System News
A Solution to HPC Application Performance Improvement
Flash Technology Can Speed Things Up
February 2, 2010,
Volume 144, Issue 1

Flash is the answer to HPC application performance.

The Sun Storage Solutions white paper "Turbo-charging HPC Application Performance with Flash Storage: Changing the Focus from Processing to Moving Data Faster" (login or registration required) contends that, with ever more CPU cores and more GFLOPS per core, HPC application performance will be determined by the ability to move data in and out of fast processors. This paper examines how Flash technology can be deployed and the effect it will have on HPC workloads. It examines various Flash technologies and compares their performance on leading HPC application benchmarks. Finally, the performance characteristics of the Flash-based Sun Storage 7000 Unified Storage System is described.

The paper identifies the bottleneck to HPC application performance as a matter of storage I/O rather than one involving the CPU. It points out that in many HPC application environments, servers wait while data is delivered from the disk to the CPU. And with the onset of many co-processors and GPGPUs, the CPU - I/O chasm will reach increasingly gaping proportions.

The paper suggests that using Flash storage for I/O, which is up to 10,000 times faster than mechanical disk drives can provide, is the solution to improving HPC application performance. Flash technology is able to accelerate application performance by radically disrupting the price/performance curve for I/O intensive HPC applications.

Flash can deliver better performance with fewer processors and lower TCO with no change to existing infrastructure, the paper maintains. In addition, more reliable operation and lower power and cooling costs are also achievable using Flash technology, it asserts.

The paper uses a benchmarking exercise to demonstrate how one SSD-based server can get two jobs done in less time than using two HDD-based servers, resulting in a TCO, as measured simply by cost per useful work being done, that is less than half of the cost of the HDD-based solution.

The paper points out that many HPC applications are licensed on a “per server” or “per CPU” basis. If these servers are constrained by data I/O — and therefore under-utilized — more servers must be deployed to complete a given number of simulations. Along with this, more application licenses must be purchased driving the cost of solution even higher. When Flash-enabled servers increase application performance, fewer server and application licenses are required, lowering overall deployment costs. In addition, power, space, cooling, and maintenance for hardware and software may also be lower with Flash storage, further lowering actual TCO.

The paper then proceeds to a review of the numerous Flash technology solutions in Sun's product family. These include the Sun Storage F5100 Flash Array, the Sun Flash Accelerator F20 PCle Card, and the Sun Solid State Drive.

The paper contrasts the performance of Flash technology against HDD in both the ANSYS engineering analysis and the MSC Nastran MBR3 Benchmark on the Sun Fire X4270 server. Flash technology proves superior in both tests, as well as in a further benchmark test involving the Sun Fire X4170 on the Abaqus v6.9 benchmark and in a test of the Sun Solid State Drive with the Nastran Vendor 2008 benchmark on the Sun Fire X4170.

Following the results of these tests of HPC application acceleration with Flash storage installed directly to application servers, the paper proceeds to examine the performance of the Sun Storage 7000 Unified Storage System, which enables fast access to shared data among servers and clients.

Sun Storage 7000 Unified Storage System utilizing Hybrid Storage Pool technology and the ZFS filesystem provide the high performance shared storage and throughput today’s HPC computational clusters require, the paper notes, calling it the fastest storage system on the planet.

The white paper includes a chart that compares the NFS sequential I/O and IOPS performance of the Sun Storage 7000 with the published numbers from the leading high performance network storage servers in the industry today. The Sun Storage 7000 is at least twice as fast as the incumbent performance leaders. What's more, the Sun Storage 7000 is less than half the cost of these systems while also featuring advanced data services like file system snapshots and file system replication.

More Information

"Turbo-charging HPC Application Performance with Flash Storage: Changing the Focus from Processing to Moving Data Faster" (log in or registration required)

Sun High Performance Computing

A Brief Look at Sun Storage F5100 Flash Array

Database Study Observes Performance Gains of Sun Storage F5100 Flash Array

Sun StorageTek Workload Analysis Tool (SWAT) Version 3.02

Sun BluePrints Article: An Economical Approach to Maximizing Data Availability

Read More ... [ more...]



Other articles in the section of Volume 144, Issue 1:
  • A Solution to HPC Application Performance Improvement (this article)

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