Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

By John Russell

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD, Cray, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), IBM, Intel, and NVIDIA. The Department of Energy (DoE) will provide $258 million while the vendors must contribute at least 40 percent of the total costs bringing the total investment to at least $430 million. Under the recently accelerated ECP timetable, the U.S. expects to field one or two exascale machines in 2021 followed by others in the 2023 timeframe.

Few details about the specific technology projects being undertaken by the PathForward companies were revealed, nor was how the money will be divided among the vendors. Nevertheless the awards mark an important milestone in ECP efforts noted ECP director Paul Messina.

Speaking at a press pre-briefing yesterday, Messina said the PathForward investment was critical to moving hardware technology forward at an accelerated pace. “By that I mean beyond what the vendor or manufacture roadmaps currently have scheduled. [It also helps bridge] the gap between open ended architecture R&D and advanced product development as focused on the delivery of the first of a kind capable exascale systems,” said Messina.

The ECP program has many elements. PathForward awards are intended to drive the hardware technology research and development required for exascale. Applications and software technology development fall under different ECP programs and have a different budget. The actual procurement of the eventual exascale systems is also done differently and funded separately; the individual national labs and facilities which will house and operate the computers purchase their individual systems directly. It now seems likely the first two exascale computing sites will be Argonne National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory based on spikes in their facilities budget in the proposed FY 2018 DoE budget.

Much of today’s announcement and yesterday’s briefing had been expected. Messina did provide confirmation that Aurora, the planned successor to Mira supercomputer at Argonne National Laboratory, is likely to be pushed out or changed. “At present I believe that the Aurora system contract is being reviewed for potential changes that would result in a subsequent system in a time different timeframe from the original Aurora system. Since it’s just early negotiations I don’t think we can be any more specific that,” he said.

It would have been interesting to get a clearer sense of a few specific PathForward technology projects but none were discussed. Much of the work is predictably under NDA. Messina identified what are by now the familiar challenges facing the task of achieving exascale computing: massive parallelism, memory and storage, reliability, and energy consumption. “Specifically the work funded by PathForward has been strategically aligned to address those key challenges through development of innovative memory architectures, higher speed interconnect, improved reliability of systems, and approaches for increasing computer power and capability without prohibitive increases in energy demand,” he said.

Messina noted vendor progress in PathForward would be closely monitored: “Firms will be required to deliver final reports on the outcomes of their research but it’s very important to note this is a co-design effort with other [ECP] activities and we will be having frequent, formally scheduled intermediate reviews every few months. The funding for each of the vendors is based on specific work packages, and as each work package is delivered which would be an investigation on a particular aspect of the research. So it isn’t that we send the money and wait three years and get an answer.”

Messina also emphasized the labs (eventual systems owners) and the ECP app/software teams would be deeply involved in co-design and work product assessment. “Application developers and systems software developers, software library developers, for example, will participate in those evaluations,” he said.

All of the vendors emphasized expectations to incorporate results of their exascale research into their commercial offerings. William Dally, chief scientist and SVP of research at NVIDIA noted this is NVIDIA’s the sixth DoE R&D contract and that previous research contracts led to major innovations, “such as energy efficient circuits and the NVLink interconnect being incorporated into our Maxwell, Pascal, and Volta GPUs.”

In the official DoE release, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry is quoted, “Continued U.S. leadership in high performance computing is essential to our security, prosperity, and economic competitiveness as a nation,” said Secretary Perry. “These awards will enable leading U.S. technology firms to marshal their formidable skills, expertise, and resources in the global race for the next stage in supercomputing—exascale-capable systems.”

It does seem as if increasing tension in the international community is firing up regional and national competitive zeal in pursuit of exascale. Here’s an excerpt from today’s official release:

“Exascale systems will be at least 50 times faster than the nation’s most powerful computers today, and global competition for this technological dominance is fierce. While the U.S. has five of the 10 fastest computers in the world, its most powerful — the Titan system at Oak Ridge National Laboratory — ranks third behind two systems in China. However, the U.S. retains global leadership in the actual application of high performance computing to national security, industry, and science.”

Pressed on how the U.S. stacked up against internationals rivals, particularly China, in the race to exascale, Messina said, “Our current plan is to have delivery of at least one, not necessarily one, in 2021. I would not characterize that as to catch up with China. We do know of course that China has indicated they plan to have at least one exascale system in 2020 but we, for example, do not know whether that system will be a peak exaflops system versus what we are planning to deliver. A concise answer [to your question is we plan to deliver], at least one system in 2021 and another if not in 2021, then in 2022.”

See HPCwire article for a broader overview of the ECP, Messina Update: The US Path to Exascale in 16 slides.

The six selected PathForward vendors all seek to leverage their various expertise and ongoing R&D efforts. Senior executives and research staff from each company participated in yesterday’s briefing but very few specific details were offered, perhaps understandably so. Here are snippets from their comments.

  • AMD. “Exascale is important because it pushes industry to innovate more and faster. While the focus of the PathForward program is on HPC the benefits are applicable across a wide range of computing platforms and cloud services as well as computational domains such as machine learning and data science,” said Alan Lee, corporate VP for research and advanced development. He positioned AMD as the only company with both x86 and GPU offerings and expertise in melding the two.
  • Cray. “We care very little about peak performance. We are committed to delivering sustained performance on real workloads,” said Steve Scott, SVP and chief technology officer. Cray intends to explore new advances in node-level and system-level technologies and architectures for exascale systems. “[We’ll focus] on building systems that are highly flexible and upgradeable over time in order to take advantage of various [emerging] processor and storage technology.”
  • HPE. HPE plans to leverage its several years of R&D into memory driven computing technologies – think The Machine project. “PathForward will significantly accelerate the pace of our development and allow us to leverage activities and investments such as The Machine. [W]e will accelerate R&D into areas such as silicon photonics, balanced systems architecture, and software [for example],” said Mike Vildibill, VP, advanced technologies, exascale development & federal R&D programs.
  • IBM. “[We believe] future computing is going to be very data centric and we are focused very much on building solutions that allow complex analytics and modeling and simulation to actually be used on very large data sets. We see the major technical challenges to an exascale design to be power efficiency, reliability, scalability, and programmability and we feel very strongly those challenges need to be addressed in the context of a full system design effort,” said Jim Sexton, IBM Fellow and director of data centric systems, IBM Research.
  • Intel. “Exascale from Intel’s perspective is not only about high performance computing. It’s also about artificial intelligence and data analytics. We think these three are all part of the solution and need to be encompassed. So HPC is continuing to grow. It’s really established itself as one of the three pillars of scientific discovery, along with theory and experiment. AI is quickly growing and probably the fastest growing segment of computing as we find ways to efficiently use data to find relationships to make accurate predictions,” said Al Gara, Intel Fellow, data center group chief architect, exascale systems. He singles out managing and reducing power consumption as one area Intel will work on.
  • NIVDIA. “This contract will focus on critical areas including energy efficiency, GPU architectures and resilience, and our finding will certainly be incorporating to future generations of GPUs after the Volta generation,” said Dally, Ph.D. “It also allows us to focus on improving the resilience of our GPUs which allows them to be applied at greater scale than in the past.”

At least for the moment, the expectation is work done during this PathForward contract will be sufficient to support ECP. Messina said, “At present, we are not [planning a second PathForward RFP for the 2021 systems.]” in response to a question.

Link to DoE press release: https://exascaleproject.org/path-nations-first-exascale-supercomputers-pathforward/

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!

Nvidia Rolls Out Certified Server Program Targeting AI Applications

January 26, 2021

Nvidia today launched a certified systems program in which participating vendors can offer Nvidia-certified servers with up to eight A100 GPUs. Separate support contracts directly from Nvidia for the certified systems ar Read more…

By John Russell

XSEDE Supercomputers Square Off Against Ebola

January 26, 2021

COVID-19 may have dominated headlines and occupied much of the world’s scientific computing capacity over the last year, but many researchers continued their work to keep other deadly viruses at bay. One of those, Ebol Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

What’s New in HPC Research: Galaxies, Fugaku, Electron Microscopes & More

January 25, 2021

In this regular feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Red Hat’s Disruption of CentOS Unleashes Storm of Dissent

January 22, 2021

Five weeks after angering much of the CentOS Linux developer community by unveiling controversial changes to the no-cost CentOS operating system, Red Hat has unveiled alternatives for affected users that give them severa Read more…

By Todd R. Weiss

China Unveils First 7nm Chip: Big Island

January 22, 2021

Shanghai Tianshu Zhaoxin Semiconductor Co. is claiming China’s first 7-nanometer chip, described as a leading-edge, general-purpose cloud computing chip based on a proprietary GPU architecture. Dubbed “Big Island Read more…

By George Leopold

AWS Solution Channel

Fire Dynamics Simulation CFD workflow on AWS

Modeling fires is key for many industries, from the design of new buildings, defining evacuation procedures for trains, planes and ships, and even the spread of wildfires. Read more…

HiPEAC Keynote: In-Memory Computing Steps Closer to Practical Reality

January 21, 2021

Pursuit of in-memory computing has long been an active area with recent progress showing promise. Just how in-memory computing works, how close it is to practical application, and what are some of the key opportunities a Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Rolls Out Certified Server Program Targeting AI Applications

January 26, 2021

Nvidia today launched a certified systems program in which participating vendors can offer Nvidia-certified servers with up to eight A100 GPUs. Separate support Read more…

By John Russell

Red Hat’s Disruption of CentOS Unleashes Storm of Dissent

January 22, 2021

Five weeks after angering much of the CentOS Linux developer community by unveiling controversial changes to the no-cost CentOS operating system, Red Hat has un Read more…

By Todd R. Weiss

HiPEAC Keynote: In-Memory Computing Steps Closer to Practical Reality

January 21, 2021

Pursuit of in-memory computing has long been an active area with recent progress showing promise. Just how in-memory computing works, how close it is to practic Read more…

By John Russell

HiPEAC’s Vision for a New Cyber Era, a ‘Continuum of Computing’

January 21, 2021

Earlier this week (Jan. 19), HiPEAC — the European Network on High Performance and Embedded Architecture and Compilation — published the 8th edition of the HiPEAC Vision, detailing an increasingly interconnected computing landscape where complex tasks are carried out across multiple... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Saudi Aramco Unveils Dammam 7, Its New Top Ten Supercomputer

January 21, 2021

By revenue, oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco is one of the largest companies in the world, and it has historically employed commensurate amounts of supercomputing Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

President-elect Biden Taps Eric Lander and Deep Team on Science Policy

January 19, 2021

Last Friday U.S. President-elect Joe Biden named The Broad Institute founding director and president Eric Lander as his science advisor and as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Lander, 63, is a mathematician by training and distinguished life sciences... Read more…

By John Russell

Pat Gelsinger Returns to Intel as CEO

January 14, 2021

The Intel board of directors has appointed a new CEO. Intel alum Pat Gelsinger is leaving his post as CEO of VMware to rejoin the company that he parted ways with 11 years ago. Gelsinger will succeed Bob Swan, who will remain CEO until Feb. 15. Gelsinger previously spent 30 years... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from Julialang.org. I Read more…

By John Russell

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from Julialang.org. I Read more…

By John Russell

Esperanto Unveils ML Chip with Nearly 1,100 RISC-V Cores

December 8, 2020

At the RISC-V Summit today, Art Swift, CEO of Esperanto Technologies, announced a new, RISC-V based chip aimed at machine learning and containing nearly 1,100 low-power cores based on the open-source RISC-V architecture. Esperanto Technologies, headquartered in... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Azure Scaled to Record 86,400 Cores for Molecular Dynamics

November 20, 2020

A new record for HPC scaling on the public cloud has been achieved on Microsoft Azure. Led by Dr. Jer-Ming Chia, the cloud provider partnered with the Beckman I Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

NICS Unleashes ‘Kraken’ Supercomputer

April 4, 2008

A Cray XT4 supercomputer, dubbed Kraken, is scheduled to come online in mid-summer at the National Institute for Computational Sciences (NICS). The soon-to-be petascale system, and the resulting NICS organization, are the result of an NSF Track II award of $65 million to the University of Tennessee and its partners to provide next-generation supercomputing for the nation's science community. Read more…

Is the Nvidia A100 GPU Performance Worth a Hardware Upgrade?

October 16, 2020

Over the last decade, accelerators have seen an increasing rate of adoption in high-performance computing (HPC) platforms, and in the June 2020 Top500 list, eig Read more…

By Hartwig Anzt, Ahmad Abdelfattah and Jack Dongarra

Aurora’s Troubles Move Frontier into Pole Exascale Position

October 1, 2020

Intel’s 7nm node delay has raised questions about the status of the Aurora supercomputer that was scheduled to be stood up at Argonne National Laboratory next year. Aurora was in the running to be the United States’ first exascale supercomputer although it was on a contemporaneous timeline with... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

Programming the Soon-to-Be World’s Fastest Supercomputer, Frontier

January 5, 2021

What’s it like designing an app for the world’s fastest supercomputer, set to come online in the United States in 2021? The University of Delaware’s Sunita Chandrasekaran is leading an elite international team in just that task. Chandrasekaran, assistant professor of computer and information sciences, recently was named... Read more…

By Tracey Bryant

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Top500: Fugaku Keeps Crown, Nvidia’s Selene Climbs to #5

November 16, 2020

With the publication of the 56th Top500 list today from SC20's virtual proceedings, Japan's Fugaku supercomputer – now fully deployed – notches another win, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Texas A&M Announces Flagship ‘Grace’ Supercomputer

November 9, 2020

Texas A&M University has announced its next flagship system: Grace. The new supercomputer, named for legendary programming pioneer Grace Hopper, is replacing the Ada system (itself named for mathematician Ada Lovelace) as the primary workhorse for Texas A&M’s High Performance Research Computing (HPRC). Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

At Oak Ridge, ‘End of Life’ Sometimes Isn’t

October 31, 2020

Sometimes, the old dog actually does go live on a farm. HPC systems are often cursed with short lifespans, as they are continually supplanted by the latest and Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Gordon Bell Special Prize Goes to Massive SARS-CoV-2 Simulations

November 19, 2020

2020 has proven a harrowing year – but it has produced remarkable heroes. To that end, this year, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) introduced the Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia and EuroHPC Team for Four Supercomputers, Including Massive ‘Leonardo’ System

October 15, 2020

The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU) serves as Europe’s concerted supercomputing play, currently comprising 32 member states and billions of euros in funding. I Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Intel Xe-HP GPU Deployed for Aurora Exascale Development

November 17, 2020

At SC20, Intel announced that it is making its Xe-HP high performance discrete GPUs available to early access developers. Notably, the new chips have been deplo Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia-Arm Deal a Boon for RISC-V?

October 26, 2020

The $40 billion blockbuster acquisition deal that will bring chipmaker Arm into the Nvidia corporate family could provide a boost for the competing RISC-V architecture. As regulators in the U.S., China and the European Union begin scrutinizing the impact of the blockbuster deal on semiconductor industry competition and innovation, the deal has at the very least... Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE, AMD and EuroHPC Partner for Pre-Exascale LUMI Supercomputer

October 21, 2020

Not even a week after Nvidia announced that it would be providing hardware for the first four of the eight planned EuroHPC systems, HPE and AMD are announcing a Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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