HPC

HPE donates 3 mini-supercomputers to UK universities boning up on Arm

Muscling in Arm supers message on road to exascale


HPE is donating three Apollo mini-supercomputer clusters to a trio of UK universities to help build Arm supercomputing expertise and promote its Apollo gear.

The universities are the Edinburgh University's Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC), the University of Bristol, and the University of Leicester. Installation should be completed this summer 2018 as part of a three-year project called Catalyst UK.

The largely identical clusters at each university – designed, built and supported by HPE – will consist of 64 HPE Apollo 70 systems, each with two 32-core Cavium ThunderX2 processors, 128GB of memory composed of 16 DDR4 DIMMs with Mellanox InfiniBand interconnects.

The OS is SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for HPC. Each cluster is expected to occupy two computer racks and draw a total of around 30KW of power.

It means 4,096 cores per installation and 12,288 cores in total.

Professor Simon McIntosh-Smith, Bristol University’s Head of the HPC Research Group, said: "Bristol's early experience with Arm via the EPSRC-funded GW4 Isambard project, and the European FP7-funded Mont-Blanc 2 project gave us the confidence to explore deploying Arm-based supercomputers for real workloads in a production environment... the HPE Apollo 70 HPC systems will, for the first time, enable us to apply that experience to explore scaling across InfiniBand. We expect these results to be of great interest to our industrial and academic partners.”

Professor Mark Parsons, director at the EPCC at the University of Edinburgh, added in a canned quote: “EPCC is really pleased to be involved in the Catalyst UK programme … this will be our first large-scale Arm-based supercomputer. If Arm processors are to be successful as a supercomputing technology we need to build a strong software eco-system and EPCC will port many of the UK’s key scientific applications to our HPE Apollo 70 system.”

The Leicester University Science & Technology Facilities Council DiRAC HPC Facility director, Dr Mark Wilkinson, said the Catalyst UK initiative would allow the facility to explore the potential of Arm-based systems to support HPC workflows: “including simulations of gravitational waves and planet formation, earth observation science models and fundamental particle physics calculations.”

Having an Arm-based cluster in its training portfolio will help “ensure that the next generation of UK HPC experts, both in industry and academia, have the necessary skills to exploit the most appropriate and cost-effective hardware when solving the most complex research problems.”

HPE says the Catalyst UK programme will cooperate with the UK industry to jointly develop applications and workflows to exploit Arm system capabilities. It will provide training for researchers, equipping them with knowledge and skills to work with Arm-based systems in the future, with a specific focus, HPE says, on exascale computing, ie, computers that can execute a billion billion calculations per second.

UK Exascale supercomputer

These might appear a million miles away in scale from these 64-node Apollo clusters, but provide a skills and expertise path to these more complicated machines for UK-based researchers and HPC workers.

Fujitsu’s monster ARM-powered exascale supercomputer Post-K, for example, will use ARMv8 + extensions, scalable custom CPU cores that support FP16 half-precision maths operations (more about that here at our sister publication The Next Platform), a node count greater than 10,000, and a power consumption approaching 30MW, compare that to the 30kW draw of the Apollo clusters.

Professor Parsons said a UK exascale computer could consume 30MW of power and cost between £450m and £500m over five years, needing 200 to 300 racks. To put that in context, he said the the UK's CERN contribution was £132m in 2017. Could the UK afford an exascale system? "It would be a major increase in the current UK academic investment in HPC."

Can you make the argument industrially and scientifically for this? "Yes. And it needs to be made."

The prof told us he thinks the UK could have an exascale system by the mid-2020s, with tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of cores. It could run 100 million to 500 million threads: “No one knows how to use such a system,” he said – and that’s why learning now is so important.

Prof Parsons believes there has been a huge lack of innovation in HPC, both hardware and software, and said innovation is needed for exascale. The use of Arm processors will help spur that.

We asked if x86 development had been stalled. He said: ”Any big company needs a challenger.”

He reckons the UK isn’t competitive in terms of current HPC spending: Germany, for example, is spending far more. Japan, China, the US and Europe are all getting their act together. Parsons told us: “I would argue the UK should have one or two exascale systems or we will be left behind.”

David Lecomber, senior director Infrastructure/HPC Tools at Softbank-owned Arm said: “I think it will provide value for money - it should be something we should afford.”

Before you can run one of these things, though, if you can afford to buy it, you have to learn to walk, and that’s what the Catalyst UK programme is about for the three universities. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Intel is running rings around AMD and Arm at the edge
    What will it take to loosen the x86 giant's edge stranglehold?

    Analysis Supermicro launched a wave of edge appliances using Intel's newly refreshed Xeon-D processors last week. The launch itself was nothing to write home about, but a thought occurred: with all the hype surrounding the outer reaches of computing that we call the edge, you'd think there would be more competition from chipmakers in this arena.

    So where are all the AMD and Arm-based edge appliances?

    A glance through the catalogs of the major OEMs – Dell, HPE, Lenovo, Inspur, Supermicro – returned plenty of results for AMD servers, but few, if any, validated for edge deployments. In fact, Supermicro was the only one of the five vendors that even offered an AMD-based edge appliance – which used an ageing Epyc processor. Hardly a great showing from AMD. Meanwhile, just one appliance from Inspur used an Arm-based chip from Nvidia.

    Continue reading
  • HPE thinks your next GreenLake deploy will be a private cloud
    Plus: IT giant expands relationship with Red Hat and SUSE, tackles hybrid data fabrics

    Extending a public-cloud-like experience to on-prem datacenters has long been a promise of HPE's GreenLake anything-as-a-service (XaaS) platform. At HPE Discover this week, the company made good on that promise with the launch of GreenLake for Private Cloud.

    The platform enables customers "to have a cloud in their premises wherever the data is, whether it's at the edge, it's at a colo datacenter, or is at any other location," Vishal Lall, SVP and GM for HPE GreenLake cloud services solutions, said during a press briefing ahead of Discovery.

    Most private clouds up to this point have been custom-built environments strapped together with some automation, he said. "It was somewhat of an improvement over the DIY infrastructure, but it really wasn't private cloud."

    Continue reading
  • Arm jumps on ray tracing bandwagon with beefy GPU design
    British chip designer’s reveal comes months after mobile RT moves by AMD, Imagination

    Arm is beefing up its role in the rapidly-evolving (yet long-standing) hardware-based real-time ray tracing arena.

    The company revealed on Tuesday that it will introduce the feature in its new flagship Immortalis-G715 GPU design for smartphones, promising to deliver graphics in mobile games that realistically recreate the way light interacts with objects.

    Arm is promoting the Immortalis-G715 as its best mobile GPU design yet, claiming that it will provide 15 percent faster performance and 15 percent better energy efficiency compared to the currently available Mali-G710.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022