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!

Data Vortex Users Contemplate the Future of Supercomputing

October 19, 2017

Last month (Sept. 11-12), HPC networking company Data Vortex held its inaugural users group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) bringing together about 30 participants from industry, government and academia t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Self-Training Goes Forward at Google DeepMind

October 19, 2017

DeepMind, Google’s AI research organization, announced today in a blog that AlphaGo Zero, the latest evolution of AlphaGo (the first computer program to defeat a Go world champion) trained itself within three days to play Go at a superhuman level (i.e., better than any human) – and to beat the old version of AlphaGo – without leveraging human expertise, data or training. Read more…

By Doug Black

Researchers Scale COSMO Climate Code to 4888 GPUs on Piz Daint

October 17, 2017

Effective global climate simulation, sorely needed to anticipate and cope with global warming, has long been computationally challenging. Two of the major obstacles are the needed resolution and prolonged time to compute Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Transforming Genomic Analytics with HPC-Accelerated Insights

Advancements in the field of genomics are revolutionizing our understanding of human biology, rapidly accelerating the discovery and treatment of genetic diseases, and dramatically improving human health. Read more…

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Cluster Competition coverage has come to its natural home: H Read more…

By Dan Olds

Data Vortex Users Contemplate the Future of Supercomputing

October 19, 2017

Last month (Sept. 11-12), HPC networking company Data Vortex held its inaugural users group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) bringing together ab Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Self-Training Goes Forward at Google DeepMind

October 19, 2017

DeepMind, Google’s AI research organization, announced today in a blog that AlphaGo Zero, the latest evolution of AlphaGo (the first computer program to defeat a Go world champion) trained itself within three days to play Go at a superhuman level (i.e., better than any human) – and to beat the old version of AlphaGo – without leveraging human expertise, data or training. Read more…

By Doug Black

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Read more…

By Dan Olds

Intel Delivers 17-Qubit Quantum Chip to European Research Partner

October 10, 2017

On Tuesday, Intel delivered a 17-qubit superconducting test chip to research partner QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The announcement marks a major milestone in the 10-year, $50-million collaborative relationship with TU Delft and TNO, the Dutch Organization for Applied Research, to accelerate advancements in quantum computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fujitsu Tapped to Build 37-Petaflops ABCI System for AIST

October 10, 2017

Fujitsu announced today it will build the long-planned AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI) which is set to become the fastest supercomputer system in Japan Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Intel Debuts Programmable Acceleration Card

October 5, 2017

With a view toward supporting complex, data-intensive applications, such as AI inference, video streaming analytics, database acceleration and genomics, Intel i Read more…

By Doug Black

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

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