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Dell and Intel team on next-gen Linux supercomputer cluster

Sep 26, 2011 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

The University of Texas has teamed up with Intel and Dell to build a Linux supercomputer cluster, as part of the National Science Foundation's “eXtreme Digital” program. Due in 2013, the “Stampede” comprises several thousand Dell Zeus servers — each with dual eight-core Intel Xeon E5 CPUs, plus Intel's new parallel computing “MIC” co-processors — and will be “the most powerful x86-based Linux HPC cluster” deployed in the U.S., say the partners.

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the University of Texas at Austin announced that it will deploy and support a "world-class," Linux-based supercomputer cluster for scientific computing and visualization applications. The new system, called Stampede, will be built by TACC in partnership with Dell and Intel, as part of the NSF's "eXtreme Digital" (XD) program. The first Stampede is expected to be up and running in January 2013.

Early Stampede prototype based on Dell Zeus servers at TACC

When completed, Stampede will comprise several thousand Dell Zeus servers, with each server having dual eight-core processors from the forthcoming Intel Xeon Processor E5 family. With each server loaded with 32GB of memory, the production system will offer almost 2 petaflops of peak performance, double the current top system in XD, claims TACC.

The E5, which has yet to be formally introduced, is a "Sandy Bridge" architecture processor that sits between the high-end Xeon E7 server processor and the quad-core, 3.1GHz E3 (which has already appeared in embedded boards such as Portwell's WADE-8011).

Intel's parallel-computing MIC co-processors

The cluster will also include Intel's Many Integrated Core (MIC) co-processors code-named "Knights Corner," providing an additional 8 petaflops of performance, according to TACC. Intel MIC co-processors, which provide the benefit of using the familiar x86 instruction set, are designed to process highly parallel workloads.

In addition, Stampede will offer 128 next-generation Nvidia graphics processing units (GPUs) for remote visualization, as well as 16 Dell servers with 1TB of shared memory. There will also be two GPUs each for large data analysis, as well as a high-performance Lustre file system for data-intensive computing.

"Stampede is the most powerful x86-based Linux HPC cluster announced for deployment in the U.S. at this time," stated TACC Director Jay Boisseau. "The system builds on TACC's history of continuously deploying larger and more powerful x86 Linux clusters that enable new scientific breakthroughs. It will also be the first large-scale implementation of Intel's MIC architecture-based products."

Altogether, Stampede will have a peak performance of 10 petaflops, 272 terabytes (272,000 gigabytes) of total memory, as well as 14 petabytes (14 million gigabytes) of disk storage, says TACC. As part of the Stampede project, future generations of Intel MIC processors will be added when they become available, increasing Stampede's aggregate peak performance to at least 15 petaflops. 

The Stampede will provide scientists with massive computational calculations, as well as visualization, data analysis, and data-intensive computing resources, according to Boisseau. "Stampede will be one of the most powerful systems in the world and will be uniquely comprehensive in its technological capabilities," stated Boisseau. "We expect the Stampede system to be a model for supporting petascale simulation-based science and data-driven science."

To sustain tens of petaflops of performance and achieve exascale computing, Boisseau said, industry and the science community will have to move to highly data parallel processors.

"We think this [MIC] architecture is the quickest path for many applications to sustain petascale performance and to eventually build exascale systems," said Boisseau.

The estimated investment will be more than $50 million over four years. The Stampede project may be renewed in 2017, which would enable four additional years of open science research on a successor system.

Stampede will be operated and supported for the first four years by TACC, Dell, and a team of cyber-infrastructure experts. These are said to include cyber experts at the University of Texas at Austin, Clemson University, University of Colorado at Boulder, Cornell University, Indiana University, Ohio State University, and the University of Texas at El Paso.

Stampede presentation on YouTube
Source: TACC
(Click to play)


The Stampede is due to go online in 2013. More information on the Stampede may be found in TACC's Stamped announcement.

Nathan Eddy is a writer for eWEEK.

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