Atos-Made ‘Levante’ Supercomputer Powers German Climate Computing

By Oliver Peckham

March 15, 2022

Nearly two years ago, European supercomputing monolith Atos signed a five-year contract with the German Climate Computing Center (DKRZ), agreeing to provide a new supercomputer for the center based on Atos’ BullSequana XH2000 system and promising a 5× increase in computing power. Today, they formally commissioned the first result of that partnership: the initial phase of Levante, which is currently a 14-peak petaflops machine.

Levante’s first phase consists of 2,832 compute nodes. Of these nodes, 2,520 are equipped with dual 64-core AMD Epyc 7763 CPUs and 256GB of memory; 294, with the same CPUs but 512GB of memory; and 18 with 1TB of memory — in total, some 815TB of memory. The system uses Nvidia InfiniBand HDR 200G networking and is supported by 130PB of Lustre storage from DDN. This first phase rates at around 14 theoretical peak petaflops.

Levante — so named for a warm wind in the Mediterranean and southern France — also has 60 GPU nodes, which are installed but not yet integrated into the system. These nodes will each have dual AMD Epyc 7713 CPUs, 512GB of memory, and four Nvidia A100 GPUs. (56 nodes have the 80GB A100 variant, while the remaining four have the 40GB variant.) This will add another 30TB of memory (aggregate: 845TB) and an estimated 2.8 peak petaflops (aggregate: 16.8 peak petaflops) to the system. The GPU partition is scheduled for availability in Q2 of this year, somewhere between May and June.

A fisheye view of Levante. Image courtesy of DKRZ.

An initial deployment of Levante actually did debut on the Top500 back in November as well, settling in at a respectable 68th place at 7.00 Linpack/10.28 peak petaflops. DKRZ told HPCwire that that benchmark was based on 308,096 cores of the CPU partition (~2,407 nodes), as opposed to the full, 362,496-core/2,832-node partition. Based on this, we might expect the full CPU partition to come in around ~9 Linpack petaflops, but DKRZ told HPCwire that there is not yet an HPL benchmark for the CPU partition, and that even theoretical peak performance is hard to determine because of the AMD CPUs’ boost mode.

Levante stands as the fourth High Performance Computer System for Earth System Research at DKRZ — abbreviated as HLRE-4. It succeeds HLRE-3, DKRZ’s “Mistral” system, an Atos-built machine with around 3,400 Intel-based nodes, a handful of which included Nvidia GPUs. Mistral debuted at 56th on the Top500 list in June 2015 and is listed there at 3.01 Linpack petaflops/3.96 peak petaflops. Mistral is planned for decommissioning around the end of May. (Measured by petaflops alone, Levante doesn’t yet appear to reach the stated 5× computing power goal relative to Mistral, which would require a Linpack score around 15 petaflops.)

Like its predecessors, Levante will be used to support German climate research with access to HPC resources specifically tailored for climate modeling workflows.

“The new system forms the basis of our services,” said Thomas Ludwig, managing director of DKRZ. “The powerful new systems are a better tool for research, and thus also for the risk assessment of climate change for society and ecology. At the DKRZ, the significant German share of the climate simulations that contribute to the IPCC reports is calculated. As with the predecessor model, we attach great importance to high energy efficiency. The system has high-temperature liquid cooling, and some of the waste heat is fed into the heating system in the neighboring building of the university.”

Udo Littke, CEO of Atos in Germany, explained that these energy efficiency improvements translate to real cost savings. “We were able to significantly reduce the costs per computing transaction,” Little said. “This is crucial, because in the course of a sustainable digital transformation of the economy and science, it is important to constantly reduce energy consumption in data centers.”

The (partial) launch of this new, large system marks another win for Atos, which is having a good year so far. The company, which Intersect360 Research CEO Addison Snell termed “essentially the vendor face of European supercomputing,” unveiled its next-generation BullSequana XH3000 supercomputer just a month ago. As Covid and rising global tensions continue to impact supply chains, initiatives like the European Chips Act are picking up steam, and indigenous companies like Atos are likely to see even more wins at home.

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