Top 500 Results Reveal Global Acceleration, Balance Shift

By Nicole Hemsoth

June 17, 2013

Moments ago the founders of the Top 500 supercomputer rankings unleashed the results of their 41st incarnation of the list at the International Supercomputing Conference in Leipzig, Germany.

And unlike other years where heated speculation about the victors swirled before the show, this announcement of the winner came as little surprise. Word about the Xeon Phi-boosted Chinese Tianhe-2 system leaked, but was quickly validated by Dr. Jack Dongarra after his own visit to China in the last couple of weeks.

The initial reports rolled down the mountain following a gun-jumping presentation by the Chinese during the International HPC Forum in Changsha, China in late May during which all was (prematurely) revealed–in part, if one might speculate, to show the supercomputing dons that the fabled next-gen Milky Way was tangible, operational and ready to rock collective Linpack socks.

The real story during this iteration of benchmarks deviates from the dead heat races of highly similar top-end systems vying for slivers of performance differentiation. In fact, there hasn’t been much change at all for the usual suspects that haunted November’s rankings. Even the mighty Titan’s numbers are the same since the team decided to stable their race horse and use November results.

Some systems, including Sequoia shined a bit brighter with a fresh run of the benchmark. And while Titan was kicked to the number two slot, it still keeps its crown as one of the most efficient systems at the top, consuming 8.21 MW and hitting the 2.143 MFlops/W, just outpacing Sequoia’s 7.84 MW consumption, which packs 2,031.6 MFlops/W.

But Tianhe-2, with its 3 million processors, early-gen MIC cards and unique Chinese-crafted stacks from interconnect to inner software workings is what is sparking the conversational fuse today. And it comes as no surprise, because–and let’s not mince words here–it blew everything out of the freakin’ water.

To put the above image from the Top500 presentation this morning in a bit more context, take a look at the side by side comparison of the two architectures in the chart below, paying specific attention to the power and cooling numbers in particular. It’s not just that these are both relatively efficient systems for their size and our current expectations–it’s that the Chinese are taking a giant leap toward exascale, and are finding ways to stuff the power envelope.

And so what does this upset to the standard order of close top contender races really mean? The significance reaches across the themes of accelerators and co-processors as a complex, if not contradictory trend. It pushes new ideas about how to shove the steady curve of Moore’s law under the 25 MW umbrella…And of course, it does a fair job of shaking the global supercomputing technology market’s westward-focused worldview.

To the last point, As Dongarra noted, “Most of the features of the system were developed in China and they are only using Intel for the main compute part. That is, the interconnect, operating system, front-end processors and software tools are mainly Chinese in origin.”

While the system offers some notable publicity for Intel, which still owns an 80.4% processor share across the Top 500 (of around 800 or so submitted systems), some see this as the dawn of a new era for foreign components and systems. While Tianhe-2 is not Godson based (which was the initial inkling before details leaked), it’s only a matter of time before China puts natively-built processor, accelerator and coprocessor capstones on its masterpieces.

It’s not clear what the next big super out of the United States, the anticipated Trinity system at Los Alamos National Lab, will flop in at. But in case the world missed the message with the first Tianhe machine, China has signaled its entry into the supercomputing spectrum in earnest. As a nation, this June ranking reveals that China now is the second largest user of HPC, outpacing Japan, the UK, France and Germany–all supercomputer strongholds.

And then what? Most likely some new interconnect concepts matched with memory innovations that strike efficiency concerns lower to the ground. What we have then is a global supercomputing race that puts some bold new players into the game. If it weren’t for missing out on summer, it’s tempting to want to rush the clock forward to November just to see what happens from this tiny spark.

Top 500 founder Hans Meuer equated the announcement of the system as being as disruptive as the Earth Simulator, which was 11 years ago. It bumped off its rivals by 5x and set the stage for a new era…one that he says we’re entering, even if it’s sketchy what will smooth the curves of Moore’s Law.

As Horst Simon told us, if the total power consumption is 25 MW (including cooling) we’d all like to see systems operate at that kind of power envelope but there is still the need to produce more energy efficient technology. “We are going on a Moore’s law curve; the areas where improvement is needed is on interconnects and memory.”

The problem is, the founding fathers we spoke with yesterday can’t see what lies beyond the bend of the curve. Simon noted, “Unlike in the past where we could see three or four years in the future, at this point, I don’t see anything radically different coming up. We have reaped all the benefits from the standard architectures to manycore–the magic bullet has already been shot.”

That magic bullet, of course, is the mighty accelerator.

Analysts agree across the board that accelerators will be the kings of the top supers–beyond the top ten in a few years. As Dongarra told us, however, if you look at the list, the number of machines with accelerators has gone down. However, if you look at the sum total of the 500 systems in terms of overall power, it’s 33 percent aggregate performance, mostly due to the big DoE machines that occupy the limelight.

Dongarra highlighted that it’s 33 percent aggregate with this list, but on the last list it was 22% and before that, just 11%.

Horst Simon explained that as of now, accelerators aren’t being used to much of an extent in the commercial systems they’ve seen submitted. There is a bridging of gaps that needs to happen on the learning curve side but he says that the right tools for big businesses on big iron (GPUs matched with powerful database tools, for instance) will bring others on board with acceleration, evening out the list.

By the end of the year the Tianhe-2 super is fully operational at its temporary home at the National University for Defense Technology in Changsha, China. Before the year is out it will find its way to its permanent spot at the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzho and is trained to crunch a number of common supercomputing applications in the fields of biomedical research, climatology, manufacturing and beyond

Even with Trinity rising on the 2015-ish horizon, when asked how long Tianhe-2 will stand at the top, Dongarra laughed softly and said, “a long time…probably a pretty long time.”

 

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!

AI-Focused ‘Genius’ Supercomputer Installed at KU Leuven

April 24, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has deployed a new approximately half-petaflops supercomputer, named Genius, at Flemish research university KU Leuven. The system is built to run artificial intelligence (AI) workloads and, as Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Exascale System for Earth Simulation Introduced

April 23, 2018

After four years of development, the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) will be unveiled today and released to the broader scientific community this month. The E3SM project is supported by the Department of Energy Read more…

By Staff

RSC Reports 500Tflops, Hot Water Cooled System Deployed at JINR

April 18, 2018

RSC, developer of supercomputers and advanced HPC systems based in Russia, today reported deployment of “the world's first 100% ‘hot water’ liquid cooled supercomputer” at Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JI Read more…

By Staff

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Hybrid HPC is Speeding Time to Insight and Revolutionizing Medicine

High performance computing (HPC) is a key driver of success in many verticals today, and health and life science industries are extensively leveraging these capabilities. Read more…

New Device Spots Quantum Particle ‘Fingerprint’

April 18, 2018

Majorana particles have been observed by university researchers employing a device consisting of layers of magnetic insulators on a superconducting material. The advance opens the door to controlling the elusive particle Read more…

By George Leopold

AI-Focused ‘Genius’ Supercomputer Installed at KU Leuven

April 24, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has deployed a new approximately half-petaflops supercomputer, named Genius, at Flemish research university KU Leuven. The system is Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’ Read more…

By John Russell

IBM: Software Ecosystem for OpenPOWER is Ready for Prime Time

April 16, 2018

With key pieces of the IBM/OpenPOWER versus Intel/x86 gambit settling into place – e.g., the arrival of Power9 chips and Power9-based systems, hyperscaler sup Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cloud-Readiness and Looking Beyond Application Scaling

April 11, 2018

There are two aspects to consider when determining if an application is suitable for running in the cloud. The first, which we will discuss here under the title Read more…

By Chris Downing

Transitioning from Big Data to Discovery: Data Management as a Keystone Analytics Strategy

April 9, 2018

The past 10-15 years has seen a stark rise in the density, size, and diversity of scientific data being generated in every scientific discipline in the world. Key among the sciences has been the explosion of laboratory technologies that generate large amounts of data in life-sciences and healthcare research. Large amounts of data are now being stored in very large storage name spaces, with little to no organization and a general unease about how to approach analyzing it. Read more…

By Ari Berman, BioTeam, Inc.

IBM Expands Quantum Computing Network

April 5, 2018

IBM is positioning itself as a first mover in establishing the era of commercial quantum computing. The company believes in order for quantum to work, taming qu Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

FY18 Budget & CORAL-2 – Exascale USA Continues to Move Ahead

April 2, 2018

It was not pretty. However, despite some twists and turns, the federal government’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget is complete and ended with some very positi Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

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

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

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

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

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

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

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

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

Leading Solution Providers

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

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

HPC and AI – Two Communities Same Future

January 25, 2018

According to Al Gara (Intel Fellow, Data Center Group), high performance computing and artificial intelligence will increasingly intertwine as we transition to Read more…

By Rob Farber

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

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Te Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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