TACC Wins Next NSF-funded Major Supercomputer

By John Russell

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 Applications (NCSA)/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center among others. The NSF award – Towards a Leadership-Class Computing Facility – Phase 1 – is worth roughly $60 million for the system and another $60 million for five years of operations. A Phase 2 effort for building a true Leadership Class system is called out in the solicitation but with few details and no specific funding. The list of submitters is not made public.

Details of the planned TACC system or winning proposal were not immediately available. TACC is delaying public announcements until the “final contracts are signed” according to a spokesperson. However, a publicly-available memorandum from the National Science Board (NSF’s governing body) reported that NSB passed a resolution last Tuesday “authorizing the Director to make an award to the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin for the acquisition of the system described in the [TACC] proposal Computation for the Endless Frontier.”

HPCwire will report the details of the new machine when they are available. In describing the project’s requirements the NSF solicitation used the Blue Waters (NCSA) supercomputer as a benchmark saying the Phase 1 system should have “least two to three-fold time-to-solution performance improvement over the UIUC’s Blue Waters system for a broad range of computational and data-intensive workflows that require the highest capabilities in terms of scale, throughput, and data analytics.”

It will be fascinating to see who the prime vendors are and what architecture is planned. Blue Waters, headquartered at NCSA, is a 13 petaflops (peak) system built by Cray and powered by AMD Opteron processors and Nvidia K20 GPUs. By comparison to the just-announced award, Blue Waters cost about $190 million capital and roughly $150 million for operations for five years.

Reached for comment on the NSF award, Bill Gropp, director of NCSA, congratulated TACC and expressed disappointment for NCSA. He declined to offer details of the NCSA proposal as there has been speculation regarding potential NSF support for an additional system; NCSA would be interested in competing for it if indeed such an opportunity arises and is keeping its cards close to its vest for the moment.

Said Gropp, “The call for the Blue Waters replacement emphasized performance across a wide range of applications. That’s a very challenging target. We worked hard to propose a system that would deliver sustained performance in the requested quantity for a variety of applications. Going forward it’s going to get harder and harder to do that because the architectures become more specialized in order to do performance targets.”

The new award is sure to spark debate over NSF’s selection process and its overall strategy for growing the U.S. HPC infrastructure serving academic science. While the Department of Energy (DoE) has a clear exascale computing program to serve DoE missions, NSF does not.

Gropp says, “NSF essentially doesn’t like using the word exascale. To some extent I am ok with that because it is an arbitrary performance number and we should be focused on enabling science.” Indeed DoE has likewise de-emphasized exaflops capability as the goal and instead has set 50x performance above existing leadership class systems as the benchmark.

Many in the HPC community say NSF plans for building extreme scale computing infrastructure in support of science are inadequate. While acknowledging the many pressures NSF faces, Gropp is nonetheless firmly in the camp that believes NSF’s plans should be more aggressive.

“The current NSF situation is disappointing. The system that TACC won, if you look at the title of this [NSF solicitation], it is ‘Towards Leadership Computing,’ which is really truth in advertising, because that’s not going to be a leadership system unless TACC got a really great deal from somebody. It’s going to be not in the same ballpark as leadership systems either at DoE or elsewhere in the world,” said Gropp, who was co-chairman of the National Academies Report, Future Directions for NSF Advanced Computing Infrastructure to Support U.S. Science and Engineering in 2017-2020, which supported more aggressive expansion of high end HPC resources.

“The challenge that we see going forward is the level of funding and level of resources provided are declining both pretty much in absolute terms and certainly relative to our international competitors. If you look at the plans that Japan has for what I would consider their Track 2 systems, I think that right now there are 11 systems on that roadmap. That is a real roadmap with specific kinds of systems, performance targets, centers of operations and timelines. Now it’s a roadmap; it is not a guarantee, but it shows thinking that allows science teams to plan on what sort of systems are going to be available and what they need to do to adapt to use those systems,” said Gropp.

Gropp noted a roadmap slide presented by NSF at SC16 included second system. At SC17, a similar slide lacked the second system. (see slides below)

NSF slide presented at SC16

 

NSF slide presented at SC17

 

“If you read the RFP for this solicitation, it is a two-phase solicitation, but only the first phase is funded. So part of what you had to respond to in the proposal was how you were going to plan for phase two. So another question is how much money they are going to set aside for phase two. Are they prepared to set aside $200- or $300 million dollars for capital and something on the same order for operations, which is what a leadership system costs these days.”

No doubt there will be heightened discussion of NSF’s strategy following the TACC award as well as excitement around learning the details of TACC’s planned new machine.

Link to NSB memorandum: https://www.nsf.gov/nsb/meetings/2018/0717/major-actions.pdf

Link to full NSF solicitation: https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2017/nsf17558/nsf17558.htm

Link to National Academies Report: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/21886/future-directions-for-nsf-advanced-computing-infrastructure-to-support-us-science-and-engineering-in-2017-2020

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!

HPC Career Notes: August 2021 Edition

August 4, 2021

In this monthly feature, we’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high-performance computing community. Whether it’s a promotion, new company hire, or even an accolade, we’ Read more…

The Promise (and Necessity) of Runtime Systems like Charm++ in Exascale Power Management

August 4, 2021

Big heterogeneous computer systems, especially forthcoming exascale computers, are power hungry and difficult to program effectively. This is, of course, not an unrecognized problem. In a recent blog, Charmworks’ CEO S Read more…

Digging into the Atos-Nimbix Deal: Big US HPC and Global Cloud Aspirations. Look out HPE?

August 2, 2021

Behind Atos’s deal announced last week to acquire HPC-cloud specialist Nimbix are ramped-up plans to penetrate the U.S. HPC market and global expansion of its HPC cloud capabilities. Nimbix will become “an Atos HPC c Read more…

Berkeley Lab Makes Strides in Autonomous Discovery to Tackle the Data Deluge

August 2, 2021

Data production is outpacing the human capacity to process said data. Whether a giant radio telescope, a new particle accelerator or lidar data from autonomous cars, the sheer scale of the data generated is increasingly Read more…

Verifying the Universe with Exascale Computers

July 30, 2021

The ExaSky project, one of the critical Earth and Space Science applications being solved by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Exascale Computing Project (ECP), is preparing to use the nation’s forthcoming exas Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Pushing pixels, not data with NICE DCV

NICE DCV, our high-performance, low-latency remote-display protocol, was originally created for scientists and engineers who ran large workloads on far-away supercomputers, but needed to visualize data without moving it. Read more…

What’s After Exascale? The Internet of Workflows Says HPE’s Nicolas Dubé

July 29, 2021

With the race to exascale computing in its final leg, it’s natural to wonder what the Post Exascale Era will look like. Nicolas Dubé, VP and chief technologist for HPE’s HPC business unit, agrees and shared his vision at Supercomputing Frontiers Europe 2021 held last week. The next big thing, he told the virtual audience at SFE21, is something that will connect HPC and (broadly) all of IT – into what Dubé calls The Internet of Workflows. Read more…

Digging into the Atos-Nimbix Deal: Big US HPC and Global Cloud Aspirations. Look out HPE?

August 2, 2021

Behind Atos’s deal announced last week to acquire HPC-cloud specialist Nimbix are ramped-up plans to penetrate the U.S. HPC market and global expansion of its Read more…

What’s After Exascale? The Internet of Workflows Says HPE’s Nicolas Dubé

July 29, 2021

With the race to exascale computing in its final leg, it’s natural to wonder what the Post Exascale Era will look like. Nicolas Dubé, VP and chief technologist for HPE’s HPC business unit, agrees and shared his vision at Supercomputing Frontiers Europe 2021 held last week. The next big thing, he told the virtual audience at SFE21, is something that will connect HPC and (broadly) all of IT – into what Dubé calls The Internet of Workflows. Read more…

How UK Scientists Developed Transformative, HPC-Powered Coronavirus Sequencing System

July 29, 2021

In November 2020, the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) won the HPCwire Readers’ Choice Award for Best HPC Collaboration for its CLIMB-COVID sequencing project. Launched in March 2020, CLIMB-COVID has now resulted in the sequencing of over 675,000 coronavirus genomes – an increasingly critical task as variants like Delta threaten the tenuous prospect of a return to normalcy in much of the world. Read more…

IBM and University of Tokyo Roll Out Quantum System One in Japan

July 27, 2021

IBM and the University of Tokyo today unveiled an IBM Quantum System One as part of the IBM-Japan quantum program announced in 2019. The system is the second IB Read more…

Intel Unveils New Node Names; Sapphire Rapids Is Now an ‘Intel 7’ CPU

July 27, 2021

What's a preeminent chip company to do when its process node technology lags the competition by (roughly) one generation, but outmoded naming conventions make it seem like it's two nodes behind? For Intel, the response was to change how it refers to its nodes with the aim of better reflecting its positioning within the leadership semiconductor manufacturing space. Intel revealed its new node nomenclature, and... Read more…

Will Approximation Drive Post-Moore’s Law HPC Gains?

July 26, 2021

“Hardware-based improvements are going to get more and more difficult,” said Neil Thompson, an innovation scholar at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL). “I think that’s something that this crowd will probably, actually, be already familiar with.” Thompson, speaking... Read more…

With New Owner and New Roadmap, an Independent Omni-Path Is Staging a Comeback

July 23, 2021

Put on a shelf by Intel in 2019, Omni-Path faced a uncertain future, but under new custodian Cornelis Networks, OmniPath is looking to make a comeback as an independent high-performance interconnect solution. A "significant refresh" – called Omni-Path Express – is coming later this year according to the company. Cornelis Networks formed last September as a spinout of Intel's Omni-Path division. Read more…

Chameleon’s HPC Testbed Sharpens Its Edge, Presses ‘Replay’

July 22, 2021

“One way of saying what I do for a living is to say that I develop scientific instruments,” said Kate Keahey, a senior fellow at the University of Chicago a Read more…

AMD Chipmaker TSMC to Use AMD Chips for Chipmaking

May 8, 2021

TSMC has tapped AMD to support its major manufacturing and R&D workloads. AMD will provide its Epyc Rome 7702P CPUs – with 64 cores operating at a base cl Read more…

Berkeley Lab Debuts Perlmutter, World’s Fastest AI Supercomputer

May 27, 2021

A ribbon-cutting ceremony held virtually at Berkeley Lab's National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) today marked the official launch of Perlmutter – aka NERSC-9 – the GPU-accelerated supercomputer built by HPE in partnership with Nvidia and AMD. Read more…

Ahead of ‘Dojo,’ Tesla Reveals Its Massive Precursor Supercomputer

June 22, 2021

In spring 2019, Tesla made cryptic reference to a project called Dojo, a “super-powerful training computer” for video data processing. Then, in summer 2020, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted: “Tesla is developing a [neural network] training computer called Dojo to process truly vast amounts of video data. It’s a beast! … A truly useful exaflop at de facto FP32.” Read more…

Google Launches TPU v4 AI Chips

May 20, 2021

Google CEO Sundar Pichai spoke for only one minute and 42 seconds about the company’s latest TPU v4 Tensor Processing Units during his keynote at the Google I Read more…

CentOS Replacement Rocky Linux Is Now in GA and Under Independent Control

June 21, 2021

The Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation (RESF) is announcing the general availability of Rocky Linux, release 8.4, designed as a drop-in replacement for the soon-to-be discontinued CentOS. The GA release is launching six-and-a-half months after Red Hat deprecated its support for the widely popular, free CentOS server operating system. The Rocky Linux development effort... Read more…

Intel Launches 10nm ‘Ice Lake’ Datacenter CPU with Up to 40 Cores

April 6, 2021

The wait is over. Today Intel officially launched its 10nm datacenter CPU, the third-generation Intel Xeon Scalable processor, codenamed Ice Lake. With up to 40 Read more…

Iran Gains HPC Capabilities with Launch of ‘Simorgh’ Supercomputer

May 18, 2021

Iran is said to be developing domestic supercomputing technology to advance the processing of scientific, economic, political and military data, and to strengthen the nation’s position in the age of AI and big data. On Sunday, Iran unveiled the Simorgh supercomputer, which will deliver.... Read more…

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…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from Julialang.org. I Read more…

AMD-Xilinx Deal Gains UK, EU Approvals — China’s Decision Still Pending

July 1, 2021

AMD’s planned acquisition of FPGA maker Xilinx is now in the hands of Chinese regulators after needed antitrust approvals for the $35 billion deal were receiv Read more…

GTC21: Nvidia Launches cuQuantum; Dips a Toe in Quantum Computing

April 13, 2021

Yesterday Nvidia officially dipped a toe into quantum computing with the launch of cuQuantum SDK, a development platform for simulating quantum circuits on GPU-accelerated systems. As Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang emphasized in his keynote, Nvidia doesn’t plan to build... Read more…

Microsoft to Provide World’s Most Powerful Weather & Climate Supercomputer for UK’s Met Office

April 22, 2021

More than 14 months ago, the UK government announced plans to invest £1.2 billion ($1.56 billion) into weather and climate supercomputing, including procuremen Read more…

Quantum Roundup: IBM, Rigetti, Phasecraft, Oxford QC, China, and More

July 13, 2021

IBM yesterday announced a proof for a quantum ML algorithm. A week ago, it unveiled a new topology for its quantum processors. Last Friday, the Technical Univer Read more…

Q&A with Jim Keller, CTO of Tenstorrent, and an HPCwire Person to Watch in 2021

April 22, 2021

As part of our HPCwire Person to Watch series, we are happy to present our interview with Jim Keller, president and chief technology officer of Tenstorrent. One of the top chip architects of our time, Keller has had an impactful career. Read more…

Frontier to Meet 20MW Exascale Power Target Set by DARPA in 2008

July 14, 2021

After more than a decade of planning, the United States’ first exascale computer, Frontier, is set to arrive at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) later this year. Crossing this “1,000x” horizon required overcoming four major challenges: power demand, reliability, extreme parallelism and data movement. Read more…

Senate Debate on Bill to Remake NSF – the Endless Frontier Act – Begins

May 18, 2021

The U.S. Senate today opened floor debate on the Endless Frontier Act which seeks to remake and expand the National Science Foundation by creating a technology Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire