At SC19, GPU Accelerators Power Supercomputers to AI and Exascale

by Rick Merritt

The Mile High City plays host next week to SC19, where GPUs will be key ingredients for computational science in some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers.

The race to AI and to exascale performance will be much of the buzz at the annual supercomputing event this year. For both, experts are relying on GPU accelerators.

In a special address Monday at 3pm MT, NVIDIA founder and Chief Executive Officer Jensen Huang will help kick off the conference. (Watch a mobile-friendly livestream here.) He’ll provide an in-depth look at the latest innovations in GPUs and how they’re transforming computational science and AI.

Modeling Brains, Earthquakes and More

A handful of demos at NVIDIA’s booth will give attendees a closeup look at how GPUs are pushing the envelope in science. NVIDIA Quadro RTX GPUs will host a visualization of an earthquake, and NVIDIA V100 Tensor Core GPUs will show a simulation of a human brain at nanometer-level resolution.

Ten partners will demo offerings using NVIDIA GPUs — ASRock Rack, Bright Computing, Boston, BOXX, Colfax, KISTI, Microway, One Stop Systems, Penguin Computing and Silicon Mechanics.

Huang’s overview is one of the first of many sessions on how GPUs can supercharge high performance computing with deep learning.

SC19 is host to three technical tracks, two panels and three invited talks that touch on AI or GPUs. For example, in one invited talk, a director from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will describe six top research directions to increase the impact of machine learning on scientific problems.

In another invited talk, the assistant director for AI at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will share the administration’s priorities in AI and HPC. She’ll detail the American AI Initiative the U.S. President announced in February.

Deep Dives in Deep Learning

A group of experts will give a deep dive Monday morning on how to tool high-performance computers for deep learning. They include senior engineers, scientists and researchers from Fraunhofer Institute, NVIDIA and Oak Ridge National Lab.

“Today we see excitement with machine learning being applied to many areas in computational science,” said Jack Dongarra, a professor at the University of Tennessee and one of three experts who maintain the TOP500 list of the world’s largest supercomputers. “As we go forward, I expect artificial intelligence to play an ever more important role in science.”

Back at NVIDIA’s in-booth theater, Marc Hamilton, vice president of solutions architecture and engineering, will kick off a slate of more than a dozen speakers, including talks from Mellanox on fast networking.

Other speakers will give updates on NVIDIA’s partnership to accelerate Arm-based supercomputers and on OpenACC, a parallel-programming model used on more than 200 applications. In a separate session Tuesday afternoon, Duncan Poole, the president of OpenACC, and a strategic partnership manager for NVIDIA, will host a birds-of-a-feather session on OpenACC.

Tracking the Race to Exascale

Meanwhile, many eyes are fixed on the exascale finish line for supercomputers able to calculate more than a quintillion floating-point operations per second or 1018 FLOPS. Getting to exascale, like breaking the petascale barrier in 2008, is a milestone in supercomputing that has recently galvanized the industry.

Arguably, the exascale era has already begun. Today’s most powerful supercomputer, the Summit system at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has racked up a handful of exascale milestones. The 27,648 NVIDIA V100 Tensor Core GPUs in Summit can drive 3.3 exaflops of mixed-precision horsepower on AI tasks.

Harnessing some of that oomph, government and academic researchers shared the 2018 Gordon Bell Prize for using AI to determine the genetic roots of being susceptible to opioid addiction and chronic pain. Their work on one of America’s most pressing epidemics pushed the GPUs on Summit to 2.36 exaflops.

NVIDIA GPUs are now used in 125 of the TOP500 systems worldwide. Beyond Summit, they include the world’s second, sixth, eighth and 10th most muscular systems. Over the last several years, designers have increasingly relied on GPU accelerators to propel these big-iron beasts to new performance heights.

For more on NVIDIA events at SC19, check out our event page.