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!

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