NVIDIA Scores Green Victory with Italian Supercomputer

By Nicole Hemsoth

February 5, 2013

There must have been a few companies that were a bit put off by the announcement of the Beacon computer as the Green500 champ last November. Everyone, that is, except Intel Corp.

Beacon, developed by the National Institute for Computational Sciences (NICS) at the University of Tennessee, started out as a research project to port software code to small clusters of Intel Many Integrated Core (MIC3) chips. When the group started working with the MICs, now better known as the Xeon Phi processor line, it found some compelling energy-saving possibilities. The NICS group decided to use the technology to create a small HPC cluster.

On Friday Eurotech and NVIDIA announced a new HPC system, called Eurora, that the companies say beats Beacon’s energy efficiency by 26% – using NVIDIA GPUs instead of Intel Xeons, of course. With Eurora pumping out 3.15 gigaflops per watt versus Beacon’s 2.49 gigaflops per watt, NVIDIA executives are happy that they can now claim the most energy-efficient HPC system uses their GPUs.

The most powerful supercomputer in the world, the Titan system at Oak Ridge National Lab, uses the same K20 GPUs as Eurora. Titan, however, finished third on the Green500 list. Eurora is NVIDIA’s chance to take the title back from Intel.

Even with the advent of multicore CPUs, accelerators seem to be critical to creating today’s most efficient HPC systems. NVIDIA technology, in particular, has made its presence felt on recent Green500 lists. “GPUs have been the biggest innovation in energy efficiency in the last five years,” says Sumit Gupta, NVIDIA’s general manager for Tesla GPU Accelerated Computing.

Eurora’s efficiency was not just about GPUs, though. Everything about the system was created with the intention of optimizing power draw. The machine is part of Eurotech’s latest Aurora Tigon line of HPC systems. Aurora was designed to decrease energy cost by using Eurotech’s custom-built hot-water cooling system, enabling a datacenter PUE as low as 1.05.

To create Eurora, Eurotech replaced older generation NVIDIA GPUs in its previous Aurora systems with the latest Tesla K20 processors. NVIDIA’s K20 Kepler generation GPU for the HPC market was also designed specifically to increase FLOPS per watt.

Next >>

The Eurora system was delivered to Cineca, an Italian non-profit consortium of universities and a member of the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE). Cineca provides access to HPC systems for research institutions across Europe and prides itself as usually having one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. Now, it seems, it can add energy efficiency to its boast. It’s an important consideration in Europe, where energy prices tend to be much higher than those in the U.S., and where governments are increasingly demanding green technology.

Still, Eurora is essentially a prototype upon which to build. NVIDIA says it shipped a special version of its GPU to Eurotech. And Eurora, with a Linpack rating of 110 teraflops, is a small system compared to Titan at 17 petaflops. That makes the Oak Ridge machine 150 times more powerful than Cineca’s.

NVIDIA’s Gupta says it’s not really fair to compare the reported energy efficiency for Beacon with that of other systems like Titan and Eurora. “Beacon was measured only for the Green500,” he points out. “You can always create the ideal situation for that. Cineca is doing what they would do in production. Cineca is government funded and has regulations. They have to be mindful of the data they report.”

Gupta notes that paradoxically, the energy-efficiency gains in HPC have been driven in large part by consumer products, not the need to cut energy costs for supercomputers or datacenters. The GPUs built to run electronic game graphics have to get by on as little energy as possible because of short battery life. Those same GPUs then started going into HPC systems, both to boost performance and to cut down on energy use.

NVIDIA’s Kepler generation, released a couple years ago for the gaming market, is the processor that was really designed to reduce energy consumption as much as possible. The company streamlined the design by eliminating a lot of registers and logic that were not really needed, and increased the number of cores dramatically. With more cores working, the company could cut the clock speed of the processors by almost half. “Frequency has a bigger impact on power efficiency” than almost any other change one can make, says Gupta. “The simple trick is to increase the number of cores and decrease the frequency.”

Still, Eurora is noticeably more energy efficient than the Titan, which uses the same generation of NVIDIA GPUs. So why the difference? A lot of it is due to Eurotech’s on-board cooling system. That system delivers 50 degree C water to a heat exchanger – flat metal plates with water-flow systems attached. The plates sit directly in contact with the components on a circuit board to uniformly draw away heat. That’s why NVIDIA had to provide a special version of its GPUs to Eurotech. They don’t have the usual heat sinks attached, but accommodate a plate instead.

Still, given the efficiency of Beacon, there will be an ongoing contest between NVIDIA’s GPUs and Intel’s Xeon Phi coprocessors for the best performance per watt. The Intel Phi processors are not yet shipping beyond a few test systems such as Beacon, but will be more generally available within a few months. As these technologies move beyond their testing stages and into real production systems, supercomputers and datacenters should see real benefits.

And, of course everyone will be watching to see whose accelerators show up on top of the next Green500 list.

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!

And So It Begins…Again – The FY19 Exascale Budget Rollout (and things look good)

February 23, 2018

On February 12, 2018, the Trump administration submitted its Fiscal Year 2019 (FY-19) budget to Congress. The good news for the U.S. exascale program is that the numbers look very good and the support appears to be stron Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with partner Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Germany. The ser Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Start-up Aims AI at Automated Tuning of Complex Systems

February 22, 2018

Today’s bigger, more complex, connected and intelligent systems have an exponentially higher number of connections, dependencies, interfaces, protocols and processing architectures that, if not optimized, will hamstrin Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Experience Memory & Storage Solutions that will Transform Your Data Performance

High performance computing (HPC) has revolutionized the way we harness insight, leading to a dramatic increase in both the size and complexity of HPC systems. Read more…

Do Cryptocurrencies Have a Part to Play in HPC?

February 22, 2018

It’s easy to be distracted by news from the US, China, and now the EU on the state of various exascale projects, but behind the vinyl-wrapped cabinets and well-groomed sales execs are an army of Excel-wielding PMO and Read more…

By Chris Downing

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Start-up Aims AI at Automated Tuning of Complex Systems

February 22, 2018

Today’s bigger, more complex, connected and intelligent systems have an exponentially higher number of connections, dependencies, interfaces, protocols and pr Read more…

By Doug Black

HOKUSAI’s BigWaterfall Cluster Extends RIKEN’s Supercomputing Performance

February 21, 2018

RIKEN, Japan’s largest comprehensive research institution, recently expanded the capacity and capabilities of its HOKUSAI supercomputer, a key resource manage Read more…

By Ken Strandberg

Neural Networking Shows Promise in Earthquake Monitoring

February 21, 2018

A team of Harvard University and MIT researchers report their new neural networking method for monitoring earthquakes is more accurate and orders of magnitude faster than traditional approaches. Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Wins $57 Million DoD Supercomputing Contract

February 20, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today revealed details of its massive $57 million HPC contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The deal calls for HP Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fluid HPC: How Extreme-Scale Computing Should Respond to Meltdown and Spectre

February 15, 2018

The Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities are proving difficult to fix, and initial experiments suggest security patches will cause significant performance penal Read more…

By Pete Beckman

Brookhaven Ramps Up Computing for National Security Effort

February 14, 2018

Last week, Dan Coats, the director of Director of National Intelligence for the U.S., warned the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia was likely to meddle in the 2018 mid-term U.S. elections, much as it stands accused of doing in the 2016 Presidential election. Read more…

By John Russell

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

V100 Good but not Great on Select Deep Learning Aps, Says Xcelerit

November 27, 2017

Wringing optimum performance from hardware to accelerate deep learning applications is a challenge that often depends on the specific application in use. A benc Read more…

By John Russell

SC17: Singularity Preps Version 3.0, Nears 1M Containers Served Daily

November 1, 2017

Just a few months ago about half a million jobs were being run daily using Singularity containers, the LBNL-founded container platform intended for HPC. That wa Read more…

By John Russell

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