Chipmakers Look Beyond Accelerators to ‘Balanced’ Systems

By George Leopold

November 9, 2018

The Cambrian explosion of about 500 million years ago is a popular metaphor for the tail end of Moore’s Law scaling and the emergence of a variety of processing accelerators used primarily to digest data torrents at the network edge. Autonomous vehicle sensors are among the examples, generating on average about 4 Tb of data per day per instrumented vehicle.

The promise and pitfalls of the chip industry’s version of the Cambrian explosion along with the need to find new ways to reboot and scale computing in the post-Moore’s Law era are creating requirements for new chip architectures that decouple processing from memory along with new interconnects that address broader computing applications.

In short, according to experts at this year’s IEEE Rebooting Computing conference, the end of Moore’s Law requires a move away from today’s custom CPUs, GPUs and deep learning accelerators geared toward specific applications and toward “domain-specific” processors.

The rub, said Paolo Faraboschi, vice president and research fellow at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, is this kind of “system balance at scale is hard.” Among the reasons are the astronomical costs of chip manufacturing where line widths for production silicon are down to 7 nanometers.

“We need to reboot computing at the system level,” said Faraboschi, who heads HPE’s Systems Research Lab.

CPU extensions along with GPUs and deep learning accelerators like Google TPUs are all the rage for specific applications, but justifying current fabrication costs has become the real challenge, Faraboschi added. For one thing, extreme ultraviolet lithography techniques used for leading-edge chips operate in a vacuum, thereby reducing chip yields.

One way out of this dilemma, Faraboschi argued, is to shift from component specialization and custom accelerators to “balanced” systems that can address larger data-driven domains like edge computing.

Like the rise, fall and resurgence of the Cambrian explosion, “The computing world has become heterogeneous [and] there is no turning back,” the HPE engineer said. “We have to do something else [because] it’s getting a lot more expensive” to manufacture advanced chips.

A prime example of the domain-specific approach advocated by Faraboschi and others are applications like autonomous vehicles and Internet of Things deployments that use CPU, GPU and TPU accelerators for local processing and reduction of data movement. “There is clearly demand at the edge [and] we’re moving toward some kind of edge processing and control” that flows back and forth to datacenters, Faraboschi told the IEEE conference on Thursday (Nov. 8).

Chip experts note that current accelerators represent the tail end of Moore’s Law scaling, with a shuffling of digital gates on silicon but not much more in terms of chip innovation. For hardware engineers, the future may lie in “unconventional accelerators” like analog neuromorphic processors, a frequent topic at this week’s computing conference. Domain-specific applications include much faster AI training and inference, proponents said, along with the ability to execute “matrix calculations” in a single step rather than thousands.

Hence, neuromorphic chips are seen as ideal for data analytics applications ranging from deep learning and streaming analytics to signal processing.

But Faraboschi and other advocates of rebooting computing note there’s room for other approaches such as optical and quantum computing. “No one size fits all,” he stressed.

Along with processing, optical technologies are also widely seen as a way for breaking the interconnect logjam, as are data fabrics that are the focus of several open networking protocol efforts.

HPE’s Paolo Faraboschi

The current “interconnect crisis” is driven by the current two-socket server-based computing infrastructure that is being overwhelmed by accelerators and other high-end processors that are often underutilized due to system latency. “The conventional infrastructure is stretched to the limits [and] memory is chained to the CPU,” said Faraboschi.

Among the interconnect options  vying to become an industry standard are: OpenCAPI, which Faraboschi argued does not scale; CCIX, championed by Arm, Xilinx and other; and the HPE-backed Gen-Z  open interconnect protocol.

Besides openness, HPE’s pitch for Gen-Z focuses on attributes such as “memory semantics,” a communication protocol that Faraboschi said “speaks the same language as memory” as a way of reducing latency. “There is an industry need to decouple processor and memory,” he added.

HPE is currently developing a Gen-Z-based chip set, included an optical bridge and switch, as part of the Energy Department’s Exascale Computing Project.

Regardless of which interconnect scheme wins, Faraboschi stressed, “The [chip] industry desperately needs one of them.”

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!

Summit Achieves 445 Petaflops on New HPL-AI Benchmark

June 19, 2019

Summit -- the world's the top-ranking supercomputer -- has been used to test-drive a new AI-targeted Linpack benchmark, called HPL-AI. Traditionally, supercomputer performance is measured using the High-Performance Li Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

By the Numbers: For the HPC Industry, These Are the Good Old Days

June 18, 2019

For technology vendors in HPC and HPC-related markets driven by increased demand for AI, enterprise and exascale solutions, this is the best of times – with better times likely in the offing. HPC analyst firm Hyperion Research took the occasion of its semi-annual HPC market update breakfast today in Frankfurt... Read more…

By Doug Black

Top500 Purely Petaflops; US Maintains Performance Lead

June 17, 2019

With the kick-off of the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt this morning, the 53rd Top500 list made its debut, and this one's for petafloppers only. The entry point for the new list is 1.022 petaf Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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.

For 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

Avoid AI Redo’s by Starting with the Right Infrastructure

Do you know if you have the right infrastructure for AI? Many organizations don’t have it. In a recent IDC survey, “77.1% of respondents say they ran into one or more limitations with their AI infrastructure on-premise and 90.3% ran into compute limitations in the cloud.” Read more…

Nvidia Embraces Arm, Declares Intent to Accelerate All CPU Architectures

June 17, 2019

As the Top500 list was being announced at ISC in Frankfurt today with an upgraded petascale Arm supercomputer in the top third of the list, Nvidia announced its intention to make Arm a full citizen in the processing arch Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Summit Achieves 445 Petaflops on New HPL-AI Benchmark

June 19, 2019

Summit -- the world's the top-ranking supercomputer -- has been used to test-drive a new AI-targeted Linpack benchmark, called HPL-AI. Traditionally, superco Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

By the Numbers: For the HPC Industry, These Are the Good Old Days

June 18, 2019

For technology vendors in HPC and HPC-related markets driven by increased demand for AI, enterprise and exascale solutions, this is the best of times – with better times likely in the offing. HPC analyst firm Hyperion Research took the occasion of its semi-annual HPC market update breakfast today in Frankfurt... Read more…

By Doug Black

Top500 Purely Petaflops; US Maintains Performance Lead

June 17, 2019

With the kick-off of the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt this morning, the 53rd Top500 list made its debut, and this one's for petafl Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Embraces Arm, Declares Intent to Accelerate All CPU Architectures

June 17, 2019

As the Top500 list was being announced at ISC in Frankfurt today with an upgraded petascale Arm supercomputer in the top third of the list, Nvidia announced its Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Jack Wells Joins OpenACC; Arm Support Coming

June 17, 2019

Perhaps the most significant ISC19 news for OpenACC wasn’t in its official press release yesterday which touted growing user traction and the notable addition Read more…

By John Russell

DDN Launches EXA5 for AI, Big Data, HPC Workloads

June 17, 2019

DDN, for two decades competing at the headwaters of high performance storage, this morning announced an enterprise-oriented end-to-end high performance storage Read more…

By Doug Black

Final Countdown to ISC19: What to See

June 13, 2019

If you're attending the International Supercomputing Conference, taking place in Frankfurt next week (June 16-20), you're either packing, in transit, or are alr Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The US Global Weather Forecast System Just Got a Major Upgrade

June 13, 2019

The United States’ Global Forecast System (GFS) has received a major upgrade to its modeling capabilities. The new dynamical core that has been added to the G Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

High Performance (Potato) Chips

May 5, 2006

In this article, we focus on how Procter & Gamble is using high performance computing to create some common, everyday supermarket products. Tom Lange, a 27-year veteran of the company, tells us how P&G models products, processes and production systems for the betterment of consumer package goods. Read more…

By Michael Feldman

Cray, AMD to Extend DOE’s Exascale Frontier

May 7, 2019

Cray and AMD are coming back to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to partner on the world’s largest and most expensive supercomputer. The Department of Energy’s Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphene Surprises Again, This Time for Quantum Computing

May 8, 2019

Graphene is fascinating stuff with promise for use in a seeming endless number of applications. This month researchers from the University of Vienna and Institu Read more…

By John Russell

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

AMD Verifies Its Largest 7nm Chip Design in Ten Hours

June 5, 2019

AMD announced last week that its engineers had successfully executed the first physical verification of its largest 7nm chip design – in just ten hours. The AMD Radeon Instinct Vega20 – which boasts 13.2 billion transistors – was tested using a TSMC-certified Calibre nmDRC software platform from Mentor. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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

Deep Learning Competitors Stalk Nvidia

May 14, 2019

There is no shortage of processing architectures emerging to accelerate deep learning workloads, with two more options emerging this week to challenge GPU leader Nvidia. First, Intel researchers claimed a new deep learning record for image classification on the ResNet-50 convolutional neural network. Separately, Israeli AI chip startup Hailo.ai... Read more…

By George Leopold

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

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

TSMC and Samsung Moving to 5nm; Whither Moore’s Law?

June 12, 2019

With reports that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TMSC) and Samsung are moving quickly to 5nm manufacturing, it’s a good time to again ponder whither goes the venerable Moore’s law. Shrinking feature size has of course been the primary hallmark of achieving Moore’s law... Read more…

By John Russell

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

Cray – and the Cray Brand – to Be Positioned at Tip of HPE’s HPC Spear

May 22, 2019

More so than with most acquisitions of this kind, HPE’s purchase of Cray for $1.3 billion, announced last week, seems to have elements of that overused, often Read more…

By Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Embraces Arm, Declares Intent to Accelerate All CPU Architectures

June 17, 2019

As the Top500 list was being announced at ISC in Frankfurt today with an upgraded petascale Arm supercomputer in the top third of the list, Nvidia announced its Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Announcing four new HPC capabilities in Google Cloud Platform

April 15, 2019

When you’re running compute-bound or memory-bound applications for high performance computing or large, data-dependent machine learning training workloads on Read more…

By Wyatt Gorman, HPC Specialist, Google Cloud; Brad Calder, VP of Engineering, Google Cloud; Bart Sano, VP of Platforms, Google Cloud

In Wake of Nvidia-Mellanox: Xilinx to Acquire Solarflare

April 25, 2019

With echoes of Nvidia’s recent acquisition of Mellanox, FPGA maker Xilinx has announced a definitive agreement to acquire Solarflare Communications, provider Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia Claims 6000x Speed-Up for Stock Trading Backtest Benchmark

May 13, 2019

A stock trading backtesting algorithm used by hedge funds to simulate trading variants has received a massive, GPU-based performance boost, according to Nvidia, Read more…

By Doug Black

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