While the pace of innovation in terms of CPUs and coprocessors continues, the fact is that the systems must still be installed in a traditional rack complete with cabling and networking and storage technologies. Once the hardware is installed, the real work begins on how to get this rack full of silicon actually working and producing results for the users.
At the National Institute of Computational Sciences (NICS), a joint venture by the University of Tennessee and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a joint team set out to learn how to integrate the Intel Xeon Phi coprocessor into cluster configurations.
There are a number of steps to insure that a cluster is ready for production. A few of the more important processes, at a high level:
- Preparation of the System – Install the OS and the OFED stack.
- Installation of the Intel MPSS Stack – download the Intel MPSS software and save into an NFS share. As of MPSS version 3.2.3, a stock Red Hat or CentOS kernel is assumed.
- Create configuration files – Use the Intel provided command, micctrl to do this and to manage the coprocessors.
- Setup Resource and Workload Managers – in order to insure smooth and efficient operation of the cluster, it is important to use DRMs.
- User Software Integration – It is necessary to make sure that all applications have been compiled and tuned for the Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors.
While the advantages of using the Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors is clear, the integration into a cluster environment adds some complexity. Additional burdens are related to system setup, system administration, and application management. By learning from other installations, a best practices methodology can be implemented, which leads to faster startup and lowers the barriers to entry.
Source: University of Tennessee, Knoxville, NICS, Intel Corporation, USA
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