Sandia to Take Delivery of World’s Largest Arm System

By Tiffany Trader

June 18, 2018

While the enterprise remains circumspect on prospects for Arm servers in the datacenter, the leadership HPC community is taking a bolder, brighter view of the x86 server CPU alternative. Amongst current and planned Arm HPC installations – i.e., the innovative Mont-Blanc project, led by Bull/Atos, the ‘Isambard’ Cray XC50 going into the University of Bristol, and commitments from both Japan and France among others — HPE is announcing that it will supply the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with a 2.3 petaflops peak Arm-based system, named Astra. On track for deployment at Sandia National Labs later this year as part of the NNSA’s Arm-centric Vanguard project, Astra will be the world’s largest Arm system ever built, according to HPE.

HPE Apollo 70 chassis

Based on the Apollo 70 servers announced by HPE at SC17, Astra will encompass more than 145,000 Cavium ThunderX2 cores in 2,592 dual-socket servers, with four compute nodes arranged in a dense 2U form factor. The system will employ a total of 5,184 Cavium 64-bit ARMv8-A ThunderX2 28-core, 2.0 Ghz processors, which have a TDP of 150 watts.

The ThunderX2 line, which became generally available in May, includes SKUs with as many as 32 cores, with clock speeds up to 2.5 MHz (plus a bump for turbo mode). In an interview with HPCwire, Mike Vildibill, vice president of HPE’s Advanced Technology Group, describes the 28-core, 2.0 Ghz CPU as “the Goldilocks part that provided the full memory performance that [Sandia] needed in a package that perfectly fit the price requirements of the system as well.”

The CPUs will be connected with Mellanox EDR InfiniBand in very bandwidth intensive configuration. With eight memory channels on each Cavium ThunderX2 Arm processor compared to six on today’s traditional CPUs, the Apollo servers offer 33 percent more memory bandwidth than Intel x86 servers. Those eight channels will support 8GB dual-rank DIMMs, providing 332 TB aggregate memory capacity and 885 TB per second of aggregate memory bandwidth. Sandia could have opted for higher-capacity DIMMs, but was able to satisfy its memory bandwidth requirements at a more optimum price point.

Vildibill, who is co-PI on HPE’s PathForward (exascale-focused) activities, emphasized the data-centric nature of the system, and drew a line from The Machine research program to Vanguard Astra to the company’s exascale targets. The prototype systems HPE built for The Machine were based on very early examples of the ThunderX2 processor, tracing back to when the technology was still part of Broadcom’s Vulcan brand (before Cavium acquired the Vulcan IP). Under HPE’s Comanche development program (which would become the Apollo 70 line), HPE delivered prototype systems to a number of DOE labs. Sandia has been running a rack of those systems for eight months, giving it lead time to begin the software porting and demonstration necessary to make Astra a usable system, according to Vildibill.

You can see how Astra (referenced as Vanguard-1) fits into Sandia’s Vanguard project– it’s ARM-centric co-design strategy with Los Alamos and Livermore Labs – in this slide from a March 2018 meeting.

The mission of the Vanguard project is to expand NNSA’s tri-lab HPC ecosystem by developing technologies viable for future ATS/CTS platforms supporting Advanced Simulation and Computing codes. It is a requirement of Vanguard systems that they be “large enough to serve as proof of concept for future Advanced Technology Systems, and sufficient scale to interest production multi-physics application teams.”

“We are committed to fielding the most advanced technologies as part of the Vanguard program,” said James Laros, Vanguard project lead at Sandia National Laboratories, in HPE’s official announcement. “We are collaborating with HPE to advance the Arm ecosystem and prove the viability of this architecture to support our national security mission.”

The Astra design is part of the larger longer term path to exascale for NNSA and for HPE. One of the biggest draws of Arm, according to Vildibill, isn’t necessarily the energy efficiency that has been associated with the platform, but rather the innovation cycle that is possible. “Innovation for Arm-based systems can be accelerated at a faster rate compared to the innovation cycle for processors that are being used for both HPC and enterprise markets at the same time,” Vildibill remarked. “It’s very difficult for some vendors to build a CPU that is aggressively adopting all the newest technology while also supporting a very long tail of legacy applications that go throughout the enterprise and so the [increased number of] memory channels is just one example. As we look out to exascale, we clearly see that today’s architectures cannot get us to exascale in a 20-30 MW envelope in the future; it just can’t, and that we absolutely see the need for innovation and some invention between now and exascale.”

The power footprint of Astra’s compute nodes will be about 1.2 MW, according to HPE, which compared to an equivalent top system of today, stands at about half the power consumption and three times more memory bandwidth.

Astra is also outfitted with an all-flash Lustre file system, essentially acting as a burst buffer tier, based on HPE’s Apollo 4520 platform, that Vildibill calls “Lustre in a box.” It’s a 4U box with a usable capacity of 366 TB, enabling nearly 250 Gigabytes per second of bandwidth.

Keeping Astra cool is the job of HPE’s new MCS-300 Cooling Unit, which company literature describes as “a liquid-to-air heat exchanger and fan system that removes heat generated by rack-installed IT equipment.”

The announcement from HPE and Sandia Labs is a prominent feather in Arm’s cap but Cavium’s implementation of Arm isn’t the only Intel-alternative on the field: AMD’s x86 Eypc server chip and IBM’s Power CPU are also in play, and RISC-V is gathering some steam as well. Vildibill affirmed there are many degrees of freedom in this discussion. “HPE is exploring a number of architectures as part of our exascale development activities,” he told us. “I would say absolutely exascale is not only an Arm play, but we do believe Arm is one of several emerging technologies that are relevant in exascale.”

This increased processor diversity plus above-average M&A churn have created disruption in the technology space that everyone is facing. ThunderX maker Cavium is currently being acquired by Marvell, which means three companies will have held the Vulcan/ThunderX2 technology in as many years, but given the healthy investments coming from the global HPC community, the processor’s prospects are looking good.

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!

ORNL Helps Identify Challenges of Extremely Heterogeneous Architectures

March 21, 2019

Exponential growth in classical computing over the last two decades has produced hardware and software that support lightning-fast processing speeds, but advancements are topping out as computing architectures reach thei Read more…

By Laurie Varma

Interview with 2019 Person to Watch Jim Keller

March 21, 2019

On the heels of Intel's reaffirmation that it will deliver the first U.S. exascale computer in 2021, which will feature the company's new Intel Xe architecture, we bring you our interview with our 2019 Person to Watch Jim Keller, head of the Silicon Engineering Group at Intel. Read more…

By HPCwire Editorial Team

What’s New in HPC Research: TensorFlow, Buddy Compression, Intel Optane & More

March 20, 2019

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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

Insurance: Where’s the Risk?

Insurers are facing extreme competitive challenges in their core businesses. Property and Casualty (P&C) and Life and Health (L&H) firms alike are highly impacted by the ongoing globalization, increasing regulation, and digital transformation of their client bases. Read more…

At GTC: Nvidia Expands Scope of Its AI and Datacenter Ecosystem

March 19, 2019

In the high-stakes race to provide the AI life-cycle solution of choice, three of the biggest horses in the field are IBM, Intel and Nvidia. While the latter is only a fraction of the size of its two bigger rivals, and has been in business for only a fraction of the time, Nvidia continues to impress with an expanding array of new GPU-based hardware, software, robotics, partnerships and... Read more…

By Doug Black

At GTC: Nvidia Expands Scope of Its AI and Datacenter Ecosystem

March 19, 2019

In the high-stakes race to provide the AI life-cycle solution of choice, three of the biggest horses in the field are IBM, Intel and Nvidia. While the latter is only a fraction of the size of its two bigger rivals, and has been in business for only a fraction of the time, Nvidia continues to impress with an expanding array of new GPU-based hardware, software, robotics, partnerships and... Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia Debuts Clara AI Toolkit with Pre-Trained Models for Radiology Use

March 19, 2019

AI’s push into healthcare got a boost yesterday with Nvidia’s release of the Clara Deploy AI toolkit which includes 13 pre-trained models for use in radiolo Read more…

By John Russell

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

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

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

Quick Take: Trump’s 2020 Budget Spares DoE-funded HPC but Slams NSF and NIH

March 12, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget request, released yesterday, proposes deep cuts in many science programs but seems to spare HPC funding by the Depar Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Wins Mellanox Stakes for $6.9 Billion

March 11, 2019

The long-rumored acquisition of Mellanox came to fruition this morning with GPU chipmaker Nvidia’s announcement that it has purchased the high-performance net Read more…

By Doug Black

Optalysys Rolls Commercial Optical Processor

March 7, 2019

Optalysys, Ltd., a U.K. company seeking to advance it optical co-processor technology, moved a step closer this week with the unveiling of what it claims is th Read more…

By George Leopold

Quantum Computing Will Never Work

November 27, 2018

Amid the gush of money and enthusiastic predictions being thrown at quantum computing comes a proposed cold shower in the form of an essay by physicist Mikhail Read more…

By John Russell

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

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

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

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

Contract Signed for New Finnish Supercomputer

December 13, 2018

After the official contract signing yesterday, configuration details were made public for the new BullSequana system that the Finnish IT Center for Science (CSC Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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 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

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

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

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

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

Move Over Lustre & Spectrum Scale – Here Comes BeeGFS?

November 26, 2018

Is BeeGFS – the parallel file system with European roots – on a path to compete with Lustre and Spectrum Scale worldwide in HPC environments? Frank Herold Read more…

By John Russell

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

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