BASF’s QURIOSITY supercomputer builds on Intel® Omni-Path Architecture’s high-performance fabric.

When a company deploys a petaflop-scale supercomputer for research and development, the launch may grab headlines. However, what doesn’t garner nearly as much attention is how the supercomputer quietly functions day-to-day, behind the scenes, enabling new innovations and breakthroughs that translate into real, measurable results. In June 2017, BASF’s QURIOSITY supercomputer (1.75 Linpack petaflops) debuted at number 65 on the Top 500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers. BASF’s QURIOSITY is an HPE Apollo 6000 cluster built in part around Intel’s Xeon® Scalable Platform and Omni-Path Architecture (OPA).

In fact, Omni-Path represents one of the essential elements behind QURIOSITY’s top-tier performance. Intel OPA delivers 100 Gbps port bandwidth, with high message rate and low fabric latency that stays low even at scales of up to tens of thousands of nodes. QURIOSITY’s interconnect, as with all OPA fabrics, is built around a 48-port switch chip. OPA’s 48 ports greatly simplify many deployments. This is certainly the case with QURIOSITY’s Apollo 6000, which scales most easily with fabrics whose ports number in multiples of 24.

As noted in another article, Apollo 6000’s 24 port architecture mean a simple one-to-one wiring diagram. In any given OPA fabric switch, 24 ports connect to the fabric, while the other 24 ports connect to the uplink.

QURIOSITY benefits from this simple topology in multiple ways: Its cabling can be cut in half compared to a 36-port interconnect, its switch latency is also cut in half, and the rack space it occupies can be reduced by up to 79%.

Omni-Path holds other benefits for QURIOSITY — and for any high-performance computer operators with the curiosity to explore OPA. Its traffic flow optimisation (TFO) delivers low, deterministic latency for mixed MPI and storage traffic.

OPA’s packet integrity protection (PIP), enables error detection and correction without any additional latency. PIP provides a real boost when pushing the cluster’s peak performance — and what application these days doesn’t find an operator doing at least a little bit of this?

Given the very high Intel® Omni-Path Architecture signaling rate (25.78125G per lane), transient bit errors must be tolerated while ensuring that the performance impact is insignificant. PIP enables recovery of transient errors whether it is between a host and switch or between switches. This eliminates the need for transport level timeouts and end-to-end retries — all without the heavy latency penalty associated with alternate error recovery approaches.

What Omni-Path Architecture’s high-performance means.

Within BASF, QURIOSITY represents a tenfold increase in flops the company devotes to scientific computing. So the machine has, for starters, enabled analysis and data mining at much greater scales for much more comprehensive results.

As the company noted when it announced QURIOSITY, “Managing large quantities of data has become a decisive factor for future scientific and economic success. With BASF’s digital approach, virtual modelling and computer simulation go hand in hand with physical experiments in the lab – they complement each other. Simulations help with the design of experiments and facilitate forecasting, while experiments deliver measurable results and evaluate the computer models. This results in a better understanding of chemical products and processes, and thus enables greater innovation to be achieved in a shorter period of time.”

So, for instance, BASF researchers have used QURIOSITY to map up a new functional polymer for the stable formulation of an active ingredient. This polymer’s structure was mined from more than 10,000 possibilities, each of which represents a substantial amount of compute time to explore and consider. BASF expects this kind of work to only be on the increase, too. Whether it’s exploring promising enzymes or discovering suitable bacteria for its chemical processes, BASF will always want to push its compute resources for their ability to scale economically and reliably.

Thus, QURIOSITY’s OPA-powered performance doesn’t just deliver results on paper for BASF. From agronomic forecasts for the company’s agribusiness unit to better and more comprehensive catalyst simulations for its chemical R&D, BASF puts OPA’s full-performance computing to the test every working day.

To discover how Omni-Path can help deliver the results your company needs for top-tier HPC,contact one of our HPE High Performance Computing solutions experts today.


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