The creation and nurturing of supercomputing capabilities has become a national strategic priority for countries all over the world, including the Czech Republic, which — as of September 2015 — houses the largest installation of an Intel Xeon Phi-accelerated cluster in Europe.
The Salomon supercomputer is located at IT4Innovations, the Czech Republic’s National Supercomputing Center at VSB-Technical University of Ostrava. Ranked 48th on the TOP500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers (the Czech Republic’s first appearance in the 22-year history of the list), and 14th in Europe, the new system supports the scientific and industrial/manufacturing HPC needs of academic research institutions and businesses across the country.
In short, the system puts the Czech Republic on the supercomputing map.
Salomon is based on the SGI ICE X system and has 1,008 nodes containing 2,016 Intel Xeon processors E5-2680, a total of 24,192 cores. They are supported by 864 Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors, with 52,704 cores, and 13.8 terabytes of RAM in 432 accelerated nodes. With a theoretical computing performance of two petaflops, Salomon exceeds IT4Innovations’ previous supercomputer by more than 20 times.
“We wanted our new system to be X86-based because of the large number of applications that run on the X86 architecture. Further, IT4Innovations is an Intel Parallel Computing Center (IPCC) and receives strong support from Intel,” said Dr. Branislav Jansík, Head of Supercomputing Services at IT4Innovations. “Intel Xeon Phi processors are capable of delivering huge performance with a small footprint and energy cost. Scientific applications benefit from the automatic offload of the BLAS (Basic Linear Algebra Subprograms) functions, which pays off for large problem sizes.”
“The applications deployed at IT4Innovations that benefit most from the Intel Xeon Phi processor are ESPRESSO, BEM4I, Blender and SeiSol,” Jansik continued as he explained the applications:
- ESPRESSO is an exascale parallel FETI solver, developed at IT4Innovations, that has also been deployed at Oak Ridge Leadership facility’s Titan supercomputer.
- SeiSol is a code for seismic simulations for which IT4Innovations maintains an active collaboration with the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre on porting the code to Intel Xeon Phi hardware.
- BEM4I is a library of parallel boundary element-based solvers, supporting solution of problems modeled by several types of partial differential equations. In connection with the ESPRESO solver, it allows for the boundary element tearing and interconnecting domain decomposition method.
- Blender is a code for image rendering. Speedups have been obtained in accelerating Blender with Intel Xeon Phi hardware.”
“We also plan to deploy a GPAW Intel Xeon Phi processor acceleration code developed at CSC Finland, used for electronic structure calculations in materials engineering,” he said. “Additionally, a number of other applications benefit indirectly, via the processor’s automatic offload. This includes the R statistical package and Octave, an open source language compatible to MATLAB.”
Jansik added that “along with SGI, Intel has been tremendously helpful in optimizing the system for our application needs.”
The unveiling of Salomon is the culmination, to date, of a lengthy effort by the Czech Republic to build a world-class supercomputing capability. Prior to the creation of IT4Innovations in 2011, the country relied largely on grid computing infrastructure and HPC capacity from other European countries, hampering research work. In 2013, the center introduced its first supercomputer, Anselm, which supported hundreds of projects, but demand for cycles and greater compute power soon outpaced capacity.
Salomon supports hundreds of scientists and engineers in the Czech Republic conducting more than 300 research projects across the fields of materials science, bio-science, cosmology, astronomy, structural mechanics of liquids, geophysics, climatology, molecular modeling, plasma and particle physics, disease discovery, computer science and applied mathematics. Projects include RODOS, providing complex solutions for modeling, managing and optimizing transport; and Floreon+, which is used to model and predict flooding in the Moravian-Silesian region of the Czech Republic.
“The increased power of the supercomputer enables the users to scale their ambition and study much more complex problems,” Jansik said. “We see this trend across the entire spectrum of the scientific disciplines, with most requests for computer time increased by an order of magnitude.”
In order to fully leverage the computer power of Salomon, the IPCC at IT4Innovations is focused on “code modernization,” an effort joined by IPCCs around the world to optimize HPC applications to run across hundreds, or thousands, of Intel Xeon Phi processor-accelerated nodes. The IT4I Center develops highly parallel algorithms and application libraries focused on state-of-the-art sparse iterative linear solvers. It also works on the vectorization of HPC community codes, such as Elmer and Open FOAM.
IT4I is part of PRACE, Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe, an international network of supercomputer centers that supports high-impact scientific discovery and engineering research and development to enhance European competitiveness.
Early reports from the Salomon user community are strongly positive, Jansik said. The system had a 90 percent subscription rate before it was delivered, with nearly 50 million core hours of compute time requested.
“The scientific community in the Czech Republic gained a premium scientific tool, and I believe that, in the medium and long term, it will benefit not only the research community but also the industry and the Czech economy,” said Martin Palkovič, Director, IT4Innovations.