HPE Bring SGI HPC Technology Into Superdome Product Line

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has announced a new in-memory computing platform that brings the SGI NUMAlink technology into its Superdome portfolio.

Superdome is HPE’s platform that offers a scale-up architecture – lots of CPUs and memory – for mission-critical enterprise applications, especially high-end data analytics applications. The systems include RAS (reliability, availability, and scalability) features that sets this types of architecture apart from the more basic, stripped down servers typical of HPC, cloud computing, or other types of scale-out infrastructure.

Until recently, the Superdome servers were powered by Itanium processors, and to a lesser extent, HPE’s PA-RISC CPUs. Earlier this year, Intel reached the end of the line with its latest Itanium 9700, an event that HPE saw coming at least as far back as 2012. As a result, HPE has been its Superdome products to Xeon E7 processors, although Itanium-based systems will be supported for years come.

The new product HPE announced this week, known as the Superdome Flex, will certainly be Itanium-free, and in fact will be the first Superdome product to be equipped with Intel’s latest Xeon Scalable processor (aka “Skylake”). As implied by its “Flex” moniker, the platform offers a modular design that can scale up, as customers grow their compute workloads and datasets. A system can scale from four to 32 sockets, in four-socket increments, with RAM increasing according, from 786 GB up to 48 TB. Such a set-up is meant to provide a suitably large footprint for really big in-memory computing workloads using frameworks such as SAP HANA, Microsoft SQL and Oracle Database In-Memory. To support its mission-critical capability, HPE is promising 99.999 percent availability.

Each 5U Flex chassis (pictured above) is outfitted with four Xeon Scalable processors. Customers have a choice of five CPUs, which range from 4 to 28 cores, and clock speeds which run from 2.1 to 3.6 GHz. A system can also be equipped with GPU coprocessor, which can be as useful for database acceleration as they are for supercharging HPC simulation codes.

The new technology in all this, at least with regard to the Superdome line-up, is SGI’s NUMAlink interconnect. NUMAlink is the piece that glues together large numbers of CPUs and memory components and provides the basis for scaled-up cache-coherent servers. It’s been a mainstay of SGI UV product, one of the few HPC platforms that offers a single system image environment for applications that need lots of memory, lots processors, or both.

Superdome Flex won’t replace the UV line, however, at least not yet. The current UV 3000 can be configured with up to 256 sockets and 64 TB of memory, and given its HPC target market, has far fewer RAS features than its Superdome counterpart. For HPC customers, the main utility of the UV 3000 is as a “big memory” supernode within a more typical HPC cluster.

The lesser SGI UV 300 has been rebranded into HPE’s MC990 X product, and is tailored for more modest in-memory computing jobs than either the UV 3000 or the Superdome Flex. It scales from 4 to 32 sockets and up to 48 TB of memory, but is currently powered by the previous-generation “Broadwell” Xeon E7 processors. The higher-end Superdome X system is also based on the older “Broadwell” chip, and scales up to 16 sockets, but matches the 48 TB memory limit of its Superdome Flex and MC990X siblings.

Whether the UV and Superdome line, and the MC990X outlier, ever converge is an open question, but for now at least, they will remain separate products. Given that the NUMAlink technology was inserted into the first Superdome system with the latest Xeon Scalable processors, it seems likely that this is the architecture that will carry the mission-critical banner going forward at HPE.

It also represents the leading edge of the company’s plans to drive memory-driven computing into its commercial products. Although this system doesn’t reflect the more exotic architecture in HPE’s latest prototype of “The Machine,” it’s an incremental step in that direction.

As of this week, HPE Superdome Flex systems are available for order. Pricing was not made public.


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