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U.S. institution recaptures title with 17.59 petaflop showing

NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) is bringing out the big guns in the GPU market, pushing special Kepler "accelerator" hardware -- the big brother to NVIDIA's market-leading consumer gaming hardware.  Targeted at large supercomputer deployments, the Tesla K20X accelerator offers 3.95 teraflops of peak floating point precision performance and 1.17 teraflops of peak double performance.

To put that in context, a top-of-the-line server CPU -- the Westmere-EX 12-core, 2.4 GHz Xeon E7-8870 -- gets approximately 384 gigaflops of peak double performance [source].  With an average power performance of around 90 watts per core [source] when loaded, the Intel chip musters around 355 Megaflops per watt.  By contrast, the NVIDIA card gets about 2,142.77 Megaflops per watt. In other words, it's not only more powerful in terms of pure number crunching; it's also more efficient.

Of course, that comparison is slightly misleading; there are significant differences between GPU-accelerated multi-threaded computing and CPU multi-core computing in terms of memory resources and data transfer.
Tesla K20X
The world's most powerful supercomputer is now driven by NVIDIA's Tesla K20X GPUs.

But the numbers do start to give you an idea of why so many data centers are jumping on the GPU train.  NVIDIA announced on Monday that the completed "Titan" supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn. just earned a "number one" ranking in the Top500 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers.

Powered by 18,688 NVIDIA Tesla cards, the installation posted a LINPACK score of 17.59 petaflops.  

Titan shows NVIDIA's arch-nemesis CPU/GPU-maker Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD) some love as well, utilizing its Opteron 6274 (Bulldozer) 16-core chips.  Paired with 710 terabytes of memory, the machine is capable of performing 1,000 quadrillion calculations per second using 20 megawatts of electricity or less.

Titan supercomputer
Titan unseats reigning champion Sequoia, a more traditional CPU-driven design from IBM.

Dr. Thomas Schulthess, professor of computational physics at ETH Zurich and director of the Swiss National Supercomputing Center cheers the record-setter, remarking, "We are taking advantage of NVIDIA GPU architectures to significantly accelerate simulations in such diverse areas as climate and meteorology, seismology, astrophysics, fluid mechanics, materials science, and molecular biophysics.  The K20 family of accelerators represents a leap forward in computing compared to NVIDIA's prior Fermi architecture, enhancing productivity and enabling us potentially to achieve new insights that previously were impossible."

The previous record holder was Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Sequoia system a Blue Gene supercomputer from International Business Machines, Inc. (IBM).  Sequoia is a more traditional CPU-based design, which uses PowerPC A2 processor chips.

Sources: ORNL, NVIDIA



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Why compare Tesle to a Xeon E7-8870?
By Khato on 11/13/2012 11:44:43 AM , Rating: 2
Just curious as to the comparison between the new Tesla K20 and the Xeon E7-8870 seeing as how there's only one E7-2860 on the top500 list? The current favored chip from the Intel lineup are the SNB based E5 Xeons, of which the top machine using only Xeon for compute is in the #6 spot and achieves 846 Megaflops per watt.

Yeah, it's still ~2.5 times worse than the Tesla in terms of energy efficiency... but that's quite a bit better than the 5.5x worse that's portrayed in the article.




By someguy123 on 11/13/2012 3:45:38 PM , Rating: 2
The chip is also unlikely to reach peak efficiency, but the article does say the numbers are misleading. The entire system is getting around ~ 900gflops per GPU, so it takes a substantial amount of CPUs and GPUs to obtain somewhere near the gpu's peak output. Power efficiency is basically in line with the last #1 supercomputer.

Does seem to require significantly less RAM, though.


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