Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Tuesday, June 28, 2022

OpenPower, French HPC Center Collaborate on Exascale 

The French high-performance computing center will work with IBM and the OpenPower Foundation to hasten its path to exascale computing, the partners announced this week.

IBM and GENCI (Grand Equipement National de Calcul Intensif), which coordinates French HPC efforts, said Friday (Aug. 28) they would collaborate over the next 18 months on preparing advanced scientific applications that would run on the OpenPower platform. The partners said the effort, which would achieve performance of more than 100 petaflops, represents a "solid step forward on the path to exascale" computing.

The goal of the exascale computing effort is 1 exaflop, or a billion billion calculations a second.

French researchers will provide scientific applications that leverage the Power architecture, including high-speed connections from Nvidia's GPU accelerators to the Power processor as well as 100 Gb/sec Infiniband switches developed by another OpenPower member, Mellanox. The switches are designed to work with IBM's Coherent Application Processor Interface.

GENCI and other French research organizations also will work with the OpenPower group on evolving programming models such as OpenMP, the open multiprocessing API designed to support multi-platform shared memory. The partners said OpenMP and the open source Message Passing Interface would be considered the starting point for shared memory multiprocessing programming, but alternative APIs would be considered as HPC systems approach exascale performance.

"We need to anticipate the rise of new high performance computing architectures that bring us closer to exascale and prepare our communities," GENCI CEO Catherine Riviere noted in a statement.

In July, IBM, Nvidia and Mellanox established a second Power Acceleration and Design Center, this one based in Montpellier, France, that promotes software development for HPC applications.

IBM said its OpenPower partners at the Montpellier center would provide support for application porting and optimization efforts along with development of new scientific applications and programming models.

Under terms of the deal, the design center would also provide "early access" to Power-based HPC platforms scheduled to be rolled out in 2016. The partnership also would give GENCI access to IBM's HPC software stack along with Nvidia's Tesla computing platform.

OpenPower's collaboration with GENCI is expected to "produce innovations capable of moving the supercomputing industry that much closer to exascale," added Michel Teyssedre, CTO of IBM France.

The IBM, Nvidia and Mellanox systems to be used by GENCI were developed in collaboration with the U.S. Energy Department, which oversees the nation's national laboratories. The Power-based HPC system are slated to be used in next-generation Sierra and Summit supercomputers and will be used by the U.K.'s Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Hartree Center for big data research, IBM said.

Earlier this month, Google, IBM, Mellanox, Nvidia and x86 server maker Tyan announced plans to form a consortium that would target Power-based development of server, networking, storage and GPU acceleration for datacenters.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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