Titan Sets High Water Mark for GPU Supercomputing

By Michael Feldman

October 29, 2012

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has officially launched its much-anticipated Titan supercomputer, a Cray XK7 machine that will challenge IBM’s Sequoia for petaflop supremacy. With Titan, ORNL gets a system that is 10 times as powerful as Jaguar, the lab’s previous top system upon which the new machine is based. With a reported 27 peak petaflops, Titan now represents the most powerful number-cruncher in the world.

The 10-fold performance leap from Jaguar to Titan is courtesy of NVIDIA’s brand new K20 processors – the Kepler GPU that will be formally released sometime before the end of the year. Although the Titan upgrade also includes AMD’s latest 16-core Opteron CPUs, the lion’s share of the FLOPS will be derived from the NVIDIA chips.

In the conversion from Jaguar, a Cray XT5, ORNL essentially gutted the existing 200 cabinets and retrofitted them with nearly ten thousand XK7 blades. Each blade houses two nodes and each one of them holds a 16-core Opteron 6274 CPU and a Tesla K20 GPU module. The x86 Opteron chips run at a respectable 2.2 GHz, while the K20 hums along at a more leisurely 732 MHz. But because to the highly parallel nature of the GPU architecture, the K20 delivers around 10 times the FLOPS as its CPU companion. (Using the 27 peak PF value for Titan, a back-of-the-envelope calculation puts the new K20 at about 1.2-1.3 double precision teraflops.)

Thanks to the energy efficiency of the K20, which NVIDIA claims is going to three times as efficient its previous-generation Fermi GPU, Titan draws a mere 12.7 MW to power the whole system. That’s especially impressive when you consider that the x86-only Jaguar required 7 megawatts for a mere tenth of the FLOPS.

It would appear, though, that IBM’s Blue Gene/Q may retain the crown for energy-efficient supercomputing. The Sequoia system at Lawrence Livermore Lab draws just 7.9 MW to power its 20 peak petaflops. However, it’s a little bit of apples and oranges here. That 7.9 MW is actually the power draw for Sequoia’s Linpack run, which topped out at 16 petaflops. Since we don’t have the Linpack results for Titan just yet, it’s hard to tell if the GPU super will be able to come out ahead of Blue Gene/Q platform.

For multi-petaflopper, Titan is a little shy on memory capacity, claiming just 710 terabytes – 598 TB on the CPU side and 112 TB for the GPUs. The FLOPS-similar Sequoia has more than twice that – nearly 1.6 petabytes. Back in the day, the goal for balanced supercomputing was at least one byte of memory for every FLOP, but that era is long gone.

Titan provides around 1/40 of a byte per FLOP and from the GPU’s point of view, most of the memory on the wrong side of the PCIe bus – that is, next to the CPU. Welcome to the new normal.

Titan is more generous with disk space though, 13.6 PB in all, although again, a good deal less than that of its Sequoia cousin at 55 PB. Apparently disk storage is being managed by 192 Dell I/O servers, which, in aggregate, provide 240 GB/second of bandwidth to the storage arrays.
Titan’s big claim to fame is that it’s the first GPU-accelerated supercomputer in the world that’s has been scaled into the multi-petaflop realm. IBM’s Blue Gene/Q and Fujitsu’s K computer — both powered by custom CPU SoCs — are the only other platforms that have broken the 10-petaflop mark. Titan is also the first GPU-equipped machine of any size in the US. As such, it will provide a test platform for a lot of big science codes that have yet to take advantage of accelerators at scale.

Acceptance testing is already underway at Oak Ridge and users are in the process of porting and testing a variety of DOE-type science applications to the CPU-GPU supercomputer. These include codes in climate modeling (CAM-SE), biofuels (LAMMPS), astrophysics (NRDF), combustion (S3D), material science (WL-LSMS), and nuclear energy (Denovo).

According to Markus Eisenbach, his team has already been able to run the WL-LSMS code above the 10-petaflop mark on Titan. He says that level of performance will allow them to study the behavior of materials at temperatures above the point where they lose their magnetic properties.

At the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), they are already using the new system to speed atmospheric modeling codes. With Titan, Warren Washington’s NCAR team has been able to execute high-resolution models representing one to five years of simulations in just one computing day. On Jaguar, a computing day yielded only three months worth of simulations.

ORNL’s Tom Evans is using Titan cycles to model nuclear energy production. The simulations are for the purpose of improving the safety and performance of the reactors, while reducing the amount of waste. According to Evans, they’ve been able to run 3D simulations of a nuclear reactor core in hours, rather than weeks.

The machine will figure prominently into the upcoming INCITE awards. INCITE, which stands for Innovative and Novel Computation Impact on Theory of Experiment, is the DOE’s way of sharing with  the FLOPS with scientists and industrial users on the agency’s fastest machines. The program only accepts proposals for end users with “grand challenge”-type problems worthy of top tier supercomputing.

With its 20-plus-petaflop credentials, Titan will be far and away the most powerful system available for open science. (Sequoia belongs to the NNSA and spends most its cycles on classified nuclear weapons codes.) The DOE has received a record number of proposals for the machine, representing three times what Titan will be able to donate to the INCITE program.

Undoubtedly some of that pent-up demand is a result of the delayed entry of the US into GPU-accelerated supers. Over the past three years, American scientists and engineers have watched heterogeneous petascale systems being built overseas. China (with Tianhe-1A, Nebulae, and Mole 8.5), Japan (with TSUBAME 2.0), and even Russia (with Lomonosov) all managed to deploy ahead of the US.

Some of that is due to the slow uptake of GPU computing by IBM and Cray, the US government’s two largest providers of top tier HPC machinery. IBM offers GPU-accelerated gear on it x86 cluster offerings, but its flagship supercomputers are based on their in-house Blue Gene and Power franchises. Cray waited until May 2011 to deliver its first GPU-CPU platform, the XK6 (with Fermi Tesla GPUs), preferring to skip the earlier renditions of NVIDIA technology.

While Titan could be viewed as just another big supercomputer, there is a lot on the line here, especially for NVIDIA. If the system can be a productive petascale machine, it will go a long way toward establishing the company’s GPU computing architecture as the go-to accelerator technology for the path to exascale. The development that makes this less than assured is the imminent emergence of Intel’s Xeon Phi manycore coprocessor, and to a lesser extent, AMD’s future GPU and APU platforms.

Intel will get its initial chance to prove Xeon Phi’s worth as an HPC accelerator with Stampede, a 10 petaflop supercomputer that will be installed at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) before the end of the year. That Dell cluster will have 8 of those 10 petaflops delivered by Xeon Phi silicon and, as such, the system will represent the first big test case for Intel’s version of accelerated supercomputing.

It also represents the first credible challenge to NVIDIA on this front since the GPU-maker got into the HPC business in 2006. Whichever company is more successful at delivering HPC on a chip, the big winners will be the users themselves, who will soon have two vendors offering accelerator cards with over a teraflop of double precision performance. At a few thousand dollars per teraflop, supercomputing has never been so accessible.

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!

South Africa CHPC: Home Grown Dynasty

October 22, 2018

Before the build up to the final event in the 2018 Student Cluster Competition season (the SC18 competition in Dallas), I want to take a moment to write about one of the great inspirational stories of these competitions. Read more…

By Dan Olds

NSF Launches Quantum Computing Faculty Fellows Program

October 22, 2018

Efforts to expand quantum computing research capacity continue to accelerate. The National Science Foundation today announced a Quantum Computing & Information Science Faculty Fellows (QCIS-FF) program aimed at devel Read more…

By John Russell

Democratization of HPC Part 3: Ninth Graders Tap HPC in the Cloud to Design Flying Boats

October 18, 2018

This is the third in a series of articles demonstrating the growing acceptance of high-performance computing (HPC) in new user communities and application areas. In this article we present UberCloud use case #208 on how Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch and Håkon Bull Hove

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

One Small Step Toward Mars: One Giant Leap for Supercomputing

Since the days of the Space Race between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, we have continually sought ways to perform experiments in space. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Join IBM at SC18 and Learn to Harness the Next Generation of AI-focused Supercomputing

Blurring the lines between HPC and AI

Today’s high performance computers are helping clients gain insights at an unprecedented pace. The intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and HPC can transform industries while solving some of the world’s toughest challenges. Read more…

Penguin Computing Launches Consultancy for Piecing AI Strategies Together

October 18, 2018

AI stands before the HPC industry as a beacon of great expectations, yet market research repeatedly shows that AI adoption is commonly stuck in the talking phase, on the near side of a difficult chasm to cross. In respon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

South Africa CHPC: Home Grown Dynasty

October 22, 2018

Before the build up to the final event in the 2018 Student Cluster Competition season (the SC18 competition in Dallas), I want to take a moment to write about o Read more…

By Dan Olds

Penguin Computing Launches Consultancy for Piecing AI Strategies Together

October 18, 2018

AI stands before the HPC industry as a beacon of great expectations, yet market research repeatedly shows that AI adoption is commonly stuck in the talking phas Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

When Water Quality—Not Quantity—Hinders HPC Cooling

October 18, 2018

Attention has been paid to the sheer quantity of water consumed by supercomputers’ cooling towers – and rightly so, as they can require thousands of gallons per minute to cool. But in the background, another factor can emerge, bottlenecking efficiency and raising costs: water quality. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Paper Offers ‘Proof’ of Quantum Advantage on Some Problems

October 18, 2018

Is quantum computing worth all the effort being poured into it or should we just wait for classical computing to catch up? An IBM blog today posed those questio Read more…

By John Russell

Dell EMC to Supply U Michigan’s Great Lakes Cluster

October 16, 2018

The University of Michigan (U-M) today announced Dell EMC is the lead vendor for U-M’s $4.8 million Great Lakes HPC cluster scheduled for deployment in first Read more…

By John Russell

Houston to Field Massive, ‘Geophysically Configured’ Cloud Supercomputer

October 11, 2018

Based on some news stories out today, one might get the impression that the next system to crack number one on the Top500 would be an industrial oil and gas mon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Platform Pushes GPUs into Machine Learning, High Performance Data Analytics

October 10, 2018

GPU leader Nvidia, generally associated with deep learning, autonomous vehicles and other higher-end enterprise and scientific workloads (and gaming, of course) Read more…

By Doug Black

Federal Investment in Exascale – What It Really Means

October 10, 2018

Earlier this month, the EuroHPC JU (Joint Undertaking) reached critical mass, and it seems all EU and affiliated member states, bar the UK (unsurprisingly), have or will sign on. The EuroHPC JU was born from a recognition that individual EU member states, and the EU as a whole, were significantly underinvesting in HPC compared to the US, China and Japan, who all have their own exascale investment and delivery strategies (NSCI, 13th 5 Year Plan, Post-K, etc). Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

TACC Wins Next NSF-funded Major Supercomputer

July 30, 2018

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has won the next NSF-funded big supercomputer beating out rivals including the National Center for Supercomputing Ap Read more…

By John Russell

IBM at Hot Chips: What’s Next for Power

August 23, 2018

With processor, memory and networking technologies all racing to fill in for an ailing Moore’s law, the era of the heterogeneous datacenter is well underway, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Requiem for a Phi: Knights Landing Discontinued

July 25, 2018

On Monday, Intel made public its end of life strategy for the Knights Landing "KNL" Phi product set. The announcement makes official what has already been wide Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

By John Russell

D-Wave Breaks New Ground in Quantum Simulation

July 16, 2018

Last Friday D-Wave scientists and colleagues published work in Science which they say represents the first fulfillment of Richard Feynman’s 1982 notion that Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

HPC on Wall Street 2018 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Arista

Dell EMC

IBM

Intel

RStor

VMWare

TACC’s ‘Frontera’ Supercomputer Expands Horizon for Extreme-Scale Science

August 29, 2018

The National Science Foundation and the Texas Advanced Computing Center announced today that a new system, called Frontera, will overtake Stampede 2 as the fast Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE No. 1, IBM Surges, in ‘Bucking Bronco’ High Performance Server Market

September 27, 2018

Riding healthy U.S. and global economies, strong demand for AI-capable hardware and other tailwind trends, the high performance computing server market jumped 28 percent in the second quarter 2018 to $3.7 billion, up from $2.9 billion for the same period last year, according to industry analyst firm Hyperion Research. Read more…

By Doug Black

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Germany Celebrates Launch of Two Fastest Supercomputers

September 26, 2018

The new high-performance computer SuperMUC-NG at the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Garching is the fastest computer in Germany and one of the fastest i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

Houston to Field Massive, ‘Geophysically Configured’ Cloud Supercomputer

October 11, 2018

Based on some news stories out today, one might get the impression that the next system to crack number one on the Top500 would be an industrial oil and gas mon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Aerodynamic Simulation Reveals Best Position in a Peloton of Cyclists

July 5, 2018

Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and KU Leuven research group conducts the largest numerical simulation ever done in the sport industry and cycling discipline. The goal was to understand the aerodynamic interactions in the peloton, i.e., the main pack of cyclists in a race. Read more…

No Go for GloFo at 7nm; and the Fujitsu A64FX post-K CPU

September 5, 2018

It’s been a news worthy couple of weeks in the semiconductor and HPC industry. There were several HPC relevant disclosures at Hot Chips 2018 to whet appetites Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This