[Beowulf] [EXTERNAL] Re: Frontier Announcement

Prentice Bisbal pbisbal at pppl.gov
Wed May 8 08:50:54 PDT 2019

On 5/7/19 6:14 PM, Lux, Jim (337K) wrote:
> On 5/7/19, 2:00 PM, "Beowulf on behalf of Prentice Bisbal via Beowulf" <beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org on behalf of beowulf at beowulf.org> wrote:
>      >   I think it is interesting that they are using AMD for
>      > both the CPUs and GPUs
>      I agree. That means a LOT of codes will have to be ported from CUDA to
>      whatever AMD uses. I know AMD announced their HIP interface to convert
>      CUDA code into something that will run on AMD processors, but I don't
>      know how well that works in theory. Frankly, I haven't heard anything
>      about it since it was announced at SC a few years ago.
>      I would not be surprised if AMD pursued this bid quite agressively,
>      possibly at a significant loss, for the opportunity to prove their GPUs
>      can compete with NVIDIA and demonstrate that codes can be successfully
>      converted from CUDA to something AMD GPUs can use to demonstrate GPU
>      users don't need to be locked in to a single vendor. If so, this could
>      be a costly gamble for the DOE and AMD, but if it pays off, I imagine it
>      could change AMD's fortunes in HPC.
>        "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday" doesn't apply just to cars.
>      Prentice
> --
> I think they're deliberately looking for architectural diversity, rather than "ease of porting from existing machine"
> " CORAL-2 has a mandate to field architecturally diverse machines in a way that manages risk during a period of rapid technological evolution. “Regardless of which system or systems are being discussed, the systems residing at or planned to reside at ORNL and ANL must be diverse from one another,” notes the CORAL-2 RFP cover letter [PDF]."
> https://asc.llnl.gov/coral-2-benchmarks/

I understand the requirement for architetcural diversity. The 3 DOE 
Leadership Computing Facilities (LCFs) have always practiced hardware 
diversity. ANL typically used IBM Hardware in the form of Blue Genes 
(Intrepid, Miro), and ORNL typically used Cray. Those two sites used 
bleeding-edge architectures, and NERSRC,the 3rd DOE LCF, would usually 
go with less bleeding-edge systems.

However  this particular choice brings the risk of users not being able 
to, or not wanting to port their code to a unique architecture. Not only 
is it different than past DOE Leadership systems, it is using an 
architecture that currently has about 0% market share, so the work of 
porting code to this architecture to run on a single system may not be 
enough incentive for some users, despite the performance advantage, 
since the cost of that effort can't be spread over a larger number of  
other systems they can now use. (based on current market trends, at least)

LANL's RoadRunner is a good analog to consider. It was the first 
petascale system, but it had a rather unique architecture. The DOE 
decommissioned the system when it was about 5 years old, even though it 
was still ranked quite highly on the Top500. It's replacement was Cielo, 
which wasn't much newer or faster than RoadRunner. From conversations 
I've had with people familiar with RoadRunner, I heard it was difficult 
to program, and too expensive to continue supporting. I don't know how 
accurate those statements are, because I don't remember the DOE saying 
much about why they EOLed RoadRunner, but thos explanations seemed 

And yes, I know DOE LCF systems are a bit unique in the market they 
serve - their users are bleeding-edge users who probably are willing to 
port their codes to new or unique architectures for the benefit of more 
compute capabilities, but I think it's safe to say Roadrunner's user 
base had the same or very similar characteristics.


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