Supercomputers see power challenges in new list

Supercomputers see power challenges in new list

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

The top ten in 2010, the first year that all the systems had their power consumption included in the listing, showed a total power consumption of 33MW. This was the year that the Chinese Tianhe-2 system overtook the US installations to become the fastest supercomputer.   

To put it in perspective, the world’s largest photovoltaic array, the Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park in India, generates 900MW.

In the current list, the Sunway TaihuLight (above) from China’s National Research Centre of Parallel Computer Engineering & Technology (NRCPC) maintains its number one ranking for the fourth time, with a High Performance Linpack (HPL) mark of 93.01 petaflops. Tianhe-2 is still at #2 at at 33.86 petaflops.

Piz Daint, a Cray XC50 system installed at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS) in Lugano, Switzerland, is at #3 with 19.59 petaflops and is notable for several reasons. It is the most powerful supercomputer in Europe, having been upgraded with NVIDIA Tesla P100 GPUs, which more than doubled its performance. It also   uses only 2MW of power, compared to over 15MW for the Sunway and 17MW for the Tianhe-2, making it the most power efficient system in the list.

Titan, a five-year-old Cray XK7 system installed at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory that is the largest system in the US, slips down to number five. Its 17.59 petaflops are mainly the result of its NVIDIA K20x GPU accelerators. Sequoia, an IBM BlueGene/Q system deployed in 2011 as an energy efficient system at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the US, is the number six system with a mark of 17.17 petaflops. 

The new number seven system is Trinity, a Cray XC40 supercomputer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories. It was recently upgraded with Intel’s Knights Landing Xeon Phi processors to now deliver 14.14 petaflops.

Despite the overall increase in power, the overall performance of the systems, and the power efficiency, has increased dramatically over the last seven years. The Tianhe-2 in 2010 had a performance of 2.5 petaflops for 4MW of power, compared to 93 petaflops at 15MW for the Sunway today.

The latest list from the Top500, the 50th, sees China overtaking the US in the total number of ranked systems by a margin of 202 to 143, and with the top two places. The US has four systems in the top ten, and Japan has three.

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