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HP and Intel push HPC into new markets

James Niccolai | July 14, 2015
Hewlett-Packard is using new processor and network technologies from Intel to build server systems that aim to expand high-performance computing into new markets, including big data workloads at large enterprises.

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Credit: BalticServers.com, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hewlett-Packard is using new processor and network technologies from Intel to build server systems that aim to expand high-performance computing into new markets, including big data workloads at large enterprises.

The companies hope to take HPC beyond its traditional niche in areas like oil and gas exploration, financial services and life sciences and extend it to new markets including retail, personalized medicine and even police work.

The new Intel technologies include an upcoming version of its many-core Xeon Phi processor code-named Knights Landing, a network fabric technology called Omni-Path, and Intel's Lustre software for high-performance storage.

Those components will allow HP to offer a wider range of HPC configurations, including some that HP will tailor for particular industries, said Bill Mannel, who runs the HPC & Big Data business unit at HP. They will also allow it to boost performance for existing customers.

The work with HP isn't exclusive, so expect Dell and Lenovo to employ the technologies as well. In fact, Intel says more than 50 system builders will adopt them, with the first systems coming to market later this year.

According to Mannel, current technologies, including Intel's standard Xeon server chips, can't keep pace with the volumes of data HPC customers are trying to process. "A lot of the standard technologies, including x86, are running out of gas relative to customers' ability to process data more rapidly," he said.

Xeon Phi is intended to address that. The Knights Landing version will have as many as 72 cores, with two vector processing units per core, Charles Wuischpard, head of Intel's HPC division, told reporters in a briefing last week. Intel will demonstrate the new chip in Frankfurt this week at the International Supercomputing Conference, where the announcements with HP are being made.

For certain applications, such as video transcoding and seismic processing, workloads can be broken up and spread out over those many cores, speeding overall throughput, Manning said.

The faster chips need a network that can keep pace, and Intel says its Omni-Path technology offers a switch messaging rate up to 73 percent faster than InfiniBand EDR. It's an evolution of the True Scale Fabric that Intel acquired when it bought QLogic's InfiniBand business several years ago.

Omni-Path will be available in commercial systems in the fourth quarter, Wuischpard said, and Knights Landing is expected to follow soon after. HP isn't giving a ship date yet for its new servers. It wants to offer something differentiated from other vendors, including potentially unique processor models with its water-cooled systems. It seems likely they'll be out in the first half of next year.

 

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