The E4 Computer Engineering team has garnered a solid reputation in Europe with high performance computing solutions for customers like CERN. To learn more, we caught up with Simone Tinti, who heads up the E4 HPC Team.
insideHPC: Some of our readers might not be familiar with E4. What is the core mission of your company and what kind of HPC solutions do you bring to market?
Simone Tinti: E4 Computer Engineering was born in 2002 with a mission to develop hardware solutions for high performance computing. Our founding members had realized that Italy had no National companies focused on HPC and Italian research and manufacturing customers were supplied only by multinational brands.
With this mission in mind, we invested consistently in R&D in order to create the most technologically advanced custom solutions for our customers and in a few years we were supplying server, storage systems, and workstations to all major Research and Computing centers in Italy as well as CAD-CAE manufacturing industries, pharmaceutical, physics and genomics departments.
In 2005, we won our first tender to supply CERN and our business really took off as the prestige coming from such an important customer got us a lot of attention in the market. In fact, although there are many Italian scientists known worldwide, Italy is usually associated with other skills. Because of CERN first commission, we were approached by other European computing centers and now we can confidently say that although our passion for technology is 100% Italian, our market has expanded abroad.
insideHPC: At ISC’14 the E4 team showed me your hybrid ARM-based servers with GPUs and InfiniBand. Do ARM-processors only make sense for HPC applications when they are connected to accelerators?
Simone Tinti: Ok, that was indeed the case with the first ARM V8 64 bit CPU; they had to be connected to accelerators in order to provide performances suitable for HPC applications. However, with the new many-core SoC models available on the market, there is no need for to use accelerators to achieve high standards of performance.
insideHPC: How are your customers using these devices and where do they make sense vs. x86 servers?
Simone Tinti: Well, as you know, at present this technology is really interesting to “experiment” and “play”, so the customers which have purchased the device are using them to investigate power efficiency and to develop software for ARM architecture. Our platform ARKA is aimed at scientific computing, especially when/where power efficiency is important. Some fields of application that have successfully used ARKA are: image/video/signal analysis, ray tracing, molecular dynamics, Monte Carlo simulations.
insideHPC: You have developed a plugin for Lustre. What is the problem this software is designed to solve?
Simone Tinti: Well, although setting-up and managing Lustre is easier than ever thanks to the Intel Enterprise Edition for Lustre, there is still one piece of the jigsaw missing: storage monitoring and management. Our E4 plug-in for IEEL interacts with storage systems APIs providing a unique point of monitoring and management for the whole Lustre infrastructure. These added features are very helpful for different purposes: performance tuning (the plug-in allow you to customize IEEL GUI adding performance metrics of interest and features checks), maintenance and troubleshooting. So we can say that it definitely eases the work of system administrators.
insideHPC: E4 has a long history delivering computing solutions to CERN. How are they using your technology?
Simone Tinti: E4 Computer Engineering delivered to high energy physics over the course of the years more than 7,200 computing nodes which were used for some of the main experiments being carried out at CERN Tier 0, and INFN Tier1 & 2 such as Alice and Atlas as well as the LHC itself. The LHC alone produces roughly 15 Petabytes of data per year which need to be processed and E4 succeeded in providing almost 120PB during its numerous supplies to particle physics. If one considers that 100PB are the equivalent of 700 years of full HD-quality movies, it’s easy to understand the role that E4 has had in this on-going Big-Bang quest. Also, we always take on a hardware agnostic approach that allows us to propose innovation paired with cutting edge technology as well as to be able to manufacture and produce systems according to CERN’s stringent requirements. We are very proud of having the opportunity to be an on-going part of such an amazing scientific environment and we proactively propose demo units (in both local and remote) of the newest technologies available, so that they can try and see performances and evaluate the best for them, while we test and research new ways of making fast computing accessible and faster.
insideHPC: What technologies will you be showcasing in your exhibit at ISC High Performance in Frankfurt this July?
Simone Tinti: As well as showcasing the latest upgrading of ARKA, featuring some cool add-ons we’ll also have other interesting news which cannot be disclosed just yet, but stay tuned and visit us at our ISC booth (#914) to find out what we have in store!