17th June 2019, Casalecchio sul Reno and Scandiano, Italy – CINECA (www.cineca.it) and E4 Computer Engineering SpA (www.e4company.com) today announced the successful conclusion of the Phase I study targeted to assess the suitability of the 64-bit Arm®v8 based ecosystem for the CINECA HPC workload. The two-phase study aims at preparing and enabling the transition towards exascale of the flagship codes and workflows used by the material science community, in line with the membership of CINECA in MaX, one of the nine ‘European Centres of Excellence for HPC applications’.

In High Performance Computing (HPC), there is a continued need for higher computational performance. On the other hand, energy is increasingly becoming one of the most expensive resources and it substantially contributes to the total cost of running a large supercomputing facility.

The current generation of 64-bit Arm®v8 based processors is a significant step towards with respect to increased double-precision floating-point performance and overall power consumption, making them competitive with state- of-the-art server performance.

Aimed at supporting scientific research and engineering simulations and at assessing the suitability of 64-bit Arm®v8 based processors and 64-bit Arm®v8 based ecosystem for the specific HPC workload of its users, CINECA initiated a pilot project in 2018 envisioning a two-phase study. Phase I was targeted at exploring the portability and ease of optimization of the packages currently constituting the CINECA workload. Phase II, which is planned to initiate in fall 2019, will target the actual optimization of the flagship codes and workflows used by the material science community and other packages to assess the overall performance features of these packages in terms of Time to Solution and Energy to Solution.

To support the project, E4 developed for CINECA the HPC cluster CARMEN (CINECA Arm ENablement), based on 8 dual socket Marvell® ThunderX2® nodes connected via the EDR Infiniband High Speed switch. The cluster has been installed at CINECA in October 2018 and access provided to the developers and users to check the ease of the porting of the applications and the quality of the programming support tools natively provided by the system software and utilities.

Marvell® ThunderX2® is the second generation of the company's Arm®v8 based server processors supporting dual socket configurations and optimized to deliver the highest computational performance along with balanced IO connectivity, memory bandwidth and capacity. The Marvell® ThunderX2 processor family is fully compliant with Arm®v8–A architecture specifications and is optimized to drive high computational performance by delivering outstanding bandwidth and memory capacity. This, in combination with the low power consumption, energy efficiency and optimized architectural features of the Arm®v8 architecture, creates an environment that is well suited to run computationally intensive HPC workloads.

Phase I (November 2018/April 2019) has shown that the most significant users’ packages constituting the CINECA workload (OpenFOAM, VASP, QuantumEspresso, GROMACS, Lattice Boltzman and many others) were ported seamlessly to CARMEN and did not require any significant investment in term of code refactoring and man-hours. Using only compilers’ options and system libraries, the packages selected for Phase I run seamlessly on CARMEN. While no specific optimization of the packages was performed, the system’s SW tools enabled to pinpoint the areas where to apply optimizations and this information will be of paramount important for Phase II.

Phase II is planned to initiate in fall 2019 and its target is the actual optimization of the packages, including the model-based projections of the performance, power consumption and energy-efficiency of a high end, exascale-class HPC cluster. A particular focus will be reserved to preparing and enabling the transition to exascale of the flagship codes and workflows used by the material science community, in line with the membership of CINECA in MaX, one of the nine ‘European Centres of Excellence for HPC applications’

"We are encouraged that CARMEN has shown positive results during Phase I at CINECA, also in perspective of the objectives of the EuroHPC JU and of the European Process Initiative (EPI).” Commented Dr. Carlo Cavazzoni, head of R&D of HPC department of CINECA. “It is extremely positive that the packages used by CINECA’s scientific and engineering community simply required to be recompiled without any source code modifications. CARMEN demonstrated the potential to scale at higher levels, possibly achieving exascale-class performance within a reasonable power budget. Complementing and leveraging the results of Phase I, CINECA and E4 plan to focus the efforts of Phase II on optimizing the Time to Solution and Energy to Solution for a number of selected packages, preparing and enabling the transition to exascale of the flagship codes and workflows of MaX, and involving a larger number of applications and users.”

“E4 Computer Engineering is always at the leading edge of the technology curve, and is honored to have supported CINECA in the analysis of a promising architecture”. Added Cosimo Damiano Gianfreda, CTO of E4. “E4 has designed its first Arm-based cluster in 2012 and is currently updating its line of product based on 64-bit Arm®v8 processors to add the next gen of the ThunderX family. The invaluable data gathered in Phase I are enabling E4 to define the specs of its products applying a co-design approach targeted to achieve the optimal configuration for any demanding scientific and industrial requirements. The outcome of Phase II is also contributing to the objectives of the Open Edge and HPC Initiative (www.openedgehpcinitiative.org), of which E4 is founding partner.”