Lenovo unlocks innovation at ISC 2016

Simon Bramble

Tuesday 19 July 2016

As this year’s International Supercomputing Conference – ISC 2016 – broke all records for attendance, Lenovo took full advantage of the increased foot-flow to unveil a raft of innovative technologies and services at the high-performance computing (HPC) community’s showpiece event.

Held from 19 to 23 June in Frankfurt, ISC 2016 drew more than 3,000 delegates from around the world. And in an ISC exhibition hall packed with almost 150 leading HPC vendors, Lenovo stood out thanks to a multi-faceted show-and-tell schedule that demonstrated the breadth of the company’s own HPC expertise.

A framework for collaborative innovation

Chief among these was a new technical framework called Lenovo Scalable Infrastructure Services (LSIS). It’s a means of integrating Lenovo’s comprehensive server and storage offerings with the capabilities of industry-leading partners to create easily replicable and powerful solution blueprint. Designed to provide fully integrated development, configuration, build, delivery and support, these HPC solutions will be delivered in tandem with Intel’s Scalable System Framework.

Showgoers got an understanding of Lenovo Scalable Infrastructure Services frameworkLSIS by being talked through the basics of a groundbreaking HPC deployment named Marconi, a supercomputer delivered by Lenovo to CINECA, an Italian inter-university computing consortium IT syndicate. Based on the Lenovo NeXtScale platform, Marconi uses the latest Intel® Xeon® processors and gives the scientific community represented by CINECA access to a technologically advanced HPC architecture.

Marconi isn’t just a marquee project; it’s going to have a considerable load placed upon it. In fact, the TOP500 list released in June 2016 features Marconi in their rank as number 46. And as the largest computing centre in Italy, CINECA delivers high-performance computing and research capabilities to a range of Italian universities and PRACE, the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe. More tellingly, CINECA also works with EUROfusion – the consortium researching fusion energy in Europe.

Sanzio Bassini, HPC Department Director at CINECA, revealed Marconi is based on 1,500 Lenovo NeXtScale servers using Intel® Xeon® E5-2697 v4 processors interconnected by Intel® Omni-Path Architecture. “The solution has the objective to deliver a flexible and power-efficient architecture able to offer up to 20PFs peak performance to the European research community,” Bassini said. He added that the partnership with Lenovo would “deliver a high performance and productive computing facility confirming CINECA as a major actor for HPC initiatives in Europe”.

Liquid ingenuity 

At ISC 2016, Lenovo and the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities (LRZ) highlighted their recent breakthrough; the hot water generated by the Lenovo NeXtScale M5-based CooLMUC-2 cluster is actually used to cool the system. The 50°C water in a production environment is looped back into and drives ‘absorption chillers’, which use the heat energy to generate cold water.

It means the cluster has an Energy Reuse Effectiveness (ERE) – the measure of recycling server exhaust heat – of 0.3, thanks to 70 per cent of the trapped heat being transformed into cold water which is then used to cool five petabytes of HPC storage. And that makes for greatly reduced power consumption – the LRZ CooLMUC-2 system consumes less than 50 per cent of the electricity used by a conventional air-cooled system.

LRZ has been working with Lenovo to advance its ‘green IT’ programme; it’s another example of Lenovo’s ongoing commitment to collaborating with partners and clients to create what it calls ‘purposeful innovation’. Professor Dr Arndt Bode is chairman of the Board of Directors of LRZ, and highlighted the significance of the partnership’s achievement.

“The Lenovo direct water cooling technology already achieves more than 70 per cent efficiency on heat removal at this very high temperature,” Bode said. “A 100 per cent efficiency would result in an ERE near zero and thus also provide nearly 100 per cent recycling of HPC cluster waste heat all year round.”

Further creative collaboration was on display at Lenovo’s ISC 2016 booth, where its upgraded, direct water-cooled NeXtScale M5 system demonstrated the ability to capture up to 90 per cent of the heat it generated in the water at the stand. The enhanced platform, featuring Intel® Xeon® v4 processors integrated into an improved custom loop, features a direct contact liquid cooling system by CoolIT Systems that means better performance, efficiency and adaptability.

The most important HPC component is trust

ISC 2016 saw Lenovo set out its stall on the future of HPC in confident fashion. Lenovo isn’t content to simply lead the HPC market: it wants to shape it. As Lenovo’s Brian Connors, vice president, Next Generation IT & Business Development said, “A key part of our strategy is to offer open, flexible solutions by collaborating with both customers and partners to drive value in HPC and across the industry.” He went on to remark that “As the Marconi supercomputer with CINECA and the advancement in direct water cooling with LRZ demonstrate, these efforts are delivering innovations that bring even more speed, power and reliability to our HPC customers.”


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