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TMAS pioneers simulation-as-a-service



By Curt Hopkins, Managing Editor, Hewlett Packard Labs

In addition to Spark for the Machine, Secure Containers, and NVM-DIMMs, let’s add The Machine Architectural Simulator (TMAS) to the list of technologies that have derived from, or contributed to, The Machine.

TMAS is software that was created to enable engineers to develop code for The Machine at a time when the hardware was not yet a reality and which has since become a state-of-the-art simulator for developers across the board.

It was developed in 2014, in a partnership between HPE Servers and Hewlett Packard Labs by a team of engineers including Alex Jizrawi, Master Technologist, Mission Critical Solutions, and Ryan Menhusen, Senior Simulator Engineer, Mission Critical Solutions.

Among the key Machine developments enabled by TMAS, were the operating system, low level firmware, Large Scale Graph Inference, and the manageability software stack that powers the Loom management system.

“Simulators have been integral to the development of mission critical servers such as HPE SuperDome X for over a dozen years,” said Jizrawi. “With previous simulators as a starting point, TMAS was redesigned to meet the unique performance and resource needs of The Machine architecture.”

The whole megillah

Specifically, TMAS was designed to simulate the entire platform, a key difference between TMAS and most simulators, which are typically designed for a single CPU. Labs researchers’ need to design software and systems for hardware that did not yet exist produced a simulator with a ground-breaking depth and breadth of function.

TMAS offers support for multiple nodes and features high-level scaling. During work on The Machine, the developers were able to run software across 80 nodes and realistically simulate the workload The Machine needed to be able to take.

TMAS, according to Menhusen, has lower level architectural simulation than almost any others.

“If you wanted to debug signals you could,” he said, “because it combines architectural view with high performance.” This depth of focus has allowed Menhusen and Jizrawi’s team to catch bugs in the Linux kernel, feedback which has been submitted to the Linux community.

“You can use TMAS to see where registers are written incorrectly,” said Menhusen. “On top of that, we do caching according to specifications which a lot of simulators leave out.”

TMAS has already been used by university researchers who previously interned at Labs. They found it to be responsive enough they could modify it to do security research on rack-scale capabilities. The research was successful and extensive enough to merit a paper on their discoveries.


Now, Labs and HPE are offering TMAS internally as the first ever simulation-as-a-service.

“We asked, can someone who never used a sim do it under five minutes?” said Jizrawi. “With TMAS, you can click a button and get access in that time frame.”

HPE is currently exploring a strategy that could provide TMAS to select customers. Details will be provided when available.


Header image by Manatee_tw

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Managing Editor, Hewlett Packard Labs