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!

Researchers Scale COSMO Climate Code to 4888 GPUs on Piz Daint

October 17, 2017

Effective global climate simulation, sorely needed to anticipate and cope with global warming, has long been computationally challenging. Two of the major obstacles are the needed resolution and prolonged time to compute Read more…

By John Russell

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Cluster Competition coverage has come to its natural home: H Read more…

By Dan Olds

UCSD Web-based Tool Tracking CA Wildfires Generates 1.5M Views

October 16, 2017

Tracking the wildfires raging in northern CA is an unpleasant but necessary part of guiding efforts to fight the fires and safely evacuate affected residents. One such tool – Firemap – is a web-based tool developed b Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Transforming Genomic Analytics with HPC-Accelerated Insights

Advancements in the field of genomics are revolutionizing our understanding of human biology, rapidly accelerating the discovery and treatment of genetic diseases, and dramatically improving human health. Read more…

Exascale Imperative: New Movie from HPE Makes a Compelling Case

October 13, 2017

Why is pursuing exascale computing so important? In a new video – Hewlett Packard Enterprise: Eighteen Zeros – four HPE executives, a prominent national lab HPC researcher, and HPCwire managing editor Tiffany Trader Read more…

By John Russell

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Read more…

By Dan Olds

Intel Delivers 17-Qubit Quantum Chip to European Research Partner

October 10, 2017

On Tuesday, Intel delivered a 17-qubit superconducting test chip to research partner QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The announcement marks a major milestone in the 10-year, $50-million collaborative relationship with TU Delft and TNO, the Dutch Organization for Applied Research, to accelerate advancements in quantum computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fujitsu Tapped to Build 37-Petaflops ABCI System for AIST

October 10, 2017

Fujitsu announced today it will build the long-planned AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI) which is set to become the fastest supercomputer system in Japan Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Intel Debuts Programmable Acceleration Card

October 5, 2017

With a view toward supporting complex, data-intensive applications, such as AI inference, video streaming analytics, database acceleration and genomics, Intel i Read more…

By Doug Black

OLCF’s 200 Petaflops Summit Machine Still Slated for 2018 Start-up

October 3, 2017

The Department of Energy’s planned 200 petaflops Summit computer, which is currently being installed at Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, is on track t Read more…

By John Russell

US Exascale Program – Some Additional Clarity

September 28, 2017

The last time we left the Department of Energy’s exascale computing program in July, things were looking very positive. Both the U.S. House and Senate had pas Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Intel, NERSC and University Partners Launch New Big Data Center

August 17, 2017

A collaboration between the Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), Intel and five Intel Parallel Computing Cente Read more…

By Linda Barney

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This