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September 23, 2005
First off, let me say I have no problem with speed. In fact, I love speed. In most cases, I equate speed with cars. I enjoy the fact my car can go 0- to-60 mph in 5.7 seconds. That's pretty fast, certainly swift enough to be keeping a constant eye out for John Law.
But at no time do I equate fastest with best, especially after being overtaken by some teenager in a hyper-turboed Civic. I feel this way too about speed as it relates to computers. Sure, I don't like to wait for computations and I relish being able to have five browsers and an equal amount of files open at the same time while still speeding along at the keyboard, but that isn't my only criterion for judging a computer's worthiness. This leads me to the bone I have to pick with some factions of the supercomputer industry. I'm sorry, but I will never believe that just because the Ferrari Enzo is the world's fastest car (0- 60 in 3.28 seconds), it is therefore the world's best. So why are many of the supercomputer faithful so equally entranced by speed as the ultimate metric for determining the best machine?
The Japanese, no strangers to fast cars, are obsessed with speed -- as well as winning back the title of builder of the world's fastest supercomputer. Just as Mr. Ford learned years ago that he'd better look for Mr. Toyota coming fast in his rear view mirror, IBM must know Blue Gene/L's days as the fastest machine in the world can be nothing more than numbered.
Japan makes no secret of the fact it is aiming to develop a supercomputer that will regain the crown as the world's fastest. The country lost the cherished designation to the U.S. last year, so the Japanese government has countered by stating that it plans to develop a supercomputer that can handle in excess of one quadrillion calculations per second by as early as March 2011. That may seem like a while off, but not when speaking the hyper-speedy language of supercomputing.
If achieved, the performance would well surpass the 70.72 trillion calculations per second mark set in independent tests last year by IBM's Blue Gene/L. The world's record holder was built for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Agency. Currently, Japan's fastest machine is NEC Corp.'s Earth Simulator, which boasts nearly 36 trillion calculations per second. This machine was dethroned as the world's fastest last year when it was knocked off by wares from Silicon Graphics Inc. and IBM.
The U.S. and Japan have been embroiled in spirited supercomputer competition for many years and expect there will be no end in sight to the rivalry, which much of the time takes on an exaggerated mantle of national pride.
The Japanese ministry has enlisted NEC, Hitachi Ltd., the University of Tokyo and Kyushu University to develop the much-needed technologies to make the super-swift computer a reality. Take that for true seriousness the U.S. would be hard pressed to match.
That said, I remain firm that the fastest supercomputer isn't the best. Just like cars are asked to do many things besides go fast, it's much more important to have the correct vehicle for the application at hand. One of my favorite analogies (and I have lots of them) is that while it would be fun to drive that Ferrari Enzo to the supermarket, it is not the best choice for hauling home a week's worth of groceries and such. We must not forget to factor in application, as well as other elements including reliability and price relevant to budget, when determining the best computer for the job.
But in this era, typified by the relentless pang that even instant gratification takes too long, expect the battle for supercomputer supremacy to be more of an Le Mans than a drag race.
May 23, 2013 |
The study of climate change is one of those scientific problems where it is almost essential to model the entire Earth to attain accurate results and make worthwhile predictions. In an attempt to make climate science more accessible to smaller research facilities, NASA introduced what they call ‘Climate in a Box,’ a system they note acts as a desktop supercomputer.
May 22, 2013 |
At some point in the not-too-distant future, building powerful, miniature computing systems will be considered a hobby for high schoolers, just as robotics or even Lego-building are today. That could be made possible through recent advancements made with the Raspberry Pi computers.
May 16, 2013 |
When it comes to cloud, long distances mean unacceptably high latencies. Researchers from the University of Bonn in Germany examined those latency issues of doing CFD modeling in the cloud by utilizing a common CFD and its utilization in HPC instance types including both CPU and GPU cores of Amazon EC2.
May 15, 2013 |
Supercomputers at the Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) have worked on important computational problems such as collapse of the atomic state, the optimization of chemical catalysts, and now modeling popping bubbles.
05/10/2013 | Cleversafe, Cray, DDN, NetApp, & Panasas | From Wall Street to Hollywood, drug discovery to homeland security, companies and organizations of all sizes and stripes are coming face to face with the challenges – and opportunities – afforded by Big Data. Before anyone can utilize these extraordinary data repositories, however, they must first harness and manage their data stores, and do so utilizing technologies that underscore affordability, security, and scalability.
04/15/2013 | Bull | “50% of HPC users say their largest jobs scale to 120 cores or less.” How about yours? Are your codes ready to take advantage of today’s and tomorrow’s ultra-parallel HPC systems? Download this White Paper by Analysts Intersect360 Research to see what Bull and Intel’s Center for Excellence in Parallel Programming can do for your codes.
In this demonstration of SGI DMF ZeroWatt disk solution, Dr. Eng Lim Goh, SGI CTO, discusses a function of SGI DMF software to reduce costs and power consumption in an exascale (Big Data) storage datacenter.
The Cray CS300-AC cluster supercomputer offers energy efficient, air-cooled design based on modular, industry-standard platforms featuring the latest processor and network technologies and a wide range of datacenter cooling requirements.