Supercomputing shifts from power to purpose

Processing data creates a different set of demands

The era of the one-size-fits-all supercomputer is over.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE), the market leader in this space, is now producing high performance computing systems for specific needs. The shift is being driven, in part, by the increasing desire for systems that can process data efficiently.

HPE has announced a series of new systems targeted at specific processes such as "deep learning." This is a branch of machine learning used, in particular, to analyze images and sound.

For deep learning-related processing, HPE built its Apollo 6500 server that can handle up to eight high performance Nvidia GPU cards on a two socket CPU system. The Apollo 6500 is due in the third quarter of this year.

In deep learning, nearly all the work is being done on the GPU, so HPE designed a system with a four-to-one ratio of GPUs to CPUs to improve efficiency, said Scott Misage, general manager of high performance computing at HPE. That's in contrast to a standard server, which may have a one-to-one ratio -- one GPU to one CPU.

HPE is also building special purpose HPC systems for trading applications. The algorithmic code used in match and trade processing is single threaded, "so having a lot of cores on a processor is kind of a waste," said Misage. "You'd be spending a lot of money and you wouldn't be using most of the cores."

The trading process can be made more efficient by using a single-socket server with a chip in this case with eight cores instead of 20. That reduces the system's overhead, and allows HPE to turn up the clock frequency. That "drives down the amount of time it takes the processor to get to an answer," said Misage.

Steve Conway, an HPC analyst at IDC, said the special purpose systems mix processor types, communication I/O needs, and the software needed for a particular application.

High performance systems, historically, have been compute-centric, not data-centric. That means the processors were the fastest part of the system, and efficiency was pegged to how well the rest of the system could keep up with the processor, said Conway.

HPE isn't the only vendor focusing on special purpose systems, but it is the largest HPC vendor. So its actions will be influential on the market, said Conway.

According to the Top 500 count, HPE accounted for 31% of the systems on the list, the largest part of the global pie. Lenovo was second at 13.8%.

HPE also unveiled the Apollo 4520 System, which is designed to support Lustre implementations, a file system. That system will be available April 18 at a starting price at $8,500. Pricing for the financial services system will be determined by customer requirements.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags supercomputerssupercomputing

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Patrick Thibodeau

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?