CERN and code modernization with BSC, and manages Intel’s participation in the EXA2CT and READEX projects funded by the European Union.