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!

Data West Brings Technology Leaders to SDSC

December 6, 2018

Data and technology enthusiasts from around the world descended upon the San Diego Supercomputing Center (SDSC) for the third annual Data West conference, which is taking place this week on the campus of the University o Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Topology Can Help Us Find Patterns in Weather

December 6, 2018

Topology--–the study of shapes-- seems to be all the rage. You could even say that data has shape, and shape matters. Shapes are comfortable and familiar concepts, so it is intriguing to see that many applications are Read more…

By James Reinders

What’s New in HPC Research: Automatic Energy Efficiency, DNA Data Analysis, Post-Exascale & More

December 6, 2018

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

By Oliver Peckham

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

Five Steps to Building a Data Strategy for AI

Our data-centric world is driving many organizations to apply advanced analytics that use artificial intelligence (AI). AI provides intelligent answers to challenging business questions. AI also enables highly personalized user experiences, built when data scientists and analysts learn new information from data that would otherwise go undetected using traditional analytics methods. Read more…

Zettascale by 2035? China Thinks So

December 6, 2018

Exascale machines (of at least a 1 exaflops peak) are anticipated to arrive by around 2020, a few years behind original predictions; and given extreme-scale performance challenges are not getting any easier, it makes sense that researchers are already looking ahead to the next big 1,000x performance goal post: zettascale computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Topology Can Help Us Find Patterns in Weather

December 6, 2018

Topology--–the study of shapes-- seems to be all the rage. You could even say that data has shape, and shape matters. Shapes are comfortable and familiar conc Read more…

By James Reinders

Zettascale by 2035? China Thinks So

December 6, 2018

Exascale machines (of at least a 1 exaflops peak) are anticipated to arrive by around 2020, a few years behind original predictions; and given extreme-scale performance challenges are not getting any easier, it makes sense that researchers are already looking ahead to the next big 1,000x performance goal post: zettascale computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Robust Quantum Computers Still a Decade Away, Says Nat’l Academies Report

December 5, 2018

The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine yesterday released a report – Quantum Computing: Progress and Prospects – whose optimism about Read more…

By John Russell

Revisiting the 2008 Exascale Computing Study at SC18

November 29, 2018

A report published a decade ago conveyed the results of a study aimed at determining if it were possible to achieve 1000X the computational power of the the Read more…

By Scott Gibson

AWS Debuts Lustre as a Service, Accelerates Data Transfer

November 28, 2018

From the Amazon re:Invent main stage in Las Vegas today, Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy introduced Amazon FSx for Lustre, citing a growing body of applicati Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AWS Launches First Arm Cloud Instances

November 28, 2018

AWS, a macrocosm of the emerging high-performance technology landscape, wants to be everywhere you want to be and offer everything you want to use (or at least Read more…

By Doug Black

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

DOE Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar Interviewed at SC18

November 21, 2018

During the 30th annual SC conference in Dallas last week, SC18 hosted U.S. Department of Energy Under Secretary for Science Paul M. Dabbar. In attendance Nov. 13-14, Dabbar delivered remarks at the Top500 panel, met with a number of industry stakeholders and toured the show floor. He also met with HPCwire for an interview, where we discussed the role of the DOE in advancing leadership computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

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

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

AMD Sets Up for Epyc Epoch

November 16, 2018

It’s been a good two weeks, AMD’s Gary Silcott and Andy Parma told me on the last day of SC18 in Dallas at the restaurant where we met to discuss their show news and recent successes. Heck, it’s been a good year. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

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

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, product photos, and even a beautiful image of supernovae... Read more…

By John Russell

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

Intel Confirms 48-Core Cascade Lake-AP for 2019

November 4, 2018

As part of the run-up to SC18, taking place in Dallas next week (Nov. 11-16), Intel is doling out info on its next-gen Cascade Lake family of Xeon processors, specifically the “Advanced Processor” version (Cascade Lake-AP), architected for high-performance computing, artificial intelligence and infrastructure-as-a-service workloads. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

The Convergence of Big Data and Extreme-Scale HPC

August 31, 2018

As we are heading towards extreme-scale HPC coupled with data intensive analytics like machine learning, the necessary integration of big data and HPC is a curr Read more…

By Rob Farber

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