US lab to build ARM-based supercomputer

November 20, 2017 // By Nick Flaherty
A major US research laboratory is developing a supercomputer based on ARM's 64bit chips

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory is working with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) on software and a development ecosystem for its high-performance computing (HPC) system called Comanche.

Reducing the power consumption of HPC systems is a key objective of the project. Over the last decade, Argonne has been partnering with industry vendor IBM, and more recently, Intel and Cray, to produce custom architectures optimized for scientific and engineering research. These architectures not only feature custom processor systems, but new interconnects, software stacks and solutions for power and cooling. “Inducing competition is a critical part of our mission and our ability to meet our users’ needs,” said Rick Stevens, associate laboratory director for Argonne’s Computing, Environment and Life Sciences Directorate.

Argonne is working with HPE to evaluate early versions of Cavium's ThunderX2 64bit ARM processors as a cost-effective and power-effective alternative to x86 architectures based on Intel CPUs. Argonne is installing a 32-node Comanche Wave prototype ARM64 server platform (above) in its testing and evaluation environment, the Joint Laboratory for System Evaluation, in early 2018. Argonne researchers from various computing divisions will run applications on the ecosystem and provide performance feedback to HPE and partnering vendors.“We have to build the pipeline for future systems, too,” said Stevens. “Industry partnerships are critical to our ability to do our job — which is to provide extreme-scale computing capabilities for solving some of the biggest challenges facing the world today.”

“By initiating the Comanche collaboration, HPE brought together industry partners and leadership sites like Argonne National Laboratory to work in a joint development effort,” said HPE’s Chief Strategist for HPC and Technical Lead for the Advanced Development Team Nic Dubé. “This program represents one of the largest customer-driven prototyping efforts focused on the enablement of the HPC software stack for ARM. We look forward to further collaboration on the path to an open hardware and software ecosystem.”

Argonne researchers may eventually contribute to development of the ARM