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!

At SC18: Humanitarianism Amid Boom Times for HPC

November 14, 2018

At SC18 in Dallas, the feeling on the ground is one of forward-looking buoyancy. Like boom times that cycle through the Texas oil fields, the HPC industry is enjoying a prosperity seen only every few decades, one driven Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia’s Jensen Huang Delivers Vision for the New HPC

November 14, 2018

For nearly two hours on Monday at SC18, Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, presented his expansive view of the future of HPC (and computing in general) as only he can do. Animated. Backstopped by a stream of data charts, produ Read more…

By John Russell

New Panasas High Performance Storage Straddles Commercial-Traditional HPC

November 13, 2018

High performance storage vendor Panasas has launched a new version of its ActiveStor product line this morning featuring what the company said is the industry’s first plug-and-play, portable parallel file system that d Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

AI Can Be Scary. But Choosing the Wrong Partners Can Be Mortifying!

As you continue to dive deeper into AI, you will discover it is more than just deep learning. AI is an extremely complex set of machine learning, deep learning, reinforcement, and analytics algorithms with varying compute, storage, memory, and communications needs. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

New Data Management Techniques for Intelligent Simulations

The trend in high performance supercomputer design has evolved – from providing maximum compute capability for complex scalable science applications, to capacity computing utilizing efficient, cost-effective computing power for solving a small number of large problems or a large number of small problems. Read more…

SC18 Student Cluster Competition – Revealing the Field

November 13, 2018

It’s November again and we’re almost ready for the kick-off of one of the greatest computer sports events in the world – the SC Student Cluster Competition. This is the twelfth time that teams of university undergr Read more…

By Dan Olds

At SC18: Humanitarianism Amid Boom Times for HPC

November 14, 2018

At SC18 in Dallas, the feeling on the ground is one of forward-looking buoyancy. Like boom times that cycle through the Texas oil fields, the HPC industry is en Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia’s Jensen Huang Delivers Vision for the New HPC

November 14, 2018

For nearly two hours on Monday at SC18, Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, presented his expansive view of the future of HPC (and computing in general) as only he can Read more…

By John Russell

New Panasas High Performance Storage Straddles Commercial-Traditional HPC

November 13, 2018

High performance storage vendor Panasas has launched a new version of its ActiveStor product line this morning featuring what the company said is the industry Read more…

By Doug Black

SC18 Student Cluster Competition – Revealing the Field

November 13, 2018

It’s November again and we’re almost ready for the kick-off of one of the greatest computer sports events in the world – the SC Student Cluster Competitio Read more…

By Dan Olds

US Leads Supercomputing with #1, #2 Systems & Petascale Arm

November 12, 2018

The 31st Supercomputing Conference (SC) - commemorating 30 years since the first Supercomputing in 1988 - kicked off in Dallas yesterday, taking over the Kay Ba Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

OpenACC Talks Up Summit and Community Momentum at SC18

November 12, 2018

OpenACC – the directives-based parallel programing model for optimizing applications on heterogeneous architectures – is showcasing user traction and HPC im Read more…

By John Russell

How ASCI Revolutionized the World of High-Performance Computing and Advanced Modeling and Simulation

November 9, 2018

The 1993 Supercomputing Conference was held in Portland, Oregon. That conference and it’s show floor provided a good snapshot of the uncertainty that U.S. supercomputing was facing in the early 1990s. Many of the companies exhibiting that year would soon be gone, either bankrupt or acquired by somebody else. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

At SC18: GM, Boeing, Deere, BP Talk Enterprise HPC Strategies

November 9, 2018

SC18 in Dallas (Nov.11-16) will feature an impressive series of sessions focused on the enterprise HPC deployments at some of the largest industrial companies: Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray Unveils Shasta, Lands NERSC-9 Contract

October 30, 2018

Cray revealed today the details of its next-gen supercomputing architecture, Shasta, selected to be the next flagship system at NERSC. We've known of the code-name "Shasta" since the Argonne slice of the CORAL project was announced in 2015 and although the details of that plan have changed considerably, Cray didn't slow down its timeline for Shasta. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TACC Wins Next NSF-funded Major Supercomputer

July 30, 2018

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has won the next NSF-funded big supercomputer beating out rivals including the National Center for Supercomputing Ap Read more…

By John Russell

IBM at Hot Chips: What’s Next for Power

August 23, 2018

With processor, memory and networking technologies all racing to fill in for an ailing Moore’s law, the era of the heterogeneous datacenter is well underway, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Requiem for a Phi: Knights Landing Discontinued

July 25, 2018

On Monday, Intel made public its end of life strategy for the Knights Landing "KNL" Phi product set. The announcement makes official what has already been wide Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

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

Leading Solution Providers

US Leads Supercomputing with #1, #2 Systems & Petascale Arm

November 12, 2018

The 31st Supercomputing Conference (SC) - commemorating 30 years since the first Supercomputing in 1988 - kicked off in Dallas yesterday, taking over the Kay Ba Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TACC’s ‘Frontera’ Supercomputer Expands Horizon for Extreme-Scale Science

August 29, 2018

The National Science Foundation and the Texas Advanced Computing Center announced today that a new system, called Frontera, will overtake Stampede 2 as the fast Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE No. 1, IBM Surges, in ‘Bucking Bronco’ High Performance Server Market

September 27, 2018

Riding healthy U.S. and global economies, strong demand for AI-capable hardware and other tailwind trends, the high performance computing server market jumped 28 percent in the second quarter 2018 to $3.7 billion, up from $2.9 billion for the same period last year, according to industry analyst firm Hyperion Research. Read more…

By Doug Black

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Germany Celebrates Launch of Two Fastest Supercomputers

September 26, 2018

The new high-performance computer SuperMUC-NG at the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Garching is the fastest computer in Germany and one of the fastest i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Houston to Field Massive, ‘Geophysically Configured’ Cloud Supercomputer

October 11, 2018

Based on some news stories out today, one might get the impression that the next system to crack number one on the Top500 would be an industrial oil and gas mon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

Google Releases Machine Learning “What-If” Analysis Tool

September 12, 2018

Training machine learning models has long been time-consuming process. Yesterday, Google released a “What-If Tool” for probing how data point changes affect a model’s prediction. The new tool is being launched as a new feature of the open source TensorBoard web application... Read more…

By John Russell

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