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high-performance computing

The atmosphere was upbeat at SC14, which took place in New Orleans in November ➤

petascale computing: ‘It’s easy to say but hard to do,’ he commented. In particular, IBM had found that its Blue Gene programme had offered very limited economies for smaller systems. Te fundamental lesson was, he said: ‘You

have to pay attention to it from the beginning. We’re making it explicit and real.’ Te Coral project was designed to be a one-node construct and economies of scale ‘in both directions’ were built in from the outset. ‘We didn’t want to have to say to customers: “You have to buy a rack of this stuff”.’ Sumit Gupta from Nvidia also focused

on the wider implications of the technology for applications outside the specialist area of high-performance computing. ‘Accelerators in high-performance computing are clearly well established today – GPUs are mainstream,’ he said. But he sees the partnership with IBM as a way for Nvidia GPUs to make the transition to enterprise markets. IBM, he continued, ‘knows about data centres and is the preferred provider for many in enterprise computing. We have opened our GPU out, using NVLink, to other processors,’ he pointed out, ‘and the partnership with IBM takes GPUs into the mainstream DB2 market.’

David Turek made the same point – that

this was not a technology being developed for a niche application in supercomputing but had wider ramifications across the whole of business and enterprise computing: ‘Coral is within the mainstream of our strategy. We have an eye to Coral as a way to serve our business needs.’ Ken King, general manager of OpenPower

Alliances at IBM, elaborated on the theme, stressing that data-centric computing rather than number-crunching was at the heart of the new vision. With the explosion of data in the market, he said: ‘How are companies


going to be able to process that data? You need innovation up and down the stack and you’re not going to get that with a closed structure.’ Te solution, he continued, was to build

solutions that minimised the movement of data for example by building compute into the storage. He also cited the need to get GPUs and CPUs working together and managing the workflow so as to achieve increased performance with minimal data movement. Nvidia’s NVLink interconnect technology will enable CPUs and GPUs to exchange data five to 12 times faster than they can today. Te combination of innovative solutions and

Volume rendering of shear-wave perturbations computed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory using the seismology simulation code SPECFEM3D_GLOBE.


minimal movement of data was, he claimed, a compelling strategy and that was the way in which IBM, in partnership with Mellanox and Nvidia had approached the Coral bid. But he stressed that the solutions were not

just for the likes of the Livermore National Laboratory: ‘Small companies are going to have

data analysis problems. It’s a market-changing statement we’re making with this.’ Like IBM, the European supercomputer

manufacturer Bull believes that high- performance computing is changing and it appears independently to have come to very similar conclusions to IBM about the future direction of high-performance computing. Just as IBM had emphasised data-centric computing so Bull’s strategy is to combine exascale and big data together to offer the capabilities of numerical computing and analysing large amounts of data. Claude Derue, Bull’s IT services marketing

director, stressed that, in future, there would be a need to tailor computer systems to the specific needs of the customers, much more than had been done hitherto. Atos, he continued, had IT expertise in many vertical markets while Bull had the expertise in technology. ‘We are a step forward compared to other vendors. Te future of HPC will be to fit with the vertical market needs and Bull plus Atos are in a unique position to provide this.’ Bulls’ strategy, again thinking on parallel

lines to IBM, is to widen the scope of its operations by taking technologies developed for the HPC market and reaching out to enhance the combined company’s position in IT for the enterprise. ‘Tere is a double opportunity,’ Derue concluded – both for HPC and the enterprise IT sector. Bull’s announcement was an affirmation of

confidence in the company’s high-performance computing business, following the take-over of Bull by Atos earlier this year. Derue was positive about the development: ‘We are at the beginning of a new story.’ Bull used to be predominantly a European company, he said, but following the merger: ‘We can rely on the Atos organisation to deliver around the world. Atos is a clear asset for Bull HPC.’ Te announcement by Bull has five major

components: an open exascale supercomputer, ➤ @scwmagazine l

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