Data Vortex Users Contemplate the Future of Supercomputing

By Tiffany Trader

October 19, 2017

Last month (Sept. 11-12), HPC networking company Data Vortex held its inaugural users group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) bringing together about 30 participants from industry, government and academia to share their experiences with Data Vortex machines and have a larger conversation about transformational computer science and what future computers are going to look like.

Coke Reed and John Johnson with PEPSY at PNNL

The meeting opened with Data Vortex Founder and Chairman Dr. Coke Reed describing the “Spirit of Data Vortex,” the self-routing congestion-free computing network that he invented. Reed’s talk was followed by a series of tutorials and sessions related to programming, software, and architectural decisions for the Data Vortex. A lively panel discussion got everyone thinking about the limits of current computing and the exciting potential of revolutionary approaches. Day two included presentations from the user community on the real science being conducted on Data Vortex computers. Beowulf cluster inventor Thomas Sterling gave the closing keynote, tracing the history of computer science all the way back from antiquity up to current times.

“This is a new technology but it’s mostly from my perspective an opportunity to start rethinking from the ground up and move a little bit from the evolutionary to the revolutionary aspect,” shared user meeting host PNNL research scientist Roberto Gioiosa in an interview with HPCwire. “It’s an opportunity to start doing something different and working on how you design your algorithm, run your programs. The idea that it’s okay to do something revolutionary is an important driver and it makes people start thinking differently.”

Roberto Gioiosa with JOLT at PNNL

“You had that technical exchange that you’d typically see in a user group,” added John Johnson, PNNL’s deputy director for the computing division. “But since we’re looking at a transformational technology, it provided the opportunity for folks to step back and look at computing at a broader level. There was a lot of discussion about how we’re reaching the end of Moore’s law and what’s beyond Moore’s computing – the kind of technologies we are trying to focus on, the transformational computer science. The discussion actually was in some sense, do we need to rethink the entire computing paradigm? When you have new technologies that do things in a very very different way and are very successful in doing that, does that give you the opportunity to start rethinking not just the network, but rethinking the processor, rethinking the memory, rethinking input and output and also rethinking how those are integrated as well?”

The heart of the Data Vortex supercomputer is the Data Vortex interconnection network, designed for both traditional HPC and emerging irregular and data analytics workloads. Consisting of a congestion-free, high-radix network switch and a Vortex Interconnection Controller (VIC) installed on commodity compute nodes, the Data Vortex network enables the transfer of fine-grained network packets at a high injection rate.

The approach stands in contrast to existing crossbar-based networks. Reed explained, “The crossbar switch is set with software and as the switches grow in size and clock-rate, that’s what forces packets to be so long. We have a self-routing network. There is no software management system of the network and that’s how we’re able to have packets with 64-bit headers and 64-bit payloads. Our next-gen machine will have different networks to carry different sized packets. It’s kind of complicated really but it’s really beautiful. We believe we will be a very attractive network choice for exascale.”

Data Vortex is targeting all problems that require either massive data movement, short packet movement or non-deterministic data movement — examples include sparse linear algebra, big data analytics, branching algorithms and fast fourier transforms.

The inspiration for the Data Vortex Network came to Dr. Reed in 1976. That was the year that he and Polish mathematician Dr. Krystyna Kuperberg solved Problem 110 posed by Dr. Stanislaw Ulam in the Scottish Book. The idea of Data Vortex as a data carrying, dynamical system was born and now there are more than 30 patents on the technology.

Data Vortex debuted its demonstration system, KARMA, at SC13 in Denver. A year later, the Data Vortex team publicly launched DV206 during the Supercomputing 2014 conference in New Orleans. Not long after, PNNL purchased its first Data Vortex system and named it PEPSY in honor of Coke Reed and as a nod to Python scientific libraries. In 2016, CENATE — PNNL’s proving ground for measuring, analyzing and testing new architectures — took delivery of another Data Vortex machine, which they named JOLT. In August 2017, CENATE received its second machine (PNNL’s third), MOUNTAIN DAO.

MOUNTAIN DAO is comprised of sixteen compute nodes (2 Supermicro F627R3-FTPT+ FatTwin Chassis with 4 servers each), each containing two Data Vortex interface cards (VICs), and 2 Data Vortex Switch Boxes (16 Data Vortex 2 level networks, on 3 switch boards, configured as 4 groups of 4).

MOUNTAIN DAO is the first multi-level Data Vortex system. Up until this generation, the Data Vortex systems were all one-level machines, capable of scaling up to 64 nodes. Two-level systems extend the potential node count to 2,048. The company is also planning for three-level systems that will be scalable up to 65,653 nodes, and will push them closer to their exascale goals.

With all ports utilized on 2-level MOUNTAIN DAO, L2 applications depict negligible L1 to L2 performance differences.

PNNL scientists Gioiosa and Johnson are eager to be exploring the capabilities of their newest Data Vortex system.

“If you think about traditional supercomputers, the application has specific characteristics and parameters that have evolved to match those characteristics. Scientific simulation workloads tend to be fairly regular; they send fairly large messages so the networks we’ve been using so far are very good at doing that, but we are facing a new set of workloads coming up — big data, data analytics, machine learning, machine intelligence — these applications do not look very much like the traditional scientific computing so it’s not surprising that the hardware we been using so far is not performing very well,” said Giosiosa.

“Data Vortex provides an opportunity to run both sets of workloads, both traditional scientific application and matching data analytics application in an efficient way so we were very interested to see how that was actually working in practice,” Gioiosa continued. “So as we received the first and second system, we started porting workloads, porting applications. We have done a lot of different implementations of the same algorithm to see what is the best way to implement things in these systems and we learned while doing this and making mistakes and talking to the vendor. The more we understood about the system the more we changed our programs and they were more efficient. We implement these algorithms in ways that we couldn’t do on traditional supercomputers.”

Johnson explained that having multiple systems lets them focus on multiple aspects of computer science. “On the one hand you want to take a system and understand how to write algorithms for that system that take advantage of the existing hardware and existing structure of the system but the other type of research that we like to do is we liked to get in there and sort of rewire it and do different things, and put in the sensors and probes and all different things, which can help you bring different technologies together but would get in the way of porting algorithms directly to the existing architecture so having different machines that have different purposes. It goes back to one of the philosophies we have, looking at the computer as a very specialized scientific instrument and as such we want it to be able to perform optimally on the greatest scientific challenges in energy, environment and national security but we also want to make sure that we are helping to design and construct and tune that system so that it can do that.”

The PNNL researchers emphasized that even though these are exploratory systems they are already running production codes.

“We can run very large applications,” said Gioiosa. “These applications are on the order of hundreds of thousands of lines of code. These are production applications, not test apps that we are just running to extract the FLOPS.”

At the forum, researchers shared how they were using Data Vortex for cutting-edge applications, quantum computer simulation and density function theory, a core component in computational chemistry. “These are big science codes, the kind you would expect to see running on leadership-class systems and we heard from users who ported either the full application or parts of the application to Data Vortex,” said Johnson.

“This system is usable,” said Gioiosa. “You can run your application, you can do real science. We saw a simulation of quantum computers and people in the audience who are actually using a quantum computer said this is great because in quantum computing we cannot see the inside of the computer, we only see outside. It’s advancing understanding of how quantum algorithms work and how quantum machines are progressing and what we need to do to make them mainstream. I call it science, but this means production for us; we don’t produce carts but we produce tests and problems and come up with solutions and increase discovery and knowledge so that is our production.”

Having held a successful first user forum, the organizers are looking ahead to future gatherings. “There are events that naturally bring us together, like Supercomputing and other big conferences, but we are keen to have this forum once every six months or every year depending on how fast we progress,” said Gioiosa. “We expect it will grow as more people who attend will go back to their institution and say, oh this was great, next time you should come too.”

What’s Next for Data Vortex

The next major step on the Data Vortex roadmap is to move away from the commodity server approach they have employed in all their machines so far to something more “custom.”

“What we had in this generation is a method of connecting commodity processors,” said Dr. Reed. “We did Intel processors connected over an x86 (PCIe) bus. Everything is fine grained in this computer except the Intel processor and the x86 bus and so the next generation we’re taking the PCIe bus out of the critical path. Our exploratory units [with commodity components] have done well but now we’re going full custom. It’s pretty exciting. We’re using exotic memories and other things.”

Data Vortex expects to come out with an interim approach using FPGA-based compute nodes by this time next year. Xilinx technology is being given serious consideration, but specific details of the implementation are still under wraps. (We expect more will be revealed at SC17.) Current generation Data Vortex switches and VICs are built with Altera Stratix V FPGAs and future network chip sets will be built with Altera Stratix 10 FPGAs.

Data Vortex has up to this point primarily focused on big science and Department of Defense style problems, but now they are looking at expanding the user space to explore anywhere there’s a communication bottleneck. Hyperscale and embedded systems hold potential as new market vistas.

In addition to building its own machines, Data Vortex is inviting other people to use its interconnect in their computers or devices. In fact, the company’s primary business model is not to become a deliverer of systems. “We’ve got the core communication piece so we’re in a position now where we’re looking at compatible technologies and larger entities to incorporate this differentiating piece to their current but more importantly next-generation designs,” Data Vortex President Carolyn Coke Reed Devany explained. “What we’re all about is fine-grained data movement and that doesn’t necessarily have to be in a big system, that can be fine-grained data movement in lots of places.”

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!

NIST/Xanadu Researchers Report Photonic Quantum Computing Advance

March 3, 2021

Researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Xanadu, a young Canada-based quantum computing company, have reported developing a full-stack, photonic quantum computer able to carry out th Read more…

By John Russell

Can Deep Learning Replace Numerical Weather Prediction?

March 3, 2021

Numerical weather prediction (NWP) is a mainstay of supercomputing. Some of the first applications of the first supercomputers dealt with climate modeling, and even to this day, the largest climate models are heavily con Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPE Names Justin Hotard New HPC Chief as Pete Ungaro Departs

March 2, 2021

HPE CEO Antonio Neri announced today (March 2, 2020) the appointment of Justin Hotard as general manager of HPC, mission critical solutions and labs, effective immediately. Hotard replaces long-time Cray exec Pete Ungaro Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ORNL’s Jeffrey Vetter on How IRIS Runtime will Help Deal with Extreme Heterogeneity

March 2, 2021

Jeffery Vetter is a familiar figure in HPC. Last year he became one of the new section heads in a reorganization at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He had been founding director of ORNL's Future Technologies Group which i Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Career Notes: March 2021 Edition

March 1, 2021

In this monthly feature, we’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high-performance computing community. Whether it’s a promotion, new company hire, or even an accolade, we’ Read more…

By Mariana Iriarte

AWS Solution Channel

Moderna Accelerates COVID-19 Vaccine Development on AWS

Marcello Damiani, Chief Digital and Operational Excellence Officer at Moderna, joins Todd Weatherby, Vice President of AWS Professional Services Worldwide, for a discussion on developing Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, scaling systems to enable global distribution, and leveraging cloud technologies to accelerate processes. Read more…

Supercomputers Enable First Holistic Model of SARS-CoV-2, Showing Spike Proteins Move in Tandem

February 28, 2021

Most models of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, hone in on key features of the virus: for instance, the spike protein. Some of this is attributable to the relative importance of those features, but most Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Can Deep Learning Replace Numerical Weather Prediction?

March 3, 2021

Numerical weather prediction (NWP) is a mainstay of supercomputing. Some of the first applications of the first supercomputers dealt with climate modeling, and Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPE Names Justin Hotard New HPC Chief as Pete Ungaro Departs

March 2, 2021

HPE CEO Antonio Neri announced today (March 2, 2020) the appointment of Justin Hotard as general manager of HPC, mission critical solutions and labs, effective Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ORNL’s Jeffrey Vetter on How IRIS Runtime will Help Deal with Extreme Heterogeneity

March 2, 2021

Jeffery Vetter is a familiar figure in HPC. Last year he became one of the new section heads in a reorganization at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He had been f Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Career Notes: March 2021 Edition

March 1, 2021

In this monthly feature, we’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high-performance computing community. Whether it Read more…

By Mariana Iriarte

African Supercomputing Center Inaugurates ‘Toubkal,’ Most Powerful Supercomputer on the Continent

February 25, 2021

Historically, Africa hasn’t exactly been synonymous with supercomputing. There are only a handful of supercomputers on the continent, with few ranking on the Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Japan to Debut Integrated Fujitsu HPC/AI Supercomputer This Spring

February 25, 2021

The integrated Fujitsu HPC/AI Supercomputer, Wisteria, is coming to Japan this spring. The University of Tokyo is preparing to deploy a heterogeneous computing Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Xilinx Launches Alveo SN1000 SmartNIC

February 24, 2021

FPGA vendor Xilinx has debuted its latest SmartNIC model, the Alveo SN1000, with integrated “composability” features that allow enterprise users to add their own custom networking functions to supplement its built-in networking. By providing deep flexibility... Read more…

By Todd R. Weiss

ASF Keynotes Showcase How HPC and Big Data Have Pervaded the Pandemic

February 24, 2021

Last Thursday, a range of experts joined the Advanced Scale Forum (ASF) in a rapid-fire roundtable to discuss how advanced technologies have transformed the way humanity responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in indelible ways. The roundtable, held near the one-year mark of the first... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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

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

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…

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

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

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

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

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

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

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

Intel Teases Ice Lake-SP, Shows Competitive Benchmarking

November 17, 2020

At SC20 this week, Intel teased its forthcoming third-generation Xeon "Ice Lake-SP" server processor, claiming competitive benchmarking results against AMD's second-generation Epyc "Rome" processor. Ice Lake-SP, Intel's first server processor with 10nm technology... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Livermore’s El Capitan Supercomputer to Debut HPE ‘Rabbit’ Near Node Local Storage

February 18, 2021

A near node local storage innovation called Rabbit factored heavily into Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s decision to select Cray’s proposal for its CORAL-2 machine, the lab’s first exascale-class supercomputer, El Capitan. Details of this new storage technology were revealed... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

It’s Fugaku vs. COVID-19: How the World’s Top Supercomputer Is Shaping Our New Normal

November 9, 2020

Fugaku is currently the most powerful publicly ranked supercomputer in the world – but we weren’t supposed to have it yet. The supercomputer, situated at Japan’s Riken scientific research institute, was scheduled to come online in 2021. When the pandemic struck... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

African Supercomputing Center Inaugurates ‘Toubkal,’ Most Powerful Supercomputer on the Continent

February 25, 2021

Historically, Africa hasn’t exactly been synonymous with supercomputing. There are only a handful of supercomputers on the continent, with few ranking on the Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire