NVIDIA Touts Grace CPU
April 12, 2021
Grace CPU will power the world’s most powerful AI-capable
The Swiss National Computing Center’s (CSCS) new system will
use Grace, a revolutionary Arm-based data center CPU
introduced by NVIDIA today, to enable breakthrough research
in a wide range of fields.
From climate and weather to materials sciences,
astrophysics, computational fluid dynamics, life sciences,
molecular dynamics, quantum chemistry and particle physics,
as well as domains like economics and social sciences, Alps
will play a key role in advancing science throughout Europe
and worldwide when it comes online in 2023.
“We are thrilled
to announce the Swiss National Supercomputing Center will
build a supercomputer powered by Grace and our
next-generation GPU,” NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang said Monday
during his keynote at NVIDIA’s GPU Technology Conference.
Alps will be built by Hewlett Packard Enterprise using the
new HPE Cray EX supercomputer product line as well as the
NVIDIA HGX supercomputing platform, including NVIDIA GPUs
and the NVIDIA HPC SDK as well as the new Grace CPU.
The Alps system will replace CSCS’s existing Piz Daint
AI New Kind of Supercomputing
Alps is one of the new generation of machines that are
expanding supercomputing beyond traditional modeling and
simulation by taking advantage of GPU-accelerated deep
“Deep learning is just an incredibly powerful set of tools
that we add to the toolbox,” said CSCS Director Thomas
Taking advantage of the tight coupling between NVIDIA CPUs
and GPUs, Alps is expected to be able to train GPT-3, the
world’s largest natural language processing model, in only
two days — 7x faster than NVIDIA’s 2.8-AI exaflops Selene
supercomputer, currently recognized as the world’s leading
supercomputer for AI by MLPerf.
CSCS users will be able to apply this incredible AI
performance to a wide range of emerging scientific research
that can benefit from natural language understanding.
This includes, for example, analyzing and understanding
massive amounts of knowledge available in scientific papers
and generating new molecules for drug discovery.
Soul of the New Machine
Based on the hyper-efficient Arm microarchitecture found in
billions of smartphones and other edge computing devices,
Grace will deliver 10x the performance of today’s fastest
servers on the most complex AI and high-performance
Grace will support the next generation of NVIDIA’s coherent
NVLink interconnect technology, allowing data to move more
quickly between system memory, CPUs and GPUs.
And thanks to growing GPU support for data science
acceleration at ever-larger scales, Alps will also be able
to accelerate a bigger chunk of its users’ workflows, such
as ingesting the vast quantities of data needed for modern
“The scientists will not only be able to carry out
simulations, but also pre-process or post-process their
data,” Schulthess said. “This makes the whole workflow more
efficient for them.”
From Particle Physics to Weather Forecasts
CSCS has long supported scientists who are working at the
cutting edge, particularly in materials science, weather
forecasting and climate modeling, and understanding data
streaming in from a new generation of scientific
CSCS designs and operates a dedicated system for numerical
weather predictions (NWP) on behalf of MeteoSwiss, the Swiss
meteorological service. This system has been running on GPUs
That long-standing experience with operational NWP on GPUs
will be key to future climate simulations as well — key not
only to modeling long-term changes to climate, but to
building models able to more accurately predict extreme
weather events, saving lives.
One of that team’s goals is to run global climate models
with a spatial resolution of 1 km that can map convective
clouds such as thunderclouds.
CSCS supercomputer is also used by Swiss scientists for the
analysis of data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at
CERN, the European Council for Nuclear Research. It is the
Swiss Tier-2 system in the World LHC Computing Grid.
Based in Geneva, the LHC — at $9 billion, one of the most
expensive scientific instruments ever built — generates 90
petabytes of data a year.
Alps uses a new software-defined infrastructure that can
support a wide range of projects.
As a result, in the future, different teams, such those from
MeteoSwiss, will be able to use one or more partitions on a
single, unified infrastructure, rather than different
These can be virtual ad-hoc clusters for individual users or
predefined clusters that research teams can put together
with CSCS and then operate themselves.