Extreme Scale HPC: How Western Digital Corporation leveraged the virtually unlimited HPC capacity on AWS in their quest to speed up innovation and build better products

By Bala Thekkedath - Global HPC Marketing Lead, Amazon Web Services

December 10, 2018

Recently, AWS and Western Digital embarked on a very fun, challenging project of evaluating the impact of running their electro-magnetic simulations on a massive HPC cluster built on AWS using Amazon EC2 Spot Instances.   The lessons we learned and the results we were able to prove are very interesting and I am excited to share a quick overview here.

One of the biggest advantages of moving your HPC workloads to AWS is the ability to achieve extreme scales in terms of capacity and configurations – without a lot of upfront investment and heartache over long term commitments.  If you work for an organization that has moved HPC workloads to the cloud or has at least started the process by bursting to the cloud when demand spikes, you have experienced the agility and flexibility benefits afforded by the cloud.  You either have an individual account to access and request resources in the cloud or you request it via your HPC admin.  In both cases, you start building “your” cluster when you are ready. In most cases the cluster is built automatically by your job scheduler as you submit your jobs, and compute resources are ready within minutes. When the jobs are done, you shut down your cluster and stop paying for it.  When you request your cluster, unlike your on-premises environment, you can specify what type of CPUs (or GPUs, or FPGAs) you would like to run a particular application on.  Ever wonder how much faster your application would run if you had the latest CPU or GPU?  What if you wanted to determine if an I/O bandwidth optimized configuration versus CPU was better for parts of your workflow?   Well, now you can try many different configuration types without going through a cumbersome procurement process.  It becomes incredibly easy to fine tune specific portions of your HPC workflow, given the many different instance types available, and how easy it is to drop them into a workflow.   Then, there is the scale.   It does not matter if you request 1,000 cores for 8-hours or 8,000 cores for 1-hour.  You still pay the same.   So, if your application supports it, why not scale up your resources and get to results faster?

That is exactly what a recent collaborative project between AWS and Western Digital did.  First, a quick overview of the hard disk drive (HDD) market.  The HDD market is an extremely competitive one.  The ever-increasing demand for capacity from enterprises, particularly large hyper-scale data centers (like us) has been keeping Western Digital very busy.  Faced with the need to innovate to meet the growing demand for data storage capacity, the engineering teams at Western Digital are always pushing the limits of physics and engineering.  Enterprise HDDs are still confined to a 3.5 inches form factor (as they have been for years) with no chance to increase the size to accommodate additional capacity and performance requirements.  So, the only solution to meeting the increased capacity demands is to cram more bits into the same space and make sure the drives can handle the increasing demands for performance.  The technical term here is increasing the areal density of the media – meaning, keep on shrinking the geometry that you are allowed to use to capture the ones and zeros on the rotating media.  As you shrink those geometries, there are various aspects of cross talk, noise and atomic behavior that you have to comprehend to get to an ingredient combination that works 24x7x365, and can be manufactured at high volume. It is quite an art and science to get all those things to line up exactly, make it repeatable, make it manufacturable, make it operational, and, oh, by the way, get it to work for years without a failure.

A big focus of the engineering simulations work at Western Digital is to evaluate different combinations of technologies and/or solutions (or ingredients that make up the solutions) that goes into making new HDDs.  The basic design of the hard disk involves a rotating media and a head on a slider arm that moves over the media.  The engineering teams are looking at smaller and smaller geometries of recording channels on the media so they can fit more and more 1’s and 0’s or bits into the same space.  They are looking to achieve faster read and write times from that media.  The simulations thus involve many variable vectors to find the right combination of media, speed of rotation of the media, materials that constitute the media etc. that can provide that higher density and faster read-write times.   The end goal is to determine which combinations work and which don’t – and making sure those combinations that don’t work are avoided in the manufacturing process or in solutions/component recipes for the physical products.

As part of this precedent-setting collaborative work, Western Digital ran around 2.3 million simulation jobs on a Spot-based cluster of a little over one million vCPUs.   If they were to do those same 2.3 million simulations on a standard Spot based cluster of 16,000 vCPUs at a time (as they do today), it would have taken them about 20 days to get the same work done.     The idea of doing 20 days of work in 8 hours is a game changer.  The impacts go beyond the traditional business metrics – it is a great competitive advantage for a business that is driven by innovation.

So, what goes into scaling an application to run on extreme capacity infrastructure?  It is a coordinated effort between the application engineers, the infrastructure engineers, and the team at AWS.    At a 10K ft level, what we are doing here is taking a large statistical simulation, splitting it into jobs that run on a single vCPU, then when the jobs are done, bringing it all back and collating the results.   That requires work on both the application side and the infrastructure side.  The application has to ensure that the individual simulations are all done correctly, the infrastructure has to coordinate jobs across a vast number of servers/cores and bring all the data back to collate. What made this run even more interesting is that we used EC2 Spot instances, so the application had to be resilient for any job preemption or interruption that might happen. During the 8 hours run at the full one million vCPU scale, we experienced less than 1% of interruption. From an infrastructure point of view, we had to evaluate the limits that exists on number of underlying services (compute, storage, API calls) and since this was a cluster that was run all in a single region, but spanned multiple Availability Zones, we combined the features of AWS Spot Fleet with the highly-scalable cluster management and scheduling of Univa NavOps and GridEngine to coordinate cluster management across the wide capacity of our infrastructure and keep the cluster fully utilized even under such very high workload.

A few other points that are worth highlighting here.  First, Western Digital, Univa and AWS were able to fully exploit the configuration flexibility that running HPC workloads on the cloud offers.  Before embarking on this simulation, the engineers from both AWS and Western Digital spent a lot of prep time profiling the various instance types that Amazon EC2 offers. Through profiling this multitude of instance types (over 25 different instances types), we were able to land on the most optimal range of instances offering AVX acceleration for this workload, giving the AWS Spot Fleet the flexibility and freedom to find the cheapest and fastest hardware for the job.   Second, this simulation was also a major achievement in terms of the use of containers to run HPC workloads.  In this run, the entire application was ported onto containers, which is a big shift from having to haul around drivers and dependencies across jobs and VMs.   This run actually might have been one of the largest container fleets running a single application! Third, we used Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) as the storage back-end for this simulation.  Being able to support this fast rate of data access at such massive scales required no tuning effort, as S3 bandwidth scaled gracefully and peaked at 7500 PUT/s.  And last, but not the least, this was a great example of how Spot Fleet can simplify cluster management.  In this particular case, we just had three Spot Fleet requests simultaneously and we were able to hit a million cores in the cluster in around 1 hour and 32 minutes!

To learn more, visit https://aws.amazon.com/hpc or reach out to your local AWS representative.

 

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!

Oak Ridge Supercomputer Enables Next-Gen Jet Turbine Research

July 27, 2021

Air travel is notoriously carbon-inefficient, with many airlines going as far as to offer purchasable carbon offsets to ease the guilt over large-footprint travel. But even over just the last decade, major aircraft model 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 IBM Quantum System One assembled outside the U.S. and follows 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 w 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…

AWS Solution Channel

Accelerate innovation in healthcare and life sciences with AWS HPC

With Amazon Web Services, researchers can access purpose-built HPC tools and services along with scientific and technical expertise to accelerate the pace of discovery. Whether you are sequencing the human genome, using AI/ML for disease detection or running molecular dynamics simulations to develop lifesaving drugs, AWS has the infrastructure you need to run your HPC workloads. Read more…

PEARC21 Panel Reviews Eight New NSF-Funded HPC Systems Debuting in 2021

July 23, 2021

Over the past few years, the NSF has funded a number of HPC systems to further supply the open research community with computational resources to meet that community’s changing and expanding needs. A review of these systems at the PEARC21 conference (July 19-22) highlighted... 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 i 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…

Summer Reading: “High-Performance Computing Is at an Inflection Point”

July 21, 2021

At last month’s 11th International Symposium on Highly Efficient Accelerators and Reconfigurable Technologies (HEART), a group of researchers led by Martin Schulz of the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (Munich) presented a “position paper” in which they argue HPC architectural landscape... Read more…

PEARC21 Panel: Wafer-Scale-Engine Technology Accelerates Machine Learning, HPC

July 21, 2021

Early use of Cerebras’ CS-1 server and wafer-scale engine (WSE) has demonstrated promising acceleration of machine-learning algorithms, according to participa Read more…

15 Years Later, the Green500 Continues Its Push for Energy Efficiency as a First-Order Concern in HPC

July 15, 2021

The Green500 list, which ranks the most energy-efficient supercomputers in the world, has virtually always faced an uphill battle. As Wu Feng – custodian of the Green500 list and an associate professor at Virginia Tech – tells it, “noone" cared about energy efficiency in the early 2000s, when the seeds... 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…

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…

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…

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…

CERN Is Betting Big on Exascale

April 1, 2021

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) involves 23 countries, 15,000 researchers, billions of dollars a year, and the biggest machine in the worl 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…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

HPE Launches Storage Line Loaded with IBM’s Spectrum Scale File System

April 6, 2021

HPE today launched a new family of storage solutions bundled with IBM’s Spectrum Scale Erasure Code Edition parallel file system (description below) and featu Read more…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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