Hawking’s ‘Big Brain’ Powered by Intel MIC Share your comment!


The world’s first symmetric multi-processor (SMP) to be powered by Intel’s Many Integrated Core (MIC) architecture is also the latest incarnation of Stephen Hawking’s pioneering Cosmos supercomputer for the Miracle Consortia. Cosmos makes use of SGI’s “Big Brain”–the SGI UV 2000–which houses 32 Xeon Phi co-processors utilizing a total of 1,856 cores in a cache-coherent shared-memory space of nearly 15 terabytes (TB).

“With our powerful and flexible SGI UV 2000 we can continue to focus on scientific discovery, leading worldwide efforts to advance our understanding of the universe,” says Stephen Hawking, founder of Cosmos and the Miracle Consortia. “Our newest Cosmos supercomputer from SGI contains the latest many-integrated core technology from Intel, the Xeon Phi coprocessor.”

The Cosmos supercomputer and the Miracle Consortia pursue the most vexing problems in cosmology. Consortia members include top British universities (see full list below).  


SGI’s UV 2000–nicknamed the Big Brain–powers Stephen Hawking’s Miracle Consortia’s Cosmos supercomputer, which houses 32 Xeon Phi coprocessors in the world’s first MIC-powered SMP. Source: SGI

Phi-Based Supercomputer Tackles Big Cosmic Questions

The latest COSMOS supercomputer will support key UK research in several key areas:

  • Discovering new extra-solar planets
  • Assist in lattice field-theory simulations of the early universe
  • Validate new cosmological models–including superstrings and extra dimensions
  • Study cosmic background radiation, galaxy distributions and the generation of primordial gravitational waves.
  • Answering “big brain” questions such as “how many exoplanets have the right conditions for life?”

SGI’s UV 2000 uses NUMAlink blade-based architecture to share a single system image (SSI) among up to 2,048 cores (4,096 threads), enabling vast data sets to tackle the world’s most complex simulations. NUMAlink supports 50 giga-byte per second data transfers–in four 12.5 Gb/s channels–while allowing a global coherent shared memory scalable to 32,000 sockets. And the next generation of SGI’s UV promises to expand support for up to 4096 Xeon Phi cores 8192 threads) sharing 64-TB of cache-coherent shared memory in a SSI.

“The SGI UV 2000, when paired with Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors, offers in-memory computing at an extreme scale,” explains SGI CTO Eng Lim Goh. “COSMOS will be able to accelerate finding answers to some of the world’s most data-intensive problems using software tools with which they are already familiar.”

SGI also recently updated its entire line of supercomputer-caliber servers for use with Intel’s MIC architecture, offering Xeon Phi coprocessors in factory-integrated hardware and software “starter kits” for the SGI UV 20 with four Intel Xeon E5-4600 processors and four PCIe slots for Xeon Phi coprocessors, the SGI Rackable twin-socket Intel Xeon server with four Xeon Phi slots, and the SGI ICE X, the cale-out blade server using PCIe-capable InfiniBand connectivity.

MIC-Powered Supers Continue Spread Worldwide

Besides the COSMOS Consortium, MIC architecture Xeon Phi powered SGI supercomputers are already in use at NASA (Ames) as well as at The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC, Norwich, U.K.)

Cosmos is a U.K. Science and Technology Foundation Council (STFC)-funded DiRAC Consortia project to extend England’s high-performance computing (HPC) capabilities, and is part of the U.K.’s $253 million effort to improve its e-infrastructure.

Members include the University of Cambridge, the University of Sussex, Portsmouth University, the University of Manchester, Imperial College London, the University of Central Lancashire, the University of Nottingham, the University College London, the University of Oxford, and the University of Durham in the U.K. plus Eotvos Lorund University in Hungary. 

Posted on November 29, 2012 by R. Colin Johnson, Geeknet Contributing Editor