Feeds

DARPA awards $76.6m supercomputer challenge

Small scale ExtremeScale

The essential guide to IT transformation

If you were thinking about entering the US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's ExtremeScale supercomputing challenge issued in March, you missed your chance. DARPA's awarded grants to four design teams, plus another that'll run benchmarks on the HPC prototypes.

The heavy hitters in the HPC community as well as in academia in the US were awarded grants to design prototype machines for the Ubiquitous High Performance Computing ExtremeScale challenge.

There are a lot of different goals, as we detailed in March, but the upshot is that DARPA wants a petaflops supercomputer, including networking, storage, and compute elements as well as cooling, to be crammed in a space a little larger than a standard server rack - 24 inches wide by 78 inches high and 40 inches deep - and consume only 57 kilowatts to power and cool the device.

The machine has to deliver a peak petaflops of performance and 50 gigaflops per watt sustained power efficiency while running the Linpack Fortran number-crunching test. The system has to be able to do single-precision and double-precision math, 16-bit, 32-bi, and 64-bit integer math, and chew on a streaming sensor array like you might have scanning the skies of incoming missiles.

DARPA has also asked for parallel programming to be made easier on these machines than it currently is on massively parallel CPU or CPU-GPU hybrids, for multiple ExtremeScale units to be linked together, and for the machines to run five specific workloads.

These include a massive streaming sensor data problem, a large dynamic graph-based informatics problem, a decision problem that includes search with hypothesis testing and planning, and two as-yet-unnamed applications culled from the IT bowels of the Department of Defense.

Nvidia and Intel are in

The IT community players that have been granted ExtremeScale UHPC contracts today by DARPA include one team led by Intel and another from Nvidia. Intel has not yet detailed who is on its team or what its award is, but Nvidia said it has tapped supercomputer maker Cray, the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and six universities to be on its team.

Nvidia said it was awarded $25m to pursue the ExtremeScale impossible dream. Nvidia is still working out the final details on what those six universities will be doing.

Sources at Nvidia told us that the total ExtremeScale program is budgeted with $100m, but a DARPA spokesperson was still chasing down the numbers to confirm this when we went to press. On Wednesday morning, two days after the announcement, DARPA did the math and said the total award for the UHPC ExtremeScale contracts was $76.6m.

Oak Ridge and Nvidia are already working on hybrid CPU-GPU compute clusters, and last October announced the DOE had kicked in funds to study the use of Nvidia Tesla GPUs in x64 clusters.

Oak Ridge is also, of course, where the 1.76 petaflops Jaguar Cray Opteron-Linux cluster is housed as well. So, in essence, DARPA is paying for work that the Nvidia team was already pursuing piecemeal, but shaping it for a particular physical environment and code set. Anything worth selling once is worth selling two, or maybe three times.

Intel had aspirations for its ill-fated Larrabee GPU, but something went terribly wrong with that project and Larrabee was killed off as a discrete graphics processor in May and then the core guts of the project was reinvented as the Knights GPU co-processor in June.

Boost IT visibility and business value

Next page: First knights

More from The Register

next story
Pay to play: The hidden cost of software defined everything
Enter credit card details if you want that system you bought to actually be useful
Shoot-em-up: Sony Online Entertainment hit by 'large scale DDoS attack'
Games disrupted as firm struggles to control network
HP busts out new ProLiant Gen9 servers
Think those are cool? Wait till you get a load of our racks
Silicon Valley jolted by magnitude 6.1 quake – its biggest in 25 years
Did the earth move for you at VMworld – oh, OK. It just did. A lot
VMware's high-wire balancing act: EVO might drag us ALL down
Get it right, EMC, or there'll be STORAGE CIVIL WAR. Mark my words
Forrester says it's time to give up on physical storage arrays
The physical/virtual storage tipping point may just have arrived
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.