New Oak Ridge Supercomputer Could Be World's Fastest

Monday Oct 29th 2012 by Cynthia Harvey

Titan uses GPUs to achieve better energy efficiency than other supercomputers.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee has turned on a new supercomputer called Titan that could be the world's fastest. It's capable of 20 petaflops, which is 20,000 trillion calculations per second.

Computerworld's Agam Shah noted, "The supercomputer is more than 10 times faster than its predecessor called Jaguar, which was deployed in 2009 and was considered the world's fastest supercomputer in June 2010 until it was dethroned a few months later by a Chinese supercomputer called Tianhe-1A at the National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin. Titan's deployment comes just a few weeks ahead of the release of the Top500, which lists the 500 fastest supercomputers in the world. The fastest supercomputer in the Top500 list released in June this year was Sequoia, an IBM BlueGene/Q system deployed by the U.S. DOE at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California."

In National Geographic, Marianne Lavelle wrote, "It would take 60,000 years for 1,000 people working at a rate of one calculation per second to complete the number of calculations that Titan can process in a single second. Think of Titan's power as akin to each of the world's 7 billion people solving 3 million math problems per second. But Titan's signature achievement is how little energy it burns while blazing through those computations. Titan's predecessor supercomputer at Oak Ridge, the 2.3-petaflop Jaguar machine, drew 7 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to power a small town. Titan needs just about 30 percent more electricity, 9 MW, while delivering ninefold greater computing power."

Nathan Eddy from eWeek explained, "Titan will also occupy the same space as its Jaguar predecessor while using only marginally more electricity, thanks to the combination of central processing units (CPUs), the traditional foundation of high-performance computers, and more recent GPUs. Because they handle hundreds of calculations simultaneously, GPUs can go through many more than CPUs in a given time." He added, "The Cray XK7 system contains 18,688 nodes, with each holding a 16-core AMD Opteron 6274 processor and an Nvidia Tesla K20 GPU accelerator. Titan will enable researchers to run scientific calculations with greater speed and accuracy—the machine will provide research in energy, climate change, efficient engines, materials, and other disciplines-- by relying on its 299,008 CPU cores to guide simulations and allowing the Nvidia GPUs to do the intensive calculations and processing."

According to ZDNet's Zack Whittaker, "It's hoped that by 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy will upgrade Titan again, which could by then reach 200 petaflops -- or 10 times the speeds of Titan."

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