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!

Is Amazon’s Plunge into Server Chips a Watershed Moment?

December 11, 2018

For several years now the big cloud providers – Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Google, et al – have been transforming from technology consumers into technology creators in hardware and software. The most recent example bei Read more…

By John Russell

Mellanox Uses Univa to Extend Silicon Design HPC Operation to Azure

December 11, 2018

Call it a corollary to Murphy’s Law: When a system is most in demand, when end users are most dependent on the system performing as required, when it’s crunch time – that’s when the system is most likely to blow up. Or make you wait in line to use it. Read more…

By Doug Black

Clemson’s Cautionary Cryptomining Tale

December 11, 2018

In some ways, the bigger the computer, the more vulnerable it is to cryptomining as Clemson University discovered after cryptominers dug into its Palmetto supercomputer. When a number of nodes on Clemson University’s P Read more…

By Staff

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

Blurring the Lines Between HPC and AI @ SC18

The dominant topic at SC18 was the convergence of HPC and Artificial Intelligence (AI) with some of the biggest research and enterprise HPC users providing perspectives on how HPC and AI are moving closer together. Read more…

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 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

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

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

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
NVIDIA @ 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