NEC Steps up with SX-Aurora Vector Engine for HPC

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In this video from ISC 2019, Shintaro Momose, Ph. D. from NEC describes the company’s SX-Aurora Vector Engine.

NEC is now the only vendor in the world still developing vector supercomputers, says Momose. “The competition for the top supercomputer often draws attention, but I don’t believe the value of a supercomputer can be determined simply based on which is the fastest. For example, an athlete who can run a fast 100 meters will not necessarily also be good at playing soccer or baseball. The same goes for supercomputers. Speed is certainly also important, but I think the true value of a supercomputer lies in achieving the best performance that meets a range of objectives.”

With the proprietary vector systems, a wealth of x86-based products including accelerators, and storage appliances, NEC provides complete solutions for all kinds of requirements. In addition NEC has the necessary skills to provide HPC services, from simple installation and customization to running the most complex heterogeneous systems in mission-critical operational environments, including code development and tuning consultancy by experienced analysts.

There has previously been debate surrounding whether a scalar or vector approach was best, but there is little point to this these days in my opinion. That is because vector and scalar approaches each have different strengths. Vector systems are adept at the high-speed processing of large-scale datasets, while scalar systems are more suited to processing smaller datasets in large numbers. There are a variety of reasons for using supercomputers, as well as the characteristics of the applications they run, so I think the most crucial thing is to use the right product for the right application.

NEC SX-Aurora TSUBASA supercomputer

According to Momose, when it comes to the ability to actually run applications, vector systems perform very well. In recent years there has been new demand for the high-speed processing of large-scale data, including big data, as well as applications in specialist areas such as fluid dynamics and meteorology.

These days, vector functions are added to scalar supercomputers to improve performance in most cases. That means that improving vector performance is the most important way to achieve high effective performance, even with scalar processors. In that respect, it could be said that vector processors are ahead of the trend. I think vector-based systems that excel at the high-speed processing of large datasets, such as in fluids dynamics or meteorology, will also demonstrate their ability in the realm of big data. There are high expectations for their application in this area. NEC’s major advantage over other development vendors is the accomplishments and know-how we have built up over more than 30 years of developing vector supercomputers from scratch, including hardware and software. The technical expertise we have accumulated through years of developing the world’s fastest processor cores can’t be overstated.

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