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MONT-BLANC successfully tests its software on high-performance ARM-based servers

The MONT-BLANC team has taken another key step in their quest for low consumption Exascale systems, by proving the portability of their software stack on new high-performance ARM-based server platforms.

This new success comes a little over a month after the MONT-BLANC prototype was successfully deployed by the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC). The tests were run by BSC with support from E4 Computer Engineering, which has already helped the project to develop its first prototype of ARM+GPU cluster. ‘We follow with interest the activity of E4 in developing ARM-based platforms since the early days,’ explained Filippo Mantovani, technical coordinator of the MONT-BLANC project and senior researcher at BSC. ‘We wanted to show that our HPC system software is able to run also on standard production machines and not only in the MONT-BLANC prototypes, and we finally managed it.’ While Mantovani says that the team can still extract a significant amount of information from the server prototype it developed, exploring performance with commercially available, ARM 64-bit platforms is a must if MONT-BLANC is to achieve its core aim of setting future global HPC standards based on energy efficient solutions already used in embedded and mobile devices. These platforms are available to both the server and mobile markets, the latest smartphones now come equipped with ARMv8 64-bit processors and their host of speed improvements, and there is little doubt that these will quickly take over the market. The MONT-BLANC project builds on the observation that current high performance computing (HPC) challenges related to energy consumption can be solved by learning from energy-efficient ARM processors powering our mobile devices. While ARM processors have originally not been designed for HPC, Mantovani and his team believe that a unified software support for all available ARM platforms would make the technology more widely accepted on the server market. Making this a reality is one of MONT-BLANC’s main objectives. According to E4, the ThunderX ARMv8 SoCs are good candidates for a potential success among server market players. Its 48 custom cores are uniquely suited to drive performance for operations as demanding as data processing of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, and combining these with MONT-BLANC’s software stacks provided both companies with precious information about memory bandwidth, floating point performance and energy efficiency. The benchmarks showed ‘extremely satisfactory results and perfect stability’ in the new architecture. Originally planned to run from 2011 to 2015, MONTBLANC benefitted from a parallel three-year extension under the MONT-BLANC 2 project to pursue efforts on its system software stack, define its Exascale architecture, track evolution of ARM-based systems and keep supporting both the operations of the MONT-BLANC prototype and application developers. A third project, MONT-BLANC 3, has already been granted EU support under Horizon 2020. For further information, please visit: MONT-BLANC



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