A Close-Up Look at the World’s Largest HPC System for Commercial Research

By Doug Black

January 14, 2018

For decades, high performance computing has driven more accurate, detailed and faster seismic exploration. As oil and gas have becomes harder to find, HPC has been essential to keeping energy supplies flowing – to the point where new discovery and extraction techniques have driven up supply, driving energy prices down and making the United States a net energy exporter.

Of the companies in the sector, BP is notable for its aggressive embrace of HPC. The team of seismic researchers and computer scientists at the company’s Center for High-Performance Computing (CHPC), Houston, has quadrupled its computing power and doubled its storage capacity since it opened in 2013. The CHPC recently announced a new HPE system that more than doubles the center’s compute capabilities (from four to nine petaflops peak), making it the most powerful supercomputer in the world used for commercial research, according to industry watcher Hyperion Research.

BP’s compute capabilities led to the discovery last year of potential oil reserves estimated at 200 million barrels located at the company’s “Atlantis” drill field in the Gulf of Mexico. Whether or when BP will extract those reserves hasn’t been decided, but the finding demonstrates the increasing power and sophistication of HPC hardware and software for finding increasingly elusive energy reserves. The new Atlantis reservoir is a case in point: it’s under 7,000 feet of water and 25,000 feet below the ocean floor – about seven miles.

BP’s HPE Apollo 6000-based supercomputers reveal a balance between compute power and memory capacity. The CHPC has two HPE systems, one with 2,700 Apollo 6000 nodes equipped with Intel “Haswell” processors; its new system has 2,700 Apollo 6000 nodes with updated Intel Knights Landing chips, along with a 100 GB low latency network, boosting BP’s peak processing speed from 4 petaflops to 9 petaflops.  Equipped with High Bandwidth Memory (HBM), the system has a total active memory of 1,140 TB, along with 30 PB of storage.   The Knights Landing-based system is 18 times more powerful than the world’s fastest supercomputer in 2007.

BP’s Keith Gray

“This is a new architecture,” Keith Gray, BP’s technical director for supercomputing, told EnterpriseTech of the Knights Landing-based system.  “The computer scientists on our team worked closely with Intel and HPE to optimize our codes. Each Knights Landing processor has 16GB of memory glued on top of the processor, and that memory is five times faster than the standard. We worked with Intel to understand the optimal configuration for this, we spent close to a year in preparation for the delivery of the Knights Landing system.”

Helping BP find the potential new reserve at the Atlantis field is a proprietary algorithm using Full Waveform Inversion (FWI) technology. Gray said distributing that capability across the enormous HPE cluster is a major technical challenge.

“The problems that we’re working on continually get so large that we now have software that breaks the problem into their chunks that can be solved on a single node,” Gray said. “Our computational scientists and software engineers have written tools that distribute the work across the whole of the cluster and then sum it together to create the final output volume. There will be times we’ll be using more than 80,000 cores on a single MPI process.”

Among the geological challenges encountered at the Atlantis field are massive salt “canopies” overlaying the oil reservoir. Full Waveform Inversion is used to overcome the obstruction and distortion of seismic images caused by the canopies. FWI uses advanced algorithms to iteratively refine models of the subsurface by generating seismic wave simulations and adjusting the values of subsurface properties based on the quality of the match between the simulated and recorded data. According to BP, FWI has identified an estimated 1 billion barrels of oil across the company’s four hubs in the Gulf.

Wave Form Inversion showing a salt canopy

“We’ll come in with potentially terabytes of data for a seismic acquisition, the largest will exceed a petabyte,” Gray said. “We’ll process it, look at it in many dimensions and it is common for these research steps to create 3 to 5 PB of intermediate results that we will then analyze to put together a volume of the earth.”

The ongoing identification of new energy reserves defies predictions dating back to the 1970s that the world would run out of oil within a few decades.

“The key message is this: as we create new technical capabilities, as we open up new areas, we’re able to produce from more challenging fields,” said Gray, “We’ve been able to continue to deliver energy needed for the world, even though there were skeptics that would have claimed we were reaching a peak of energy production and we wouldn’t be able to continue to meet the requirements.”

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!

Is Data Science the Fourth Pillar of the Scientific Method?

April 18, 2019

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang revived a decade-old debate last month when he said that modern data science (AI plus HPC) has become the fourth pillar of the scientific method. While some disagree with the notion that statistic Read more…

By Alex Woodie

At ASF 2019: The Virtuous Circle of Big Data, AI and HPC

April 18, 2019

We've entered a new phase in IT -- in the world, really -- where the combination of big data, artificial intelligence, and high performance computing is pushing the bounds of what's possible in business and science, in w Read more…

By Alex Woodie with Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

Google Open Sources TensorFlow Version of MorphNet DL Tool

April 18, 2019

Designing optimum deep neural networks remains a non-trivial exercise. “Given the large search space of possible architectures, designing a network from scratch for your specific application can be prohibitively expens Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture: How to Power a Cloud

Learn how HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture provide critical infrastructure for leading Nordic HPC provider’s HPCFLOW cloud service.

powercloud_blog.jpgFor decades, HPE has been at the forefront of high-performance computing, and we’ve powered some of the fastest and most robust supercomputers in the world. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Bridging HPC and Cloud Native Development with Kubernetes

The HPC community has historically developed its own specialized software stack including schedulers, filesystems, developer tools, container technologies tuned for performance and large-scale on-premises deployments. Read more…

Interview with 2019 Person to Watch Michela Taufer

April 18, 2019

Today, as part of our ongoing HPCwire People to Watch focus series, we are highlighting our interview with 2019 Person to Watch Michela Taufer. Michela -- the General Chair of SC19 -- is an ACM Distinguished Scientist. Read more…

By HPCwire Editorial Team

At ASF 2019: The Virtuous Circle of Big Data, AI and HPC

April 18, 2019

We've entered a new phase in IT -- in the world, really -- where the combination of big data, artificial intelligence, and high performance computing is pushing Read more…

By Alex Woodie with Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

Interview with 2019 Person to Watch Michela Taufer

April 18, 2019

Today, as part of our ongoing HPCwire People to Watch focus series, we are highlighting our interview with 2019 Person to Watch Michela Taufer. Michela -- the Read more…

By HPCwire Editorial Team

Intel Gold U-Series SKUs Reveal Single Socket Intentions

April 18, 2019

Intel plans to jump into the single socket market with a portion of its just announced Cascade Lake microprocessor line according to one media report. This isn Read more…

By John Russell

BSC Researchers Shrink Floating Point Formats to Accelerate Deep Neural Network Training

April 15, 2019

Sometimes calculating solutions as precisely as a computer can wastes more CPU resources than is necessary. A case in point is with deep learning. In early stag Read more…

By Ken Strandberg

Intel Extends FPGA Ecosystem with 10nm Agilex

April 11, 2019

The insatiable appetite for higher throughput and lower latency – particularly where edge analytics and AI, network functions, or for a range of datacenter ac Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia Doubles Down on Medical AI

April 9, 2019

Nvidia is collaborating with medical groups to push GPU-powered AI tools into clinical settings, including radiology and drug discovery. The GPU leader said Monday it will collaborate with the American College of Radiology (ACR) to provide clinicians with its Clara AI tool kit. The partnership would allow radiologists to leverage AI techniques for diagnostic imaging using their own clinical data. Read more…

By George Leopold

Digging into MLPerf Benchmark Suite to Inform AI Infrastructure Decisions

April 9, 2019

With machine learning and deep learning storming into the datacenter, the new challenge is optimizing infrastructure choices to support diverse ML and DL workfl Read more…

By John Russell

AI and Enterprise Datacenters Boost HPC Server Revenues Past Expectations – Hyperion

April 9, 2019

Building on the big year of 2017 and spurred in part by the convergence of AI and HPC, global revenue for high performance servers jumped 15.6 percent last year Read more…

By Doug Black

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

Why Nvidia Bought Mellanox: ‘Future Datacenters Will Be…Like High Performance Computers’

March 14, 2019

“Future datacenters of all kinds will be built like high performance computers,” said Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang during a phone briefing on Monday after Nvidia revealed scooping up the high performance networking company Mellanox for $6.9 billion. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ClusterVision in Bankruptcy, Fate Uncertain

February 13, 2019

ClusterVision, European HPC specialists that have built and installed over 20 Top500-ranked systems in their nearly 17-year history, appear to be in the midst o Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Reportedly in $6B Bid for Mellanox

January 30, 2019

The latest rumors and reports around an acquisition of Mellanox focus on Intel, which has reportedly offered a $6 billion bid for the high performance interconn Read more…

By Doug Black

It’s Official: Aurora on Track to Be First US Exascale Computer in 2021

March 18, 2019

The U.S. Department of Energy along with Intel and Cray confirmed today that an Intel/Cray supercomputer, "Aurora," capable of sustained performance of one exaf Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Looking for Light Reading? NSF-backed ‘Comic Books’ Tackle Quantum Computing

January 28, 2019

Still baffled by quantum computing? How about turning to comic books (graphic novels for the well-read among you) for some clarity and a little humor on QC. The Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Quantum Update: Q System One Launch, New Collaborators, and QC Center Plans

January 10, 2019

IBM made three significant quantum computing announcements at CES this week. One was introduction of IBM Q System One; it’s really the integration of IBM’s Read more…

By John Russell

Deep500: ETH Researchers Introduce New Deep Learning Benchmark for HPC

February 5, 2019

ETH researchers have developed a new deep learning benchmarking environment – Deep500 – they say is “the first distributed and reproducible benchmarking s Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 18 Virtual Booth Video Tour

Advania @ SC18 AMD @ SC18
ASRock Rack @ SC18
DDN Storage @ SC18
HPE @ SC18
IBM @ SC18
Lenovo @ SC18 Mellanox Technologies @ SC18
NVIDIA @ SC18
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

IBM Bets $2B Seeking 1000X AI Hardware Performance Boost

February 7, 2019

For now, AI systems are mostly machine learning-based and “narrow” – powerful as they are by today's standards, they're limited to performing a few, narro Read more…

By Doug Black

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer Read more…

By John Russell

Arm Unveils Neoverse N1 Platform with up to 128-Cores

February 20, 2019

Following on its Neoverse roadmap announcement last October, Arm today revealed its next-gen Neoverse microarchitecture with compute and throughput-optimized si Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

France to Deploy AI-Focused Supercomputer: Jean Zay

January 22, 2019

HPE announced today that it won the contract to build a supercomputer that will drive France’s AI and HPC efforts. The computer will be part of GENCI, the Fre Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Cascade Lake Xeons with Up to 56 Cores

April 2, 2019

At Intel's Data-Centric Innovation Day in San Francisco (April 2), the company unveiled its second-generation Xeon Scalable (Cascade Lake) family and debuted it Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft to Buy Mellanox?

December 20, 2018

Networking equipment powerhouse Mellanox could be an acquisition target by Microsoft, according to a published report in an Israeli financial publication. Microsoft has reportedly gone so far as to engage Goldman Sachs to handle negotiations with Mellanox. Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC Reflections and (Mostly Hopeful) Predictions

December 19, 2018

So much ‘spaghetti’ gets tossed on walls by the technology community (vendors and researchers) to see what sticks that it is often difficult to peer through Read more…

By John Russell

Oil and Gas Supercloud Clears Out Remaining Knights Landing Inventory: All 38,000 Wafers

March 13, 2019

The McCloud HPC service being built by Australia’s DownUnder GeoSolutions (DUG) outside Houston is set to become the largest oil and gas cloud in the world th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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