Dell EMC’s HPC Chief on Strategy and Emerging Processor Diversity

By John Russell

November 16, 2018

Last January Thierry Pellegrino, a long-time Dell/Dell EMC veteran, became vice president of HPC. His tenure comes at a time when the very definition of HPC is blurring with AI writ large (data analytics, machine learning, deep learning) clamoring for a place at the previously exclusively HPC table. This blending of HPC with AI has simultaneously stirred excitement and angst in the HPC community, although the hand-wringing by HPC purists has diminished as the power of HPC and AI together becomes apparent.

Dell EMC, of course, is no stranger to HPC though it’s historically focused more on commercial markets. Its win of the $60 million TACC Frontera supercomputer contract got plenty of attention at SC18. The company has also recently stood up an impressive cluster at the Ohio Supercomputer Center (Pitzer) and will soon stand up another cluster at the University of Michigan (Great Lakes). Dell EMC is showcasing leading edge expertise and collaboration with other leading technology suppliers to support its growing pushes into HPC and AI. A good example is the Great Lakes project in which Dell EMC worked with Mellanox to deploy the first system to use Infiniband HDR 200Gb/s.

“I remember when we formed the team, one of the things I said,” recalled Pellegrino, “was, ‘Let’s go and lead. Let’s go through the learning and let’s become good partners.’ Mellanox is a good partner. And you know HDR 200 is a pretty pointed technology, and it took a little bit of back and forth, and Michigan was delighted we were able to get that cluster done.”

In keeping with Dell EMC’s traditional attention to the enterprise, the company is leveraging reference architectures as a means to bring HPC/AI in to the broader enterprise. It launched a Ready Solution for AI in August intended to make AI deployment easier (link to Dell EMC’s SC18 announcements). This approach of using reference architectures is fundamental to Dell EMC’s strategy for taking HPC and AI technology to a broader market.

Said Pellegrino, “It’s a reference architecture that tells you “if you want to start from scratch, good luck, but if you want to start from something that has been validated, it is also that.” When we launched in August the goal is not to have 1,000 customers doing exactly the same thing. The goal is to enable you talk to a customer and work with them to adapt to their needs.”

(PRNewsfoto/Dell EMC)

It will be interesting to monitor how this effort fares; the use of vertical pre-configured HPC solutions and the use of reference architectures as a means to encourage greater HPC use (and sales) into the enterprise have generally yielded mixed results.

So now, two years after the merger of Dell and EMC – a period during which Pellegrino says life was interesting – Dell EMC seems to be sharpening the points of a multi-prong spear to deliver HPC and AI to both sophisticated clients and less skilled organizations. While at SC18 HPCwire and EnterpriseTech had a chance to sit down and talk with Pellegrino. Unfortunately, poor quality of the recorded interview prevents presenting the full discussion. Nevertheless Pellegrino’s comments on at least one topic – the wealth of processor options now available came through clearly. Although Dell EMC is a solid Intel partner, Pellegrino sees growing interest in AMD Epyc and Arm.

Presented here, with apologies to Pellegrino for the briefness of the material, are a few of his thoughts.

HPCwire: I know Dell EMC is a strong Intel partner, and that Frontera will use Intel chips, but we wanted to get your thoughts on the emerging processor diversity. It seems there are more viable processor choices – Intel, AMD Epyc, IBM Power – than in several years.

Pellegrino: Yes there are more choices. [Yet] even though Epyc (AMD) has come out and has been a good processor, we haven’t seen a landslide over from Intel to AMD. We are very excited to see the Intel roadmap continuing to evolve. We have seen the Cascade Lake AP announcement recently and we’ll see what next year brings. The AMD roadmap with Epyc2 having been announced recently is also very interesting. Like everyone we are analyzing these technologies. I will add in the mix Arm.

HPCwire: Focus on Arm for a moment. Given x86’s strength and Intel’s dominance and even AMD’s growing strength, what’s your take on Arm for broader use in HPC and the datacenter?

Pellegrino: So we have all been watching Arm and saying Arm is going to be relevant… tomorrow. That’s kept on going. Finally Arm cleared the 64-bit hurdle, but to me, and for Dell EMC, it’s still challenging. The whole ecosystem has not been built out. There are reasons why Arm could be more relevant in hyperscale and HPC [for] very targeted applications, if you have the stack for that particular application that is well validated for Arm. At any point in time we are looking at all three of those processor vendors, actually Arm is not a processor vendor but a technology provider, and trying to evaluate which one are well suited for our customers.

HPCwire: There are now a few major Arm projects being stood up and the silicon has been available for a while. Does that give you more confidence about Arm’s future?

Pellegrino: The TX2 (Marvel/Cavium ThunderX2, available last May) looks good and the ThunderX3 roadmap looks great but they aren’t the only ones supplying Arm. Fujitsu has an offering. We also see Ampere with an offering coming up. That’s almost one of the challenges, there so many variations of Arm.

HPCwire: Should we be surprised if Dell EMC releases an Arm system? HPE had an early datacenter server (Moonshot cartridge) based on Arm that didn’t sell well.

Pellegrino: First of all, we do have Arm servers today but I think the better way for me to answer your question is to say we are not discarding any technology out there. We have an Arm data center solution, for hyperscale. And it’s true that – just like other OEMs out there – we had a SKU available that was 32-bit and didn’t really sell. But I think we are not one of those OEMs that will go out there and just design it and hope people will go and buy it. We depend upon our customers. I can tell you historically customers have asked questions about Arm but have not been very committal. Those discussions are now intensifying.

HPCwire: Has concern over the so-called heavy lift – porting to and supporting a non-x86 system – been reduced? Is less work needed now?

Pellegrino: It’s still the kind of work it was before in general. When you narrow it down to an HPC environment, I think you can reduce the size of the mountain you have to clear. Now, it’s a matter of needing to understand how much more needs to be provided; the ROI needs to be really valuable. [Remember] the ROI is not affected just by the cost of the processor. You have to factor in the upgrade, the tuning, whatever application you need. But I think there is growing momentum. It’s growing in the right direction.

HPCwire: That sounds promising for Arm.

Pellegrino: I think next year we’ll still see most choices between Intel and AMD. I am just saying Arm is another trend. Look at Qualcomm. We thought they were the guys who were going to lead the pack (of Arm server chip suppliers) – [Qualcomm has since sent mixed signal about serving that market] – That’s a little scary if you think about running a business and usually it’s the kind of business where you need reliability and you need partners who are going to be present. You know Intel is going to be around for a while.

HPCwire: What about IBM? Would you be considering using IBM Power processors?

Pellegrino: You are the second person today to ask me about Power. I think right now we are very busy and focused on Intel, x86, and Arm. It’s not impossible that Power could become more relevant. We are always looking at technologies. The Power-Nvidia integration was a pretty smart move and we’ve seen some clusters won by Power. But it’s not an avalanche. I think it works great for purposeful applications. For general purpose, I think it’s still looked at as [less attractive] than AMD Intel and ARM.

HPCwire: Let’s talk about the rise of heterogeneous architectures. Are you seeing greater demand for accelerated systems?

Pellegrino: We do have more and more customers looking to install heterogeneous and it generally stems from the needs of their own customers. In academia sometimes it’s a regular standard cluster but when they want to try to do deeper analysis, they want accelerators and Nvidia is bringing some GPUs that bring very obvious advantages there. Quite frankly we deploy a lot of heterogeneous clusters. In the enterprise [it’s determined] more by the technology best suited for the workloads. Unless the workload is very, very narrow, more often than not what we see is Xeon deployments with GPUs [but how many varies with specific needs].

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!

RIKEN Post-K Supercomputer Named After Japan’s Tallest Peak

May 23, 2019

May 23 -- RIKEN President Hiroshi Matsumoto announced that the successor to the K computer will be named Fugaku, another name for Mount Fuji, which is the tallest mountain peak in Japan. Supercomputer Fugaku, developed b Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray’s Emerging Market & Technology Director Arti Garg Peers Around HPC/AI Corner

May 23, 2019

In her position as emerging market and technology director at Cray, Arti Garg doesn't just have a front-row seat to the future of computing, she plays an active role in making that future happen. Key to Garg's role is understanding how deep learning scientists are using state-of-the-art HPC infrastructures and figuring out how to push those limits further. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Combining Machine Learning and Supercomputing to Ferret out Phishing Attacks

May 23, 2019

The relentless ingenuity that drives cyber hacking is a global engine that knows no rest. Anyone with a laptop and run-of-the-mill computer smarts can buy or rent a phishing kit and start attacking – or it can be done Read more…

By Doug Black

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

Who’s Driving Your Car?

Delivering a fully autonomous driving (AD) vehicle remains a key priority for both manufacturers and technology firms (“firms”). However, passenger safety is now a top-of-mind concern due in great part, to fatalities resulting from driving tests over the past years. Read more…

TACC’s Upgraded Ranch Data Storage System Debuts New Features, Exabyte Potential

May 22, 2019

There's a joke attributed to comedian Steven Wright that goes, "You can't have everything. Where would you put it?" Users of advanced computing can likely relate to this. The exponential growth of data poses a steep challenge to efforts for its reliable storage. For over 12 years, the Ranch system at the Texas Advanced Computing Center... Read more…

By Jorge Salazar, TACC

Cray’s Emerging Market & Technology Director Arti Garg Peers Around HPC/AI Corner

May 23, 2019

In her position as emerging market and technology director at Cray, Arti Garg doesn't just have a front-row seat to the future of computing, she plays an active role in making that future happen. Key to Garg's role is understanding how deep learning scientists are using state-of-the-art HPC infrastructures and figuring out how to push those limits further. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Combining Machine Learning and Supercomputing to Ferret out Phishing Attacks

May 23, 2019

The relentless ingenuity that drives cyber hacking is a global engine that knows no rest. Anyone with a laptop and run-of-the-mill computer smarts can buy or re Read more…

By Doug Black

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

HPE to Acquire Cray for $1.3B

May 17, 2019

Venerable supercomputer pioneer Cray Inc. will be acquired by Hewlett Packard Enterprise for $1.3 billion under a definitive agreement announced this morning. T Read more…

By Doug Black & 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

CCC Offers Draft 20-Year AI Roadmap; Seeks Comments

May 14, 2019

Artificial Intelligence in all its guises has captured much of the conversation in HPC and general computing today. The White House, DARPA, IARPA, and Departmen Read more…

By John Russell

Cascade Lake Shows Up to 84 Percent Gen-on-Gen Advantage on STAC Benchmarking

May 13, 2019

The Securities Technology Analysis Center (STAC) issued a report Friday comparing the performance of Intel's Cascade Lake processors with previous-gen Skylake u Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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