Thursday, March 21, 2024

Jim Simons' Simons Foundation Is Running The World's Greenest Supercomputer

From IEEE Spectrum, March 20:

Supercomputing’s Future Is Green and Interconnected
And the world’s most efficient HPC, 3 times over, has lessons to impart 

Henri, the world's greenest supercomputer, is run by the Simons Foundation's Flatiron Institute in New York.

While the Top500 list ranks the 500 biggest high-performance computers (HPCs) in the world, its cousin the Green500 re-ranks the same 500 supercomputers according to their energy efficiency. For the last three iterations of the list, Henri—a small supercomputer operated by the Flatiron Institute in New York—has been named the world’s most energy efficient high-performance computer. Built in the fall of 2022, Henri was the first system to use Nvidia’s H100 GPU’s, aka Hopper.

To learn the secrets of building and maintaining the most energy-efficient supercomputer, we caught up with Henri’s architect, Ian Fisk, who is co-director of the Scientific Computing Core at the Flatiron Institute. Flatiron is an internal research division of the Simons Foundation that brings together researchers using modern computational tools to advance our understanding of science.

The Flatiron Insitute’s Ian Fisk on...

IEEE Spectrum: Where did the name Henri come from?

Ian Fisk: The name came about for a silly reason. Our previous machine was called Rusty. So, when asked by the vendor what the machine name was going to be, we said, ‘well, by our naming convention, it’ll be Rusty, and it’s using [Nvidia’s] H100 chip, so it’d be Rusty Hopper.’ But Rusty Hopper sounds like a country singer from the 1980s, so they didn’t want to call it that. And one of the Nvidia engineers who decided that you might be able to actually build a machine that would make the top500 and be the top of the Green500 had just had a son named Henri. So, we were asked by the vendor if we might consider naming it after that person, which we thought was sweet.

Since the Green500 measures performance per watt, it doesn’t matter how fast you are, it matters how fast you are for how many watts you used. —Ian Fisk, Flatiron Institute

Did you set out to build the world’s greenest supercomputer?

Fisk: Nvidia sold us that gear at an educational discount price in part because we were aiming for this benchmark. It was good for us because it gave us some exposure, but we really wanted the hardware for the scientists, and it was a way for us to get access to H100s very early. But to do that, we had to do the test in November 2022. So the equipment came to the loading dock in October, and it was assembled into a computer and then tested in record time. If there was an award for the fast 500, we would also be the winner....


Here's more on the Foundation and here's the leadership page, a lot of PhD's including Jim and Marilyn. 

You've probably read their online magazine, Quanta.