Spack, a Lab-Developed ‘App Store for Supercomputers,’ Becoming Standard-Bearer

September 20, 2018

Sept. 20, 2018 — Spack, a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory-developed open source package manager optimized for high performance computing (HPC), is making waves throughout the HPC community, including internationally, as evidenced by a recent tour of European HPC facilities by the tool’s developers.

In July, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory computer scientists (from left) Todd Gamblin and Greg Becker met with HPC Application Expert Massimiliano Culpo at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland. Culpo is an EPFL scientist and longtime Spack contributor who uses Spack to manage software on EPFL’s supercomputers.

Despite its niche status, Spack (short for Supercomputer PACKage manager), is one of the most popular pieces of software the Lab has ever released to the GitHub open source community. Described by its developers as “an app store for supercomputers,” Spack was started by LLNL computer scientist Todd Gamblin in 2013 and has quickly become the go-to package manager at LLNL and Argonne, Oak Ridge, Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, as well as Lawrence Berkeley’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC). Not only is it being used on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) latest and greatest flagship systems, Oak Ridge’s Summit and LLNL’s Sierra, it’s also become the official deployment tool for the Exascale Computing Project, the “glue” for coordinating exascale software releases and deploying them to HPC facilities.

“It’s been pretty amazing,” Gamblin said of Spack’s rise to broad acceptance. “It wrecks my inbox — I get 200 emails a day about Spack from GitHub and the mailing list — but the momentum is great. We continue to drive development, and we review features and merge bug fixes, but the community helps tremendously with new ideas, new features and regular maintenance. I don’t think we could sustain a project of this scale without their help.”

Perhaps nothing has epitomized Spack’s growing reach more than the month of July, which began with Gamblin presenting Spack at the Platform for Advanced Scientific Computing (PASC) Conference in Basel, Switzerland, piquing interest from France’s Atomic Energy Institute (CEA) and other institutions. From there, Gamblin took a day trip to the Technical Institute of Munich (TUM), where he discussed potential collaborations with former LLNL computer scientist Martin Schulz, who is now TUM’s chair professor for Computer Architecture and Parallel Systems, as well as staff at the affiliated Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ). LRZ is deploying a 26-petaflop supercomputer called SuperMUC-NG and is planning to use Spack to set up the machine’s software.

Gamblin then drove to Lausanne, Switzerland, to visit École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) on July 6, where he was joined by fellow LLNL computer scientist Greg Becker, who is part of the Spack team and has been instrumental to its development. While there, the pair met with longtime Spack contributor Massimiliano Culpo, who uses Spack to manage software on EPFL’s supercomputers. From Lausanne, they drove to Paris for a visit at CEA facilitated by LLNL computer scientist Edgar Leon, who is on a yearlong visiting assignment at the facility. CEA is interested in using Spack to modernize its developer workflow, Gamblin said, and the group discussed adding features to support the institute’s work and ways that CEA and LLNL could work together on future Spack features.

After enjoying a festive evening in Paris as the French celebrated their win over Belgium in the World Cup, Gamblin returned to the States, and Becker went on to London and the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), which is exploring package deployment with Spack. Becker spent more than a week at AWE and met with British scientists involved in the Joint Working Group, a treaty-based high performance computing partnership between LLNL and the U.K.’s Science and Technology Facilities Council aimed at improving industry, promoting collaborations and boosting economic competitiveness.

Gamblin and Becker said the trip was useful in picturing what other HPC sites are attempting to do with Spack, figuring out what features to focus on next and starting a conversation about new collaborations. It also left them thinking they needed to expand community outreach. Since the meeting, Gamblin and collaborators from CEA and LRZ have had a birds-of-a-feather session accepted at the upcoming Supercomputing Conference 18 (SC18) in Dallas, where they will have a larger face-to-face community meeting. Gamblin and others will also hold a Spack tutorial at SC18.

“I think we got a lot of feedback that was some version of ‘Wow, this fills a use case that nothing else really does for me, and it would be great if it had these features, too,’” Becker said. “People definitely weren’t shy about letting us know what they hoped we were planning on doing or what they were planning on submitting, but they were very clear that they had looked at everything they could find out there and there wasn’t anything else that was going this direction.”

Spack has come a long way in the few short years since Gamblin first started coding it on weekends in coffee shops. He built the first version, a Python-based program that would automatically build libraries on the Lab’s Linux machines, to help his summer students by freeing them up to do their work. Subsequent Lab Hackathons attracted additional contributors and more packages, and after Gamblin presented a paper on Spack at Supercomputing Conference (SC15), interest began pouring in from other Department of Energy national laboratories, academia and companies with HPC resources.

“After SC15 my inbox exploded,” Gamblin said. “There were days where I would check my mail and think ‘how am I going to sustain this?’”

Through the open source repository GitHub, Spack has attracted hundreds of users who have added software packages (Spack now supports 2,800 of them), and HPC centers like NERSC, EPFL, Fermilab and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) have contributed significant features. Gamblin, Becker, and Peter Scheibel (GS) work to evaluate contributions from all of these organizations. The three also have appeared on HPC-related podcasts and conferences, including tutorials at SC16 and SC17, to spread the word about Spack’s usefulness and versatility.

“It’s like the app store for HPC, but the tricky bit of HPC is that we want 15 different configurations of the same app at once,” Becker said. “One of the key things for Spack is that the underlying model allows us to satisfy that need.”

The reasons for Spack’s popularity among the HPC community, Gamblin said, are twofold. Most system package managers require users to run with superuser privileges, which is fine for most developers because they own their machines. But HPC machines are shared, he explained, and Spack can install a lot of low-level software as a regular user in their home directory.

“For the HPC space it definitely fills a gap,” Gamblin said. “People needed something that could install custom packages in their own directory. The fact that you can run as a user is a big deal. There are other systems, like EasyBuild, that also have traction in this space, but they are very much targeted at system administrators rather than computational scientists. Spack gives you additional flexibility that both administrators and developers need.”

Another advantage, Gamblin said, is that other package managers that targeted developers are specific to a certain programming language, such as npm for Javascript, or Bundler for Ruby. HPC software crosses languages (C++, Python, Fortran etc.) so the relationships between packages are inherently more complex.

“Integrating so many packages into one application from so many different software ecosystems makes HPC particularly hard,” Gamblin said. “HPC software is more complicated today than 10 years ago. There are more dependencies, libraries and integration, so the need became more acute.”

Also working in Spack’s favor is that a lot of HPC labor involves porting software over to new machines, as LLNL is currently doing with Sierra. While most package managers are specific to one machine, Spack packages are templated, so if developers write a package for one machine, Becker said the likelihood is higher that it will work on another machine.

“If you get on a platform that no one’s ever tried to build this on before, Spack will at least make a best effort,” Becker said. “If that platform is really weird, it might not get very far, but in many cases, the best effort works.” This is the flexibility that Spack offers that other systems don’t.

Today, Spack is used by 40-50 people at LLNL, mostly developers in Livermore Computing (LC) and other parts of the Lab, as well as code teams who are using it as the interface to install scientific packages to run on Linux cluster machines, including Blue Gene/Q and Sierra. Spack has reduced the time needed to deploy complex codes on certain Lab supercomputers from weeks to days.

“We’re moving toward using Spack exclusively to deploy user-facing software in LC, but we’re moving from our current process, which uses Spack to generate RPM packages for the system package manager,” Becker said. “We have a fair number of people in the development environment group who use Spack to feed packages into that process. I think we’re collectively using it at every level in the hierarchy: single-user, application teams and system deployments.”

Gamblin and the Spack team, including its outside contributors, are working on new improvements and features with hopes of releasing version 1.0 in November, possibly at SC18. Gamblin said that in the coming year, they plan to add features that enable facilities to deploy extremely large suites of software easily, as well as features that simplify the workflow for individual developers working on multiple projects at once. The team is calling these features “Spack Stacks” and “Spack Environments,” respectively.

While optimized for supercomputers, Spack also can be used on home computers and laptops, where Gamblin and others see the potential for wider acceptance. Gamblin said he wants to include more machine learning libraries, to allow users to combine those workflows with HPC using the same tool. The Spack team also is looking to focus on greater reproducibility from one stack to another, polishing workflows and working on better support for binary software packages.

Additionally, Gamblin said he would like to expand community engagement and explore a steering committee that could govern future Spack-related decisions. Gamblin, Becker and others want Spack to eventually be part of the general deployment strategy for libraries across DOE. Spack has been adopted as the deployment tool for the U.S. Exascale Computing Project’s (ECP’s) software stack, and other DOE national labs are gradually joining in the fray.

“It’s nice to have industry standards where possible, and it would be great if we could fill that role in terms of getting everyone on the same page,” Becker said. “Spack is already good at the individual level of avoiding duplication of work and if we could keep on extending that so that large HPC sites are able to share work with each other, that would be great as well.”

“I’d like it if Spack were the way people use supercomputers and if it were part of everyone’s development environment. Good package management helps to grease the wheels,” Gamblin added. “The dream is to take the grunt work out of HPC: users get on a machine, assemble a stack of hundreds of libraries in minutes, then get back to focusing on the science.”

For more about open source software from LLNL, visit the web.


Source: LLNL

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!

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 already ensconced at the venue. In any case, you're busy, so he 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 GFS – its first new dynamical core in nearly 40 years – w Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

NCSU Researchers Overcome Key DNA-Based Data Storage Obstacles

June 12, 2019

In the race for increasingly dense data storage solutions, DNA-based storage is surely one of the most curious – and a team of North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers just brought it two steps closer to bein Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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

Transforming Dark Data for Insights and Discoveries in Healthcare

Healthcare in the USA produces an enormous amount of patient-related data each year. It is likely that the average person will generate over one million gigabytes of health-related data across his or her lifetime, equivalent to 300 million books. Read more…

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

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

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

The Spaceborne Computer Returns to Earth, and HPE Eyes an AI-Protected Spaceborne 2

June 10, 2019

After 615 days on the International Space Station (ISS), HPE’s Spaceborne Computer has returned to Earth. The computer touched down onboard the same SpaceX Dr Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Building the Team: South African Style

June 9, 2019

We’re only eight days away from the start of the ISC 2019 Student Cluster Competition. Fourteen student teams from eleven countries will travel to Frankfurt, Read more…

By Dan Olds

Scientists Solve Cosmic Mystery Through Black Hole Simulations

June 6, 2019

An international team of researchers has finally solved a long-standing cosmic mystery – and to do it, they needed to produce the most detailed black hole simulation ever created. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Quantum Upstart: IonQ Sets Sights on Challenging IBM, Rigetti, Others

June 5, 2019

Until now most of the buzz around quantum computing has been generated by folks already in the computer business – systems makers, chip makers, and big cloud Read more…

By John Russell

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

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

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

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

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