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Interview: Celebrating Year One of Intel Parallel Computing Centers

With ever-increasing parallelism in today’s processors, the need for code modernization is becoming more and more evident to organizations that need to compute to compete. Intel has responded to this dilemma by sponsoring Intel Parallel Computing Centers (Intel PCCs) around the globe. With an emphasis on doing modernization in an open, standard fashion that enables the best ROI, the Intel PCC program has shown remarkable progress in its first year. To learn more, we caught up Bob Burroughs, Director of Technical Computing Ecosystem Enabling at Intel.

insideHPC: Why was the Intel PCC program created?

bobBob Burroughs: Solving some of the biggest challenges in society, industry, and sciences requires dramatic increases in computing efficiency. Today, many HPC customers are sitting on incredible untapped compute resources and they don’t even know it. The very people who are focused on solving the world’s biggest problems with high-performance computing are often only using a small fraction of the compute capability their systems provide. While many applications already comprehend modern hardware, many more do not extract parallelism in their algorithms, nor comprehend modern features including larger caches, SIMD, threading, and memory technology. Overcoming this challenge becomes even more important as systems scale to support millions of processor cores and beyond.

The Intel PCC program was designed to foster an ecosystem to overcome this challenge, and help deliver modern parallel applications that are open, portable, and scalable. We believe that this provides the greatest long-term return on investment for the users and the ecosystem in general.

insideHPC: What kind of success have you had with the program to date?

Bob Burroughs: The response to the program has been outstanding – we now have more than 40 centers, many joining the program in the last six months. They are working on compelling projects across most geographies and domains. The program seems to have hit a sweet spot. While industry and academia have well-understood methods for funding research and hardware purchases, methods for funding software modernization are limited. When it does get funded, the money is well spent. Scientists, researchers, and engineers using faster software accelerates discovery.

We are encouraged by the initial program results. One exciting example of success is the modernization effort Edmond Chow is leading at Georgia Institute of Technology for quantum chemistry codes used across materials science, biochemistry, pharmacology, chemical physics, chemical engineering, geology, and energy research. His code has already scaled to more than 1.6 Million cores, will be integrated into the PSI4 quantum chemistry software package. Additionally, we expect the impact be much larger as it is targeted for future integration with NWChem the U.S. Department of Energy’s flagship quantum chemistry code.

insideHPC: Why is code modernization so important in this age of many-core systems?

Bob Burroughs: To fully realize the performance capability of current systems, applications must exploit the full capabilities of their modern hardware including cores, caches, SIMD, and threading. Otherwise only a small fraction of possible performance is realized. Since the majority of future performance will come from these capabilities it will become paramount.

insideHPC: How does an Intel PCC typically use the funding?

Bob Burroughs: Typically centers use the funding to support Grad Students or post docs that are engaged directly in modernization efforts.

insideHPC: What is the process to apply to become an Intel PCC?

Bob Burroughs: There is currently a Request for Proposal (RFPs) on our program website. We are conducting rolling reviews with responses typically within 60-90 days. We are expecting to support several proposals each quarter.

Looking for more great content like this? The Print ‘n Fly Guide to SC14 New Orleans is designed to be an in-flight magazine custom tailored for your journey to the Big Easy at SC14. Sponsored by Intel, the Guide will feature articles on code modernization.

Table of Contents: Print ‘n Fly Guide to SC14 New Orleans 

The Print ‘n Fly Guide to SC14 New Orleans is now available for download.

As a supplement to the guide, we also offer this Sci-Fi Original story by Rich Brueckner: Angels of Silence. We hope you can enjoy it on your flight to New Orleans.

 

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