US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

By Tiffany Trader

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Even without the benefit of another mega-system, China is still a force to be reckoned with; the number one and number two machines alone, both Chinese, provide the list with nearly 19 percent of its total FLOPS. We also see the arrival of Knights Landing systems, a continued dip in accelerator-based systems, and InfiniBand losing ground to Ethernet, as non-traditional “supercomputers” from the cloud and Web 2.0 sphere continue to enter the list.

Before we unzip these trends further, let’s jump to the top of the list, where there are two new additions. Joining the top ten club at number five with 14 petaflops is the NERSC Cori supercomputer, and sliding in at number six is Japan’s new 13.6 petaflops Oakforest-PACS supercomputer. Both Cori, the Cray XC40 system installed at Berkeley Lab’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), and Oakforest-PACS supercomputer, a Fujitsu PRIMERGY CX1640 M1 cluster operating at Japan’s Joint Center for Advanced High Performance Computing (JCAHPC), rely on the Intel “Knights Landing” Xeon Phi 7250, a 68-core processor that delivers just under 3 peak teraflops of performance.

The brand-new Theta supercomputer, deployed at Argonne National Laboratory ahead of the larger Aurora install, is also using KNL parts, specifically the 64-core Intel Xeon Phi 7230. Theta provides 5.1 Linpack petaflops, earning it the 18th spot on this list. All told, there are 10 systems using Xeon Phi as the main processing unit.

nov-2016-top500-top-10

There are also some noteworthy “internal systems” debuting on the list. At number 28 with 3.3 petaflops Linpack (4.9 petaflops peak) is the the DGX Saturn V from Nvidia, powered by NVLink’d Pascal P100 GPUs. Constructed with 125 DGX-1s, Saturn V is the most energy-efficient system on the list, grabbing the number one spot on the Green500 list with a 8.17 gigaflops/watt rating. That’s a 42 percent improvement from the 6.67 gigaflops/watt delivered by the most efficient machine on previous TOP500 list. Nvidia has had this system in development since GTC16 in March. In June at ISC 2016, Marc Hamilton told us the machine was being used by millions of lines of codes at Nvidia. The graphics chips maker indicated that its automotive teams were its heaviest users.

nvidia_dgx_saturnv-800x
Nvidia’s DGX Saturn V

“In this new style of computing you don’t write if/then/else code to recognize a cat or a stop sign or a pedestrian, you’re feeding a lot of data into a deep neural network and adjusting the network,” Hamilton said. “We have today engineers at Nvidia on our automotive DriveWorks software team, and that’s what they’re doing, rather than writing a bunch of if/then/else code in C they’re getting a bunch of data from a car, either simulated or real, they’re piping it into a deep neural network running on the DGX-1 box – so getting the results in 2 hours instead of 24 hours – they’re adjusting the networking, fine-tuning the network and running it again.”

The number two greenest super is also using P100 GPUs (the only other machine to do so, although to be precise, these are the PCIe variants) — we’re talking about Piz Daint (installed at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre), which touts an impressive 7.45 gigaflops/watt. Piz Daint recently received a massive 3.5 petaflops P100 infusion that allowed it to hold onto its number 8 spot on the TOP500 despite two new entrants above it (Cori and Oakforest-PACS).

Penguin Computing qualified its in-house machine, Topaz, for the new list achieving a 169th ranking with 760 teraflops (Linpack). The Tundra Extreme Scale machine uses Xeon E5-2695v4 processors and Intel Omni-Path architecture.

Dell EMC is also debuting an on-site machine, Zenith, installed at the Dell HPC Innovation labs in Austin, Texas. Ranked at 372 on the list, Zenith is a 451-teraflops (Linpack) machine built with Dell PowerEdge C6320 and PowerEdge R630 servers using Xeon E5-2697v4 processors and the Intel Omni-Path interconnect. Dell EMC will also be unveiling a companion system (not yet submitted to the TOP500), Rattler, that has 80 C6320 PowerEdge nodes fully connected with EDR. Pascal GPUs will be added soon, according to Dell EMC’s Jim Ganthier, “since that is [the GPU] most customers are interested in trying out.”

The China-US Tally

On the previous edition of the TOP500, released at ISC in June, China had overtaken the United States in both system share and performance share. With this list, the US is now matched with China at 171 systems apiece. As the list authors note, in terms of total performance share, the US now holds the narrowest of leads, 33.9 percent compared to runner-up China’s 33.3 percent.

The number one and two systems — TaihuLight and Tianhe-2 respectively, are Chinese with the 93-petaflops “homegrown” TaihuLight machine commanding a 5.3X FLOPS lead over the fastest US system, the 17.6-petaflops Titan, ranked number three. Although the US has recaptured a bit of ground since the June list, if you take system share, performance share and top-of-the-list status as three primary dimensions of TOP500 leadership, China is in the stronger position.

One can rightly question the relevance of machine “scores” and list standing as the Linpack benchmark becomes less relevant as a stand-in for performance on modern science and engineering applications, but it’s hard to deny the galvanizing impact of a global-scale competition. After all, it’s the supercomputing race that captures the mass attention span and you can’t have a race without a way of gauging who’s ahead.

Last year’s SC (2015) was something of TOP500 coming out party for China. China’s list share went from 37 systems in June 2015 to 109 systems in November 2015 — and then to 168 systems in June 2016. In the same timeframe, US system share fell from 233 to 199 to 165. As Intersect360 Research CEO Addison Snell has remarked, it wasn’t so much that China discovered supercomputing as it discovered the TOP500 list. In other words, many of these machines were older systems newly earmarked for inclusion onto the list.

The US has a major supercomputing refresh planned for 2018-2019 with the CORAL systems coming online, so there will be list churn in the coming years with some jockeying for position, but China won’t be standing still. In addition to the Wuxi supercomputer, China has reported that it will stand up one or two more big systems in the neighborhood of 100-petaflops each. The status of those systems isn’t completely clear, but China has disclosed that they are building three prototype machines ramping up to their 2020 exascale target. The EU and Japan aren’t expecting to reach exascale until at least a year or two after that with the US on track for 2023.

After US and China, Germany ranks third on the latest TOP500 list with 32 systems, followed by Japan with 27, France with 20, and the UK with 17. A year ago, Japan had 37, Germany had 33, and both France and the UK had 18.

top500-nov-2016-vendor-tree-map-rmax
Nov. 2016 TOP500 vendor tree map (% of total list performance)

Looking at the vendor landscape, Cray has staked out the highest share of total list performance at 21.3 percent up from 19.9 percent. The massive Sunway TaihuLight system claims 13.8 percent of the total installed performance, which gives developer NRCPC second-place bragging rights. HPE is in third place with 9.8 percent, down from 12.9 percent six months ago, but will pick up another 6 percent from SGI systems. IBM and Lenovo are tied for fourth place with 8.8 percent share each. Thanks to Tianhe-2 and Tianhe-1A, NUDT contributes 5.8 percent of the total performance of the list, down from 9.2 percent.

By system share, HPE is on top with 112 systems (22.4 percent). HPE will also gain 28 systems from the SGI acquisition, bringing its grand total to 140 machines. In second place is Lenovo with 92 systems. Cray, in third, now has 56 systems, down from 69 systems six month ago. Sugon is fourth with 47 and IBM is fifth with 33. No new IBM system were introduced in this list.

The aggregate performance of all 500 computers on the list stands at 672 petaflops, a 60 percent increase from a year ago. As long as the growth rate stays above 50 percent, the list will reach a total performance of >1,000 petaflops (1 exaflops) one year from now. The 60 percent rate represents a slight uptick in the year over year growth. The growth of the average performance of all systems in the list slowed in 2008 and again in 2013, dropping to around 55 percent per year. Prior to 2008, aggregate system performance was increasing by about 90 percent per year.

sc16-performance-development-trajectories
Nov. 2016 TOP500 Performance Development

The aggregate performance of the top ten machines is 226 petaflops. 117 systems have cracked the petaflops ceiling, compared with 95 machines on the previous list. The admission point for the TOP100 is currently 1.07 petaflops (up from 958 teraflops). The bar for entry onto the list has been raised to 349.3 Linpack teraflops up from 285.9 teraflops six months ago.

sc16-accelerators-coprocessors-2006-2016
      Source: Nov. 2016 TOP500

Other highlights from the 48th TOP500 list:

  • A total of 462 systems (92.4 percent) are now using Intel processors, slightly up from 91 percent six months ago.
  • The share of IBM Power processors is now at 22 systems, down from 23 systems six months ago.
  • The AMD Opteron family is used in 7 systems, down from 13 systems on the previous list.
  • A total of 86 systems on the list are using accelerator/co-processor technology, down from 93 on June 2016. Sixty (60) of these use NVIDIA chips, 21 systems with Intel Xeon Phi technology (as co-processors), one uses ATI Radeon, and one uses PEZY technology. Three systems use a combination of Nvidia and Intel Xeon Phi accelerators/co-processors. 10 Systems now use Xeon Phi as the main processing unit.
  • InfiniBand technology is now found on 187 systems, down from 205 systems, and is now the second most-used internal system interconnect technology. Gigabit Ethernet is now at 206 systems down from 218 systems, in large part thanks to 177 systems now using 10G interfaces.
  • Intel Omni-Path technology which made its first appearance six months ago with eight systems is now at 28 systems and is used in the No. 6 system, Oakforest-PACS.

We’ll follow up with more insights and analysis from the TOP500 BoF, which takes place Tuesday night from 5:15-7pm at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City.

For now, the TOP500 compilers — Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; and Martin Meuer of ISC Group — have put together this poster, which provides a view into key performance trends, as well as the evolving architecture and chip technology landscapes.

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!

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip using standard CMOS fabrication. At Hot Chips 31 in Stanfor Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Talk to Me: Nvidia Claims NLP Inference, Training Records

August 15, 2019

Nvidia says it’s achieved significant advances in conversation natural language processing (NLP) training and inference, enabling more complex, immediate-response interchanges between customers and chatbots. And the co Read more…

By Doug Black

Trump Administration and NIST Issue AI Standards Development Plan

August 14, 2019

Efforts to develop AI are gathering steam fast. On Monday, the White House issued a federal plan to help develop technical standards for AI following up on a mandate contained in the Administration’s AI Executive Order Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Solution Channel

Efficiency and Cost-Optimization for HPC Workloads – AWS Batch and Amazon EC2 Spot Instances

High Performance Computing on AWS leverages the power of cloud computing and the extreme scale it offers to achieve optimal HPC price/performance. With AWS you can right size your services to meet exactly the capacity requirements you need without having to overprovision or compromise capacity. Read more…

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Bring the combined power of HPC and AI to your business transformation

FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) acceleration cards are not new, as they’ve been commercially available since 1984. Typically, the emphasis around FPGAs has centered on the fact that they’re programmable accelerators, and that they can truly offer workload specific hardware acceleration solutions without requiring custom silicon. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Cloudy with a Chance of Mainframes

[Connect with HPC users and learn new skills in the IBM Spectrum LSF User Community.]

Rapid rates of change sometimes result in unexpected bedfellows. Read more…

Scientists to Tap Exascale Computing to Unlock the Mystery of our Accelerating Universe

August 14, 2019

The universe and everything in it roared to life with the Big Bang approximately 13.8 billion years ago. It has continued expanding ever since. While we have a good understanding of the early universe, its fate billions Read more…

By Rob Johnson

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Scientists to Tap Exascale Computing to Unlock the Mystery of our Accelerating Universe

August 14, 2019

The universe and everything in it roared to life with the Big Bang approximately 13.8 billion years ago. It has continued expanding ever since. While we have a Read more…

By Rob Johnson

AI is the Next Exascale – Rick Stevens on What that Means and Why It’s Important

August 13, 2019

Twelve years ago the Department of Energy (DOE) was just beginning to explore what an exascale computing program might look like and what it might accomplish. Today, DOE is repeating that process for AI, once again starting with science community town halls to gather input and stimulate conversation. The town hall program... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader and John Russell

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lenovo Drives Single-Socket Servers with AMD Epyc Rome CPUs

August 7, 2019

No summer doldrums here. As part of the AMD Epyc Rome launch event in San Francisco today, Lenovo announced two new single-socket servers, the ThinkSystem SR635 Read more…

By Doug Black

Building Diversity and Broader Engagement in the HPC Community

August 7, 2019

Increasing diversity and inclusion in HPC is a community-building effort. Representation of both issues and individuals matters - the more people see HPC in a w Read more…

By AJ Lauer

Xilinx vs. Intel: FPGA Market Leaders Launch Server Accelerator Cards

August 6, 2019

The two FPGA market leaders, Intel and Xilinx, both announced new accelerator cards this week designed to handle specialized, compute-intensive workloads and un Read more…

By Doug Black

High Performance (Potato) Chips

May 5, 2006

In this article, we focus on how Procter & Gamble is using high performance computing to create some common, everyday supermarket products. Tom Lange, a 27-year veteran of the company, tells us how P&G models products, processes and production systems for the betterment of consumer package goods. Read more…

By Michael Feldman

Supercomputer-Powered AI Tackles a Key Fusion Energy Challenge

August 7, 2019

Fusion energy is the Holy Grail of the energy world: low-radioactivity, low-waste, zero-carbon, high-output nuclear power that can run on hydrogen or lithium. T Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cray, AMD to Extend DOE’s Exascale Frontier

May 7, 2019

Cray and AMD are coming back to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to partner on the world’s largest and most expensive supercomputer. The Department of Energy’s Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphene Surprises Again, This Time for Quantum Computing

May 8, 2019

Graphene is fascinating stuff with promise for use in a seeming endless number of applications. This month researchers from the University of Vienna and Institu Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Verifies Its Largest 7nm Chip Design in Ten Hours

June 5, 2019

AMD announced last week that its engineers had successfully executed the first physical verification of its largest 7nm chip design – in just ten hours. The AMD Radeon Instinct Vega20 – which boasts 13.2 billion transistors – was tested using a TSMC-certified Calibre nmDRC software platform from Mentor. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

TSMC and Samsung Moving to 5nm; Whither Moore’s Law?

June 12, 2019

With reports that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TMSC) and Samsung are moving quickly to 5nm manufacturing, it’s a good time to again ponder whither goes the venerable Moore’s law. Shrinking feature size has of course been the primary hallmark of achieving Moore’s law... Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Competitors Stalk Nvidia

May 14, 2019

There is no shortage of processing architectures emerging to accelerate deep learning workloads, with two more options emerging this week to challenge GPU leader Nvidia. First, Intel researchers claimed a new deep learning record for image classification on the ResNet-50 convolutional neural network. Separately, Israeli AI chip startup Hailo.ai... Read more…

By George Leopold

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

Nvidia Embraces Arm, Declares Intent to Accelerate All CPU Architectures

June 17, 2019

As the Top500 list was being announced at ISC in Frankfurt today with an upgraded petascale Arm supercomputer in the top third of the list, Nvidia announced its Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Top500 Purely Petaflops; US Maintains Performance Lead

June 17, 2019

With the kick-off of the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt this morning, the 53rd Top500 list made its debut, and this one's for petafl Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Hardware That Powered the Black Hole Image

June 24, 2019

Two months ago, the first-ever image of a black hole took the internet by storm. A team of scientists took years to produce and verify the striking image – an Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cray – and the Cray Brand – to Be Positioned at Tip of HPE’s HPC Spear

May 22, 2019

More so than with most acquisitions of this kind, HPE’s purchase of Cray for $1.3 billion, announced last week, seems to have elements of that overused, often Read more…

By Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

Chinese Company Sugon Placed on US ‘Entity List’ After Strong Showing at International Supercomputing Conference

June 26, 2019

After more than a decade of advancing its supercomputing prowess, operating the world’s most powerful supercomputer from June 2013 to June 2018, China is keep Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

In Wake of Nvidia-Mellanox: Xilinx to Acquire Solarflare

April 25, 2019

With echoes of Nvidia’s recent acquisition of Mellanox, FPGA maker Xilinx has announced a definitive agreement to acquire Solarflare Communications, provider Read more…

By Doug Black

Qualcomm Invests in RISC-V Startup SiFive

June 7, 2019

Investors are zeroing in on the open standard RISC-V instruction set architecture and the processor intellectual property being developed by a batch of high-flying chip startups. Last fall, Esperanto Technologies announced a $58 million funding round. Read more…

By George Leopold

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