TOP500 Sluggish, But Chinese Supers May Portend Big Changes Ahead

By Michael Feldman

May 31, 2010

A Chinese supercomputer called Nebulae, powered by the latest Fermi GPUs, grabbed the number two spot on the TOP500 list announced earlier today. The new machine delivered 1.27 petaflops of Linpack performance (against a record peak performance of 2.98 petaflops), yielding only to the 1.76 petaflop Jaguar system, which retained its number one berth.

The new Chinese machine is installed at the National Supercomputing Centre in Shenzhen (NSCS) and was built by Chinese HPC vendor Dawning. Nebulae is based on Dawning’s TC3600 blades, which house Intel X5650 CPUs connected to NVIDIA Tesla C2050 GPUs. Although of hybrid design, the majority of the FLOPS originate with the system’s 4,640 NVIDIA GPUs, which, by themselves, provide 2.32 of the 2.98 peak petaflops. Power consumption on Linpack for this latest petaflop machine is not recorded, but I’m guessing it’s between 2.5 and 3.0 MW, which would be more than twice the power efficiency of the Opteron-based Jaguar super.

Nebulae represents the second Chinese machine in the top 10. Tianhe-1, now at number 7, is a 563-teraflop system that captured the number 5 slot last November. It is housed at the National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin/NUDT. Like Nebulae, Tianhe-1 is a CPU-GPU hybrid, in this case using ATI Radeon GPUs from AMD.

Yet another Fermi GPU-accelerated system from China that made the list is Mole-8.5, the supercomputer announced last week in a Mellanox press release. That system achieved 207 Linpack teraflops (out of a possible 1,138), garnering the 19th spot on the TOP500. It’s installed at the Institute of Process Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Whether Nebulae, Tianhe-1, and Mole-8.5 foreshadow a coming of age for high-end GPU computing remains to seen. These three Chinese systems represent three quarters of all the GPU-equipped machines on the current list, which is still dominated by x86-based CPUs. However, multi-petaflop systems powered by GPUs are now in the pipeline. The Keeneland Project, an NSF Track 2D grant will fund an HP system accelerated by NVIDIA GPUs. Georgia Tech, the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory will build and manage this system. Keeneland is supposed to deliver about 2 peak petaflops, and be deployed sometime in 2012. In Japan, TSUBAME 2.0 is also going to be built using NVIDIA GPUs. That system is slated to hit 2.4 petaflops and is scheduled to be installed later this year. This is all good news for GPU vendors, especially NVIDIA, which has invested most heavily in HPC and the GPGPU movement over the past four years.

It’s also good news for China. That country is developing its supercomputing resources at a rapid pace now, especially at the top end of the spectrum. This latest list puts 24 Chinese systems in the TOP500 — tied with Germany, and trailing only the US, UK, and France. And from an aggregate performance standpoint, China is second only to the US.

Besides the China-GPU excitement, the rest of the TOP500 news was rather humdrum. For example, the top systems barely budged, which is somewhat of a rarity. With the exception of Nebulae, the only other noteworthy change in the top 10 is the upgraded NASA Pleiades system, which got outfitted with additional SGI Altix ICE 8400 blades. That upped its Linpack performance from 544 teraflops to 722 teraflops, but failed to improve its ranking at the number 6 slot. Ranger, the Sun Constellation system at TACC, was the only machine that got bumped out of the top 10.

The increase in aggregate performance for the entire list was the lowest in TOP500 history, reflected by the fact that only 143 of the 500 systems were replaced. Even the bottom of the list barely moved. The 500th system six month ago was 20 teraflops, which increased to only 24.7 teraflops on the current list.

Perhaps more ominous is that multicore scaling seems to be slowing. According to TOP500 list co-founder Erich Strohmaier, the move from predominantly dual-core systems to quad-core systems took about two years. If that pace had kept up, we would be seeing many more six- and eight-core system, which is not the case (425 systems on the list are still quad-core).

This may be due to a temporary hiccup in the CPU rollout cycle. This spring Intel, AMD and IBM started rolling out 6-, 8-, and 12-core CPUs, and they should start showing up in HPC installations very shortly. But because bandwidth to RAM is not keeping pace with the additional cores, memory-bound problems can’t benefit by simply increasing the CPU core count. This could be encouraging chipmakers to spend relatively more of the transistor budget provided by Moore’s Law on features like bigger caches or new instructions, rather than on additional compute engines.

Another unfortunate trend seems to be developing. Although the T0P500 has only been keeping tabs on system power consumption for a couple of years, that metric seems to be steadily rising for the list as a whole, and is rising especially fast for the top 10 systems. Fortunately power efficiency is going up too, but not fast enough to keep pace with user demand for bigger machines. If that curve can’t be bent, a larger and larger percentage of the expense of a supercomputer is going to be consumed by power and cooling.

The trend toward Intel CPUs continues. The vast majority of systems — 408, to be precise — are based on Intel processors. AMD chips are in just 47 systems, despite being used in a disproportionate number of the top systems, including the number 1 (Jaguar), 3 (Roadrunner), and 4 (Kraken) machines. IBM Power-based systems are in third place with 42.

Finally, the trend toward InfiniBand remains unabated. There are now 207 systems on the list using InfiniBand fabric, up from 181 just six months ago. Interestingly, Gigabit Ethernet-based machines took a hit, dropping from 259 systems in November 2009, to 242 today. The battle between 10 GigE and InfiniBand awaits.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Advancing Modular Supercomputing with DEEP and DEEP-ER Architectures

February 24, 2017

Knowing that the jump to exascale will require novel architectural approaches capable of delivering dramatic efficiency and performance gains, researchers around the world are hard at work on next-generation HPC systems. Read more…

By Sean Thielen

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Feb. 23, 2017)

February 23, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

HPE Server Shows Low Latency on STAC-N1 Test

February 22, 2017

The performance of trade and match servers can be a critical differentiator for financial trading houses. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Financial Update (Feb. 2017)

February 22, 2017

In this recurring feature, we’ll provide you with financial highlights from companies in the HPC industry. Check back in regularly for an updated list with the most pertinent fiscal information. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Manufacturers Reaping the Benefits of Remote Visualization

Today’s manufacturers are operating in an ever-changing atmosphere, and finding new ways to boost productivity has never been more vital.

This is why manufacturers are ramping up their investments in high performance computing (HPC), a trend which has helped give rise to the “connected factory” and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) concepts that are proliferating throughout the industry today. Read more…

Rethinking HPC Platforms for ‘Second Gen’ Applications

February 22, 2017

Just what constitutes HPC and how best to support it is a keen topic currently. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDC: Will the Real Exascale Race Please Stand Up?

February 21, 2017

So the exascale race is on. And lots of organizations are in the pack. Government announcements from the US, China, India, Japan, and the EU indicate that they are working hard to make it happen – some sooner, some later. Read more…

By Bob Sorensen, IDC

ExxonMobil, NCSA, Cray Scale Reservoir Simulation to 700,000+ Processors

February 17, 2017

In a scaling breakthrough for oil and gas discovery, ExxonMobil geoscientists report they have harnessed the power of 717,000 processors – the equivalent of 22,000 32-processor computers – to run complex oil and gas reservoir simulation models. Read more…

By Doug Black

Advancing Modular Supercomputing with DEEP and DEEP-ER Architectures

February 24, 2017

Knowing that the jump to exascale will require novel architectural approaches capable of delivering dramatic efficiency and performance gains, researchers around the world are hard at work on next-generation HPC systems. Read more…

By Sean Thielen

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDC: Will the Real Exascale Race Please Stand Up?

February 21, 2017

So the exascale race is on. And lots of organizations are in the pack. Government announcements from the US, China, India, Japan, and the EU indicate that they are working hard to make it happen – some sooner, some later. Read more…

By Bob Sorensen, IDC

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Drug Developers Use Google Cloud HPC in the Fight Against ALS

February 16, 2017

Within the haystack of a lethal disease such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis / Lou Gehrig’s Disease) there exists, somewhere, the needle that will pierce this therapy-resistant affliction. Read more…

By Doug Black

Azure Edges AWS in Linpack Benchmark Study

February 15, 2017

The “when will clouds be ready for HPC” question has ebbed and flowed for years. Read more…

By John Russell

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular offerings such as Caffe, Theano, and Torch. Read more…

By John Russell

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell Knights Landing Machine Sets New STAC Records

November 2, 2016

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, commonly known as STAC, has released a new report characterizing the performance of the Knight Landing-based Dell PowerEdge C6320p server on the STAC-A2 benchmarking suite, widely used by the financial services industry to test and evaluate computing platforms. The Dell machine has set new records for both the baseline Greeks benchmark and the large Greeks benchmark. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

Intel and Trump Announce $7B for Fab 42 Targeting 7nm

February 8, 2017

In what may be an attempt by President Trump to reset his turbulent relationship with the high tech industry, he and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich today announced plans to invest more than $7 billion to complete Fab 42. Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This