Nathan Harper, IT Systems & HPC Lead, CFMS talks about key industry developments from ISC 2017. A major annual event in the High Performance Computing (HPC) calendar, ISC provides the opportunity for industry users, manufacturers and academia to learn about technology developments.
ISC 2017 is now over, and we have all had an opportunity to digest what was on show. Although what everyone was talking about was along the lines of AI/machine learning, for me what resonated but wasn’t evident was the credible diversification of the HPC CPU market.
For the past few years, IBM’s POWER8 systems have provided a performant competitor Intel x86, particularly when combined with Nvidia GPUs. However, a lack of support from COTS software, and a high price point have limited widespread uptake.
This year, AMD and ARM have the potential to take a slice of the HPC CPU market.
Coinciding with, but not announced at ISC, AMD formally launched its EPYC® 7000 Series High Performance Datacenter Processor, indicating up to 32 high performance cores, with 2.6Ghz per socket and up to two in a server so 64 physical cores and 128 threads. This could be a powerful system, offering substantial amounts of memory bandwidth, something that many engineering HPC applications can make use of.
Alongside EPYC, ARM64 is becoming an interesting prospect for large scale HPC simulation. Although suffering from some of the same issues as POWER8 over ecosystem support, many HPC related applications have already been ported to ARM64, pioneered by the work on Piz Daint (among others). Frustratingly for us, GPFS is unsupported on ARM64, but those both outside and inside are keen to see this change.
Outside of the CPU arena, there weren’t any significant surprises: Mellanox announced the new ‘HDR’ Infiniband switch, providing 200GB bandwidth, while also increasing the number of ports per switch from 36 to 40. This will allow for fewer switches for the same number of nodes in a fabric.
Also interesting to see was the consolidated HPE/SGI lineup, including the SGI brand remaining for the high end Apollo range.