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Dardel Second Phase on the Way

Gert Svensson, PDC

Current Status of Dardel

The first phase of the new Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing (SNIC) flagship system at PDC (which is an HPE Cray EX system called Dardel) was inaugurated at the start of this year. All the researchers who had been using PDC’s previous systems, Beskow and Tegner, have been transferred to Dardel (except for those from Scania) and have been successfully using the system for their scientific and technical simulations. Researchers from Scania will continue using Beskow until later this year when the Scania partition on Dardel is fully operational. The number of cores (or processing units) per CPU increased dramatically from 16 in Beskow to 64 in Dardel. The memory bandwidth was also increased, though not as much as the number of cores. Some researchers who are using Dardel have needed to adapt their code to the changes, and the resulting performance is usually good.

The rows of cabinets for the first and second phases of Dardel

To fit the extra cabinets in the PDC computer hall, a new row will be created in front of the row of cabinets for the first phase of Dardel. The new row for the second phase will consist of two compute cabinets on the left end and a narrower cooling distribution cabinet (which controls the water for cooling the system) on the right. In terms of the images on the door panels, two more paintings by Nils Dardel will be added and some of the panels will be rearranged, as shown above. The paintings that will be added are known as “Waterfall” and “Crime of Passion”. The full view of “Waterfall” can be seen below.

Changed door panels on original row of Dardel system

Training for Using Dardel

Together with HPE and AMD, which is the manufacturer of the Dardel CPUs and graphics processing units (GPUs), PDC has arranged programming classes and introductory courses on how to use the system, as well as a GPU Hackathon week where experts from HPE and AMD helped to adapt locally developed code to run well on the AMD Instinct™ MI250X GPUs that will feature in the second phase of Dardel. There will be more courses and hackathons like these coming up, so keep an eye on the PDC Events page: .

Technology Readiness Level

HPE used a number of innovative techniques to make the Dardel system highly scalable and resilient to failures. This makes the system quite complex to operate from a system administration point of view, particularly as some of the new technology has not yet reached the technology readiness level needed to facilitate simple and smooth operation of the system. Some of the software tools that are expected for the day-to-day operation of the system are also not ready yet. In addition, although PDC has worked closely with the HPE team to schedule the updates needed to alleviate these issues, the maximum amount of downtime that was guaranteed by HPE has been exceeded due to unforeseen problems. PDC apologises for any inconvenience this has caused for the researchers using Dardel; work is underway with HPE to achieve more stable operation.

GPU Nodes for Second Phase of Dardel

In the previous PDC Newsletter, it was mentioned that the GPUs for the second phase of Dardel were planned to arrive during the spring this year. However, due to factors outside PDC’s control, their arrival has been delayed till the summer. Adding the GPUs to Dardel could result in a significant amount of downtime, so PDC and HPE have spent considerable time investigating the best way to start using the GPUs without disrupting the ongoing operation of the first phase of the system. The first phase of Dardel uses a Slingshot 10 interconnect (rated at 100 Gb/s); it is the network that enables the compute nodes to exchange data at high speeds. However, the GPU cards for the second phase use Slingshot 11 (a 200 Gb/s version of the current interconnect). To resolve this in such a way that both phases would use Slingshot 11 would involve changing all the network interface cards in the first phase and hence having the whole system down for a considerable amount of time. To avoid this, a separate system will be built for the GPU nodes; it will work with Slingshot 11 and be controlled using a cluster manager known as the HPE Performance Cluster Manager (HPCM). (In contrast, the first phase of Dardel uses Shasta technology.) This solution should provide the same level of functionality for those using the GPUs and will have the advantage of not affecting the ongoing stable operation of the existing Dardel compute nodes. The GPU nodes will access the current Lustre file system through a couple of Lustre router nodes. The plan is for the second phase of the system to be installed during the summer. PDC plans to join the CPU and GPU systems when all of the second phase has been installed and the whole system is operating reliably. That could happen towards the end of this year or early next year.

Upcoming Expansion of Dardel

The Swedish Science Council (VR) and SNIC have decided to invest more in Dardel than was initially planned (to mitigate the risk of a future lack of adequate capacity for Swedish research). This funding, along with the compensation from HPE for the late delivery of the first phase of Dardel, will be used to extend the system with an extra 468 CPU nodes and an increase of 50% in the disk capacity. At this stage, it is expected the additional hardware will be delivered in September or October this year. These extra nodes, plus the GPU phase, mean that Dardel will be increased with another two compute cabinets and one cooling distribution cabinet (for controlling the water that cools the system).

This table shows the number and types of nodes that will be in the Dardel system after both phases and all the currently planned extensions are installed. The numbers in bold indicate the nodes that have already been installed.
Types of nodes Memory Number of CPU nodes Number of GPU nodes
SNIC initial Industry/business SU Astronomy SNIC extra Total
Thin 256 GB 488 36 0 212 736 0
Large 512 GB 20 236 12 248 516 56
Huge 1 TB 8 0 0 0 8 0
Giant 2 TB 2 0 0 8 10 0
TOTAL - 518 272 12 468 1270 56