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!

NOAA Announces Major Upgrade to Ensemble Forecast Model, Extends Range to 35 Days

September 23, 2020

A bit over a year ago, the United States’ Global Forecast System (GFS) received a major upgrade: a new dynamical core – its first in 40 years – called the finite-volume cubed-sphere, or FV3. Now, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is bringing the FV3 dynamical core to... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AI Silicon Startup Graphcore Launches Channel Partner Program

September 23, 2020

AI compute platform vendor Graphcore has launched its first formal global channel partner program to promote and boost the sales of its AI processors and blade computing products. The formalized, all-new Graphcore Elite Partner Program follows the company’s past history of working with several... Read more…

By Todd R. Weiss

Arm Targets HPC with New Neoverse Platforms

September 22, 2020

UK-based semiconductor design company Arm today teased details of its Neoverse roadmap, introducing V1 (codenamed Zeus) and N2 (codenamed Perseus), Arm’s second generation N-series platform. The chip IP vendor said the new platforms will deliver 50 percent and 40 percent more... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft’s Azure Quantum Platform Now Offers Toshiba’s ‘Simulated Bifurcation Machine’

September 22, 2020

While pure-play quantum computing (QC) gets most of the QC-related attention, there’s also been steady progress adapting quantum methods for select use on classical computers. Today, Microsoft announced that Toshiba’ Read more…

By John Russell

Oracle Cloud Deepens HPC Embrace with Launch of A100 Instances, Plans for Arm, More 

September 22, 2020

Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) continued its steady ramp-up of HPC capabilities today with a flurry of announcements. Topping the list is general availability of instances with Nvidia’s newest GPU, the A100. OCI als Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Solution Channel

The Water Institute of the Gulf runs compute-heavy storm surge and wave simulations on AWS

The Water Institute of the Gulf (Water Institute) runs its storm surge and wave analysis models on Amazon Web Services (AWS)—a task that sometimes requires large bursts of compute power. Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Berlin Institute of Health: Putting HPC to Work for the World

Researchers from the Center for Digital Health at the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) are using science to understand the pathophysiology of COVID-19, which can help to inform the development of targeted treatments. Read more…

IBM, CQC Enable Cloud-based Quantum Random Number Generation

September 21, 2020

IBM and Cambridge Quantum Computing (CQC) have partnered to achieve progress on one of the major business aspirations for quantum computing – the goal of generating verified, truly random numbers that can be used for a Read more…

By Todd R. Weiss

NOAA Announces Major Upgrade to Ensemble Forecast Model, Extends Range to 35 Days

September 23, 2020

A bit over a year ago, the United States’ Global Forecast System (GFS) received a major upgrade: a new dynamical core – its first in 40 years – called the finite-volume cubed-sphere, or FV3. Now, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is bringing the FV3 dynamical core to... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Arm Targets HPC with New Neoverse Platforms

September 22, 2020

UK-based semiconductor design company Arm today teased details of its Neoverse roadmap, introducing V1 (codenamed Zeus) and N2 (codenamed Perseus), Arm’s second generation N-series platform. The chip IP vendor said the new platforms will deliver 50 percent and 40 percent more... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Oracle Cloud Deepens HPC Embrace with Launch of A100 Instances, Plans for Arm, More 

September 22, 2020

Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) continued its steady ramp-up of HPC capabilities today with a flurry of announcements. Topping the list is general availabilit Read more…

By John Russell

European Commission Declares €8 Billion Investment in Supercomputing

September 18, 2020

Just under two years ago, the European Commission formalized the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU): a concerted HPC effort (comprising 32 participating states at c Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Google Hires Longtime Intel Exec Bill Magro to Lead HPC Strategy

September 18, 2020

In a sign of the times, another prominent HPCer has made a move to a hyperscaler. Longtime Intel executive Bill Magro joined Google as chief technologist for hi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Future of Fintech on Display at HPC + AI Wall Street

September 17, 2020

Those who tuned in for Tuesday's HPC + AI Wall Street event got a peak at the future of fintech and lively discussion of topics like blockchain, AI for risk man Read more…

By Alex Woodie, Tiffany Trader and Todd R. Weiss

IBM’s Quantum Race to One Million Qubits

September 15, 2020

IBM today outlined its ambitious quantum computing technology roadmap at its virtual Quantum Summit. The eye-popping million qubit number is still far out, agrees IBM, but perhaps not that far out. Just as eye-popping is IBM’s nearer-term plan for a 1,000-plus qubit system named Condor... Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Commits to Buy Arm for $40B

September 14, 2020

Nvidia is acquiring semiconductor design company Arm Ltd. for $40 billion from SoftBank in a blockbuster deal that catapults the GPU chipmaker to a dominant position in the datacenter while helping troubled SoftBank reverse its financial woes. The deal, which has been rumored for... Read more…

By Todd R. Weiss and George Leopold

Supercomputer-Powered Research Uncovers Signs of ‘Bradykinin Storm’ That May Explain COVID-19 Symptoms

July 28, 2020

Doctors and medical researchers have struggled to pinpoint – let alone explain – the deluge of symptoms induced by COVID-19 infections in patients, and what Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia Said to Be Close on Arm Deal

August 3, 2020

GPU leader Nvidia Corp. is in talks to buy U.K. chip designer Arm from parent company Softbank, according to several reports over the weekend. If consummated Read more…

By George Leopold

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

Intel’s 7nm Slip Raises Questions About Ponte Vecchio GPU, Aurora Supercomputer

July 30, 2020

During its second-quarter earnings call, Intel announced a one-year delay of its 7nm process technology, which it says it will create an approximate six-month shift for its CPU product timing relative to prior expectations. The primary issue is a defect mode in the 7nm process that resulted in yield degradation... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Hires Longtime Intel Exec Bill Magro to Lead HPC Strategy

September 18, 2020

In a sign of the times, another prominent HPCer has made a move to a hyperscaler. Longtime Intel executive Bill Magro joined Google as chief technologist for hi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Keeps Cray Brand Promise, Reveals HPE Cray Supercomputing Line

August 4, 2020

The HPC community, ever-affectionate toward Cray and its eponymous founder, can breathe a (virtual) sigh of relief. The Cray brand will live on, encompassing th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Neocortex Will Be First-of-Its-Kind 800,000-Core AI Supercomputer

June 9, 2020

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC - a joint research organization of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh) has won a $5 million award Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

European Commission Declares €8 Billion Investment in Supercomputing

September 18, 2020

Just under two years ago, the European Commission formalized the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU): a concerted HPC effort (comprising 32 participating states at c Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Powers Fugaku’s Storage, Scores IO500 Win

August 28, 2020

In June, RIKEN shook the supercomputing world with its Arm-based, Fujitsu-built juggernaut: Fugaku. The system, which weighs in at 415.5 Linpack petaflops, topp Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Google Cloud Debuts 16-GPU Ampere A100 Instances

July 7, 2020

On the heels of the Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU launch in May, Google Cloud is announcing alpha availability of the A100 “Accelerator Optimized” VM A2 instance family on Google Compute Engine. The instances are powered by the HGX A100 16-GPU platform, which combines two HGX A100 8-GPU baseboards using... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DOD Orders Two AI-Focused Supercomputers from Liqid

August 24, 2020

The U.S. Department of Defense is making a big investment in data analytics and AI computing with the procurement of two HPC systems that will provide the High Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft Azure Adds A100 GPU Instances for ‘Supercomputer-Class AI’ in the Cloud

August 19, 2020

Microsoft Azure continues to infuse its cloud platform with HPC- and AI-directed technologies. Today the cloud services purveyor announced a new virtual machine Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Japan’s Fugaku Tops Global Supercomputing Rankings

June 22, 2020

A new Top500 champ was unveiled today. Supercomputer Fugaku, the pride of Japan and the namesake of Mount Fuji, vaulted to the top of the 55th edition of the To Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Joliot-Curie Supercomputer Used to Build First Full, High-Fidelity Aircraft Engine Simulation

July 14, 2020

When industrial designers plan the design of a new element of a vehicle’s propulsion or exterior, they typically use fluid dynamics to optimize airflow and in Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Intel Speeds NAMD by 1.8x: Saves Xeon Processor Users Millions of Compute Hours

August 12, 2020

Potentially saving datacenters millions of CPU node hours, Intel and the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (UIUC) have collaborated to develop AVX-512 optimizations for the NAMD scalable molecular dynamics code. These optimizations will be incorporated into release 2.15 with patches available for earlier versions. Read more…

By Rob Farber

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