Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

By Andrew Jones

November 22, 2017

Editor’s note: With SC17 still fresh in his mind, Andrew Jones (you may know him as @hpcnotes) looks back at the key themes from the show–both official, unofficial and orthogonal.

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback (please do provide feedback – this really helps the presenters and the SC committees). Mr Smarty-pants will have already sent all their personal post-SC emails to those who warranted specific feedback, following up on conversations in Denver while they are fresh in the minds of both parties. Ms Clever-clogs reasons that anything sent to US people before Thanksgiving will be ignored and so smugly holds back on follow-up emails until the first week of December.

The post-SC follow-ups are not limited to emails – HPC media and bloggers rush to assert their summaries of a week that is far too packed and varied to be fairly summarized. I’m no different and HPCwire has kindly agreed to publish my personal wrap-up of SC17.

Processor Wars

It got real.

Anticipated, hoped-for, hyped, and foretold for some time now, SC17 is when the competition undeniably broke free in the HPC processor space. There are now several very credible processor options for HPC systems – either available now, or baked into the roadmaps of HPC vendors for upcoming systems. Intel’s Skylake and its successors remain a strong option, GPUs (especially Nvidia) offer distinct advantages in some cases, while IBM’s Power9 and AMD’s EPYC are ready alternatives actively being considered by HPC buyers now. But it was the ARM family – notably Qualcomm and Cavium – that stole the show in terms of mindshare. The first benchmarks of Cavium’s ThunderX2, or TX2 as it became nicknamed, showed it competing well with the market leader Intel on benchmark performance. One set of benchmark charts from the GW4 Alliance was referred to several times a day across diverse meetings. EPYC and Power9 are also reputed to compete well on benchmarks. When taking pricing into account, the genuine choices for HPC processors look more open than for several years. Results from our (NAG’s) impartial HPC technology evaluation consulting for various customers support these conclusions. It will be interesting to see how this emerges into deployment reality as HPC procurements take place over the next few months.

It’s Official

Talking of processors, the rumors around the abandonment of Intel’s Knights Hill processor that have been circulating for a while were confirmed as true by Intel. (It seems to still be a secret how long those rumors have been running and the precise timing of Intel’s decisions.) However, Intel confirmed in various public statements that they still have roadmaps and plans for processors to support exascale supercomputers in the first year or two of the next decade. I’m constrained by confidentiality here, so I won’t say much more. Only that Intel’s sharing of long term roadmaps under strict NDA are very useful to those who get them, and we all understand that those roadmaps – and indeed all roadmaps – are subject to change. When helping our customers plan for large future HPC deployments, best guesses that might change are still much better than those vendors who are reluctant to share anything useful “because it might change”.

It’s Not Official

It has long been true that some of the most valuable parts of the SC week are actually those away from the official program. Vendor events on the first weekend (e.g., Intel DevCon, HPE HP-CAST, and more) have become staple parts of the SC week for some. The endless round of NDA vendor briefings in the hotels and restaurants near the convention center fill substantial portions of schedules for many of us at each SC. The networking receptions, evening and daytime, are essential to find out what is going on in the HPC world, to exchange ideas with peers, to unearth new solutions, and to spark collaborations. Sadly, the clashes of these many off-program events with valuable parts of the official program (e.g., workshops and tutorials) are getting harder to navigate. Simply put, the SC phenomena has such a richness of opportunities, it is fundamentally impossible to participate in all of it.

Airline Points

Probably the second most popular topic of conversation in Denver was not actually HPC technology. I lost track of the number of conversations I was party to or overheard on the topic of travel. Airline and hotel points, “status”, misconnects, travel war stories (I don’t just mean United vs its passengers), and so on. Some of you will know I am personally a bit of a geek on the details of a range of airline and hotel “loyalty” programs and how to get the best out of them. At first this might seem a trivial topic for a supercomputing conference wrap-up, but I mention it because it actually highlights a critical aspect of HPC. The HPC community is a global one. Much of what we achieve in HPC is driven by multi-partner and international approaches. Some of it is (perceived) competition – the international race to exascale, economic competitiveness, etc. Much of the community aspect is collaboration – we deliver better when we work together on common issues – even across areas where there might be competitive undertones (e.g., early exascale capability). Conferences and workshops are a critical element in enabling the community’s diverse expertise and experience to drive the successful delivery and scientific impact of HPC. Plenty of travel thus becomes a natural indicator of the health of the HPC community.

People

Of course, the underlying reason we travel is to meet people. Ultimately, people are the most necessary and most differentiating component of any HPC capability. For this reason, when I do HPC strategy consulting, we look closely at the organizational and people planning aspects of the HPC services, as well as the technology elements. Thus, I was pleased to see the continued emphasis on the people aspects of SC. Explicit attention to diversity in the committees, presenters, and panels. A strong education and training program (including our three tutorials – HPC finance, HPC business cases, and HPC procurement). The student cluster competition. Mentoring programs. And more. The measure of success is surely when the SC community no longer feels the need for a dedicated Women-in-HPC agenda, nor a dedicated student program, etc., because those groups feel welcome and integral to all parts of the SC agenda. And, equally, the other side of the coin is when we have every part of the week’s activities enjoying a diverse participation. However, we are a long way from that end goal now and we need a clear plan to get there, which we can only achieve by keeping the issues prominent. NAG was delighted to support the Women-in-HPC networking reception at SC17 and I discussed this with several people there. I think the next step is to put in place actions to enable all individuals (whether they associate with the diversity issues, or are early career/student attendees, etc.) to be comfortable participating in the full breadth of the week’s activities, rather than focused into a subset of events.

Onwards

Personally, I thought Denver was a great host city for SC and I look forward to returning in 2019. Next year SC18 is in Dallas – but don’t leave it that long to engage with your HPC community colleagues – there are plenty of excellent conferences and workshops before then. See you at one of the many HPC meetings in the coming months – and do reach out directly if I might be able to help with any free advice or mentoring.

Andrew Jones leads the international HPC consulting and services business at NAG. He is also active on twitter as @hpcnotes.

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!

Microsoft, Nvidia Launch Cloud HPC

November 20, 2019

Nvidia and Microsoft have joined forces to offer a cloud HPC capability based on the GPU vendor’s V100 Tensor Core chips linked via an Infiniband network scaling up to 800 graphics processors. The partners announced Read more…

By George Leopold

Hazra Retiring from Intel Data Center Group, Successor Unknown

November 20, 2019

This article is an update to a story published earlier today. Rajeeb Hazra, corporate VP of Intel’s Data Center Group and GM for the Enterprise and Government Group, is retiring after more than 24 years at the compa Read more…

By Doug Black

Jensen Huang’s SC19 – Fast Cars, a Strong Arm, and Aiming for the Cloud(s)

November 20, 2019

We’ve come to expect Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s annual SC keynote to contain stunning graphics and lively bravado (with plenty of examples) in support of GPU-accelerated computing. In recent years, AI has joined the s Read more…

By John Russell

SC19 Student Cluster Competition: Know Your Teams

November 19, 2019

I’m typing this live from Denver, the location of the 2019 Student Cluster Competition… and, oh yeah, the annual SC conference too. The attendance this year should be north of 13,000 people, with the majority attende Read more…

By Dan Olds

Top500: US Maintains Performance Lead; Arm Tops Green500

November 18, 2019

The 54th Top500, revealed today at SC19, is a familiar list: the U.S. Summit (ORNL) and Sierra (LLNL) machines, offering 148.6 and 94.6 petaflops respectively, remain in first and second place. The only new entrants in t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AWS Solution Channel

Making High Performance Computing Affordable and Accessible for Small and Medium Businesses with HPC on AWS

High performance computing (HPC) brings a powerful set of tools to a broad range of industries, helping to drive innovation and boost revenue in finance, genomics, oil and gas extraction, and other fields. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Data Management – The Key to a Successful AI Project

 

Five characteristics of an awesome AI data infrastructure

[Attend the IBM LSF & HPC User Group Meeting at SC19 in Denver on November 19!]

AI is powered by data

While neural networks seem to get all the glory, data is the unsung hero of AI projects – data lies at the heart of everything from model training to tuning to selection to validation. Read more…

ScaleMatrix and Nvidia Launch ‘Deploy Anywhere’ DGX HPC and AI in a Controlled Enclosure

November 18, 2019

HPC and AI in a phone booth: ScaleMatrix and Nvidia announced today at the SC19 conference in Denver a joint offering that puts up to 13 petaflops of Nvidia DGX-1 compute power in an air conditioned, water-cooled ScaleMa Read more…

By Doug Black

Hazra Retiring from Intel Data Center Group, Successor Unknown

November 20, 2019

This article is an update to a story published earlier today. Rajeeb Hazra, corporate VP of Intel’s Data Center Group and GM for the Enterprise and Governm Read more…

By Doug Black

Jensen Huang’s SC19 – Fast Cars, a Strong Arm, and Aiming for the Cloud(s)

November 20, 2019

We’ve come to expect Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s annual SC keynote to contain stunning graphics and lively bravado (with plenty of examples) in support of GPU Read more…

By John Russell

Top500: US Maintains Performance Lead; Arm Tops Green500

November 18, 2019

The 54th Top500, revealed today at SC19, is a familiar list: the U.S. Summit (ORNL) and Sierra (LLNL) machines, offering 148.6 and 94.6 petaflops respectively, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ScaleMatrix and Nvidia Launch ‘Deploy Anywhere’ DGX HPC and AI in a Controlled Enclosure

November 18, 2019

HPC and AI in a phone booth: ScaleMatrix and Nvidia announced today at the SC19 conference in Denver a joint offering that puts up to 13 petaflops of Nvidia DGX Read more…

By Doug Black

Intel Debuts New GPU – Ponte Vecchio – and Outlines Aspirations for oneAPI

November 17, 2019

Intel today revealed a few more details about its forthcoming Xe line of GPUs – the top SKU is named Ponte Vecchio and will be used in Aurora, the first plann Read more…

By John Russell

SC19: Welcome to Denver

November 17, 2019

A significant swath of the HPC community has come to Denver for SC19, which began today (Sunday) with a rich technical program. As is customary, the ribbon cutt Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC19’s HPC Impact Showcase Chair: AI + HPC a ‘Speed Train’

November 16, 2019

This year’s chair of the HPC Impact Showcase at the SC19 conference in Denver is Lori Diachin, who has spent her career at the spearhead of HPC. Currently deputy director for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Exascale Computing Project (ECP), Diachin is also... Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Supercomputer-Powered AI Tackles a Key Fusion Energy Challenge

August 7, 2019

Fusion energy is the Holy Grail of the energy world: low-radioactivity, low-waste, zero-carbon, high-output nuclear power that can run on hydrogen or lithium. T Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DARPA Looks to Propel Parallelism

September 4, 2019

As Moore’s law runs out of steam, new programming approaches are being pursued with the goal of greater hardware performance with less coding. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency is launching a new programming effort aimed at leveraging the benefits of massive distributed parallelism with less sweat. Read more…

By George Leopold

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

Intel Confirms Retreat on Omni-Path

August 1, 2019

Intel Corp.’s plans to make a big splash in the network fabric market for linking HPC and other workloads has apparently belly-flopped. The chipmaker confirmed to us the outlines of an earlier report by the website CRN that it has jettisoned plans for a second-generation version of its Omni-Path interconnect... Read more…

By Staff report

Kubernetes, Containers and HPC

September 19, 2019

Software containers and Kubernetes are important tools for building, deploying, running and managing modern enterprise applications at scale and delivering enterprise software faster and more reliably to the end user — while using resources more efficiently and reducing costs. Read more…

By Daniel Gruber, Burak Yenier and Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell Ramps Up HPC Testing of AMD Rome Processors

October 21, 2019

Dell Technologies is wading deeper into the AMD-based systems market with a growing evaluation program for the latest Epyc (Rome) microprocessors from AMD. In a Read more…

By John Russell

Rise of NIH’s Biowulf Mirrors the Rise of Computational Biology

July 29, 2019

The story of NIH’s supercomputer Biowulf is fascinating, important, and in many ways representative of the transformation of life sciences and biomedical res Read more…

By John Russell

Xilinx vs. Intel: FPGA Market Leaders Launch Server Accelerator Cards

August 6, 2019

The two FPGA market leaders, Intel and Xilinx, both announced new accelerator cards this week designed to handle specialized, compute-intensive workloads and un Read more…

By Doug Black

When Dense Matrix Representations Beat Sparse

September 9, 2019

In our world filled with unintended consequences, it turns out that saving memory space to help deal with GPU limitations, knowing it introduces performance pen Read more…

By James Reinders

With the Help of HPC, Astronomers Prepare to Deflect a Real Asteroid

September 26, 2019

For years, NASA has been running simulations of asteroid impacts to understand the risks (and likelihoods) of asteroids colliding with Earth. Now, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are preparing for the next, crucial step in planetary defense against asteroid impacts: physically deflecting a real asteroid. 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