Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

By Tiffany Trader

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 from SC17 in Denver, Colorado, this morning and once again China is in the spotlight, having taken what is on the surface at least a definitive lead in multiple dimensions. China now claims the most systems, biggest flops share and the number one machine for 10 consecutive lists. It’s a coup-level achievement to pull off in five years, disrupting 20 years of US dominance on the Top500, but reading deeper into the Top500 tea leaves reveals a more nuanced analysis that has as much to do with China’s benchmarking chops as it does its supercomputing flops.

PEZY-SC2 chip at ISC 2017 –click to enlarge

Before we thread that needle, let’s take a moment to review the movement at the top of the list. There are no new list entrants in the top ten and no change in the top three, but the upgraded ZettaScaler-2.2 “Gyoukou” stuck its landing for a fourth place ranking. Vaulting 65 spots, the supersized Gyoukou combines Xeons and PEZY-SC2 accelerators to achieve 19.14 petaflops, up from 1.68 petaflops on the previous list. The Top500 authors point out that the system’s 19,860,000 cores represent the highest level of concurrency ever recorded on the Top500 rankings.

Gyoukou also had the honor of being the fifth greenest supercomputer. Fellow ZettaScaler systems Shoubu system B, Suiren2 and Sakura, placed first, second and third respectively (see perf-per-watt numbers below). Nvidia’s DGX SaturnV Volta system, installed at Nvidia headquarters in San Jose, Calif., was the fourth greenest supercomputer.

Nov. 2017 Green500 top five — click to enlarge
Nov. 2017 Top500 top 10

Another upgraded machine, Trinity, moved up three positions to seventh place thanks to a recent infusion of Intel Knights Landing Xeon Phi processors that raised its Linpack score from 8.10 petaflops to 14.14 petaflops. Trinity is a Cray XC40 supercomputer operated by Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.

Sunway TaihuLight datacenter (Wuxi, China)

China still has a firm grip on the top of the list with 93-petaflops Sunway TaihuLight and 33.86-petaflops Tianhe-2, the number one and and two systems respectively, which together provide the new list with 15 percent of its flops. Piz Daint, the Cray XC50 system installed at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS) remains the third fastest system with 19.6 petaflops. With Gyoukou in fourth position, the fastest US system, Titan, slips another notch to fifth place, leaving the United States without a claim to any of the top four rankings. Benchmarked at 17.59 petaflops, the five-year-old Cray XK7 system installed at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, captured the top spot for one list iteration before being knocked off its perch in June 2013 by China’s Tianhe-2. This is the first time in the list’s 24-year history that the US has not held at least a number four ranking.

Although China has enjoyed number one bragging rights for nearly four years, this is the first list that it also dominates by both system number and aggregate performance share as well. China has the most installed systems: 202 compared to 159 on the last list, while US is in second place with 144 down from 169 six month ago (Japan ranks third place with 35, followed by Germany with 20, France with 18, and the UK with 15.). Aggregate performance is similar: China holds 35.3 percent of list flops, and the US is second with 29.8 percent (then Japan with 10.8 percent, Germany with 4.5 percent, UK with 3.8 percent and France with 3.6 percent).

Based on these metrics, undoubtedly some publications will proclaim China’s supercomputing supremacy, but that would be premature. When China expanded its Top500 toehold by a factor of three at SC15, Intersect360 Research CEO Addison Snell remarked that it wasn’t so much that China discovered supercomputing as it discovered the Top500 list. This observation continues to hold water.

An examination of the new systems China is adding to the list indicates concerted efforts by Chinese vendors Inspur, Lenovo, Sugon and more recently Huawei to benchmark loosely coupled Web/cloud systems that strain the definition of HPC. To wit, 68 out of the 96 systems that China introduced onto the latest list utilize 10G networking and none are deployed at research sites. The benchmarking of Internet and telecom systems for Top500 glory is not new. You can see similar fingerprints on the list (current and historical) from HPE and IBM, but China has doubled down. For comparison’s sake, the US put 19 new systems on the list and eight of those rely on 10G networking.

Top500 development over time–countries by performance share. US is red; China is dark blue. Click to enlarge.

Not only has the Linpacking of non-HPC systems inflated China’s list presence, it’s changed the networking demographics as the number of Ethernet-based machines climbs steadily. As the Top500 authors note, Gigabit Ethernet now connects 228 systems with 204 systems using 10G interfaces. InfiniBand technology is now found on 163 systems, down from 178 systems six months ago, and is the second most-used internal system interconnect technology.

Snell provided additional perspective: “What we’re seeing is a concerted effort to list systems in China, particularly from China-based system vendors. The submission rules allow for what is essentially benchmarking by proxy. If Linpack is run and verified on one system, the result can be assumed for other systems of the same (or greater) configuration, so it’s possible to put together concerted efforts to list more systems, whether out of a desire to show apparent market share, or simply for national pride.”

Discussions of list purity and benchmarking by proxy aside, the High Performance Linpack or any one-dimensional metric has limited usefulness across today’s broad mix of HPC applications. This truth, well understood in HPC circles, is not always appreciated outside the community or among government stakeholders who want “something to show” for public investment.

“Actual system effectiveness is getting more difficult to compare, as the industry swings back toward specialized hardware,” Snell commented. “Just because one architecture outperforms another on one benchmark doesn’t make it the best choice for all workloads. This is particularly challenging for mixed-workload research environments trying to serve multiple domains. 88 percent of all HPC users say they will need to support multiple architectures for the next few years, running applications on the most appropriate systems for their requirements.”

Chip technology – click to expand (Source: Top500)

There has been stagnation on the list for several iterations and turnover is historically low. Neither Summit or Sierra (the US CORAL machines, projected to achieve 150-200 petaflops) nor the upgraded Tianhe-2A (projected 94.97 petaflops peak) made the cut for the 50th list as had been speculated. While HPC is seeing a time of increased architectural diversity at the system and processor level, the current list is less diverse by some measures. To wit, of the 136 new systems on the list, Intel is foundational to all of them (36 of these utilize accelerators*). So no new Power, no new AMD (it’s still early for EPYC) and nothing from ARM yet. In total 471 systems, or 94.2 percent, are now using Intel processors, up a notch from 92.8 percent six months ago. The share of IBM Power processors is at 14 systems, down from 21 systems in June. There are five AMD-based systems remaining on the list, down from seven one year ago.

Nvidia’s New SaturnV Volta system. Click to enlarge.

In the US, IBM Power9 systems Summit and Sierra are on track for 2018 installation at Oak Ridge and Livermore labs (respectively), and multiple other exascale-focused systems are in play in China, Europe and Japan, showcasing a new wave of architectural diversity. We expect there will be more exciting supercomputing trends to report on from ISC 2017 in Frankfurt.

*Breakdown of the 36 new accelerated systems: 29 have P100s (one with NVLink, an HPE SGI system at number 292 (Japan)), one internal Nvidia V100 Volta system (#149, SaturnV Volta); one K80-based system (#267, Lenovo); two Sugon-built P40 systems (#161, #300), and three PEZY systems (#260, #277, #308). Further, out of the 36, only the internal Nvidia machine is US-based. 30 are Chinese (by Lenovo, Inspur, Sugon); the remaining five are Japanese (by NTT, HPE, PEZY).

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!

Red Hat’s Disruption of CentOS Unleashes Storm of Dissent

January 22, 2021

Five weeks after angering much of the CentOS Linux developer community by unveiling controversial changes to the no-cost CentOS operating system, Red Hat has unveiled alternatives for affected users that give them severa Read more…

By Todd R. Weiss

China Unveils First 7nm Chip: Big Island

January 22, 2021

Shanghai Tianshu Zhaoxin Semiconductor Co. is claiming China’s first 7-nanometer chip, described as a leading-edge, general-purpose cloud computing chip based on a proprietary GPU architecture. Dubbed “Big Island Read more…

By George Leopold

HiPEAC Keynote: In-Memory Computing Steps Closer to Practical Reality

January 21, 2021

Pursuit of in-memory computing has long been an active area with recent progress showing promise. Just how in-memory computing works, how close it is to practical application, and what are some of the key opportunities a Read more…

By John Russell

HiPEAC’s Vision for a New Cyber Era, a ‘Continuum of Computing’

January 21, 2021

Earlier this week (Jan. 19), HiPEAC — the European Network on High Performance and Embedded Architecture and Compilation — published the 8th edition of the HiPEAC Vision, detailing an increasingly interconnected computing landscape where complex tasks are carried out across multiple... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Supercomputers Assist Hunt for Mysterious Axion Particle

January 21, 2021

In the 1970s, scientists theorized the existence of axions: particles born in the hearts of stars that, when exposed to a magnetic field, become light particles, and which may even comprise dark matter. To date, however, Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AWS Solution Channel

Fire Dynamics Simulation CFD workflow on AWS

Modeling fires is key for many industries, from the design of new buildings, defining evacuation procedures for trains, planes and ships, and even the spread of wildfires. Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Intel Keynote Address

Intel is the foundation of HPC – from the workstation to the cloud to the backbone of the Top500. At SC20, Intel’s Trish Damkroger, VP and GM of high performance computing, addresses the audience to show how Intel and its partners are building the future of HPC today, through hardware and software technologies that accelerate the broad deployment of advanced HPC systems. Read more…

Researchers Train Fluid Dynamics Neural Networks on Supercomputers

January 21, 2021

Fluid dynamics simulations are critical for applications ranging from wind turbine design to aircraft optimization. Running these simulations through direct numerical simulations, however, is computationally costly. Many Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Red Hat’s Disruption of CentOS Unleashes Storm of Dissent

January 22, 2021

Five weeks after angering much of the CentOS Linux developer community by unveiling controversial changes to the no-cost CentOS operating system, Red Hat has un Read more…

By Todd R. Weiss

HiPEAC Keynote: In-Memory Computing Steps Closer to Practical Reality

January 21, 2021

Pursuit of in-memory computing has long been an active area with recent progress showing promise. Just how in-memory computing works, how close it is to practic Read more…

By John Russell

HiPEAC’s Vision for a New Cyber Era, a ‘Continuum of Computing’

January 21, 2021

Earlier this week (Jan. 19), HiPEAC — the European Network on High Performance and Embedded Architecture and Compilation — published the 8th edition of the HiPEAC Vision, detailing an increasingly interconnected computing landscape where complex tasks are carried out across multiple... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Saudi Aramco Unveils Dammam 7, Its New Top Ten Supercomputer

January 21, 2021

By revenue, oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco is one of the largest companies in the world, and it has historically employed commensurate amounts of supercomputing Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

President-elect Biden Taps Eric Lander and Deep Team on Science Policy

January 19, 2021

Last Friday U.S. President-elect Joe Biden named The Broad Institute founding director and president Eric Lander as his science advisor and as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Lander, 63, is a mathematician by training and distinguished life sciences... Read more…

By John Russell

Pat Gelsinger Returns to Intel as CEO

January 14, 2021

The Intel board of directors has appointed a new CEO. Intel alum Pat Gelsinger is leaving his post as CEO of VMware to rejoin the company that he parted ways with 11 years ago. Gelsinger will succeed Bob Swan, who will remain CEO until Feb. 15. Gelsinger previously spent 30 years... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from Julialang.org. I Read more…

By John Russell

Intel ‘Ice Lake’ Server Chips in Production, Set for Volume Ramp This Quarter

January 12, 2021

Intel Corp. used this week’s virtual CES 2021 event to reassert its dominance of the datacenter with the formal roll out of its next-generation server chip, the 10nm Xeon Scalable processor that targets AI and HPC workloads. The third-generation “Ice Lake” family... Read more…

By George Leopold

Esperanto Unveils ML Chip with Nearly 1,100 RISC-V Cores

December 8, 2020

At the RISC-V Summit today, Art Swift, CEO of Esperanto Technologies, announced a new, RISC-V based chip aimed at machine learning and containing nearly 1,100 low-power cores based on the open-source RISC-V architecture. Esperanto Technologies, headquartered in... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from Julialang.org. I Read more…

By John Russell

Azure Scaled to Record 86,400 Cores for Molecular Dynamics

November 20, 2020

A new record for HPC scaling on the public cloud has been achieved on Microsoft Azure. Led by Dr. Jer-Ming Chia, the cloud provider partnered with the Beckman I Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

NICS Unleashes ‘Kraken’ Supercomputer

April 4, 2008

A Cray XT4 supercomputer, dubbed Kraken, is scheduled to come online in mid-summer at the National Institute for Computational Sciences (NICS). The soon-to-be petascale system, and the resulting NICS organization, are the result of an NSF Track II award of $65 million to the University of Tennessee and its partners to provide next-generation supercomputing for the nation's science community. Read more…

Is the Nvidia A100 GPU Performance Worth a Hardware Upgrade?

October 16, 2020

Over the last decade, accelerators have seen an increasing rate of adoption in high-performance computing (HPC) platforms, and in the June 2020 Top500 list, eig Read more…

By Hartwig Anzt, Ahmad Abdelfattah and Jack Dongarra

Aurora’s Troubles Move Frontier into Pole Exascale Position

October 1, 2020

Intel’s 7nm node delay has raised questions about the status of the Aurora supercomputer that was scheduled to be stood up at Argonne National Laboratory next year. Aurora was in the running to be the United States’ first exascale supercomputer although it was on a contemporaneous timeline with... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

Programming the Soon-to-Be World’s Fastest Supercomputer, Frontier

January 5, 2021

What’s it like designing an app for the world’s fastest supercomputer, set to come online in the United States in 2021? The University of Delaware’s Sunita Chandrasekaran is leading an elite international team in just that task. Chandrasekaran, assistant professor of computer and information sciences, recently was named... Read more…

By Tracey Bryant

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Top500: Fugaku Keeps Crown, Nvidia’s Selene Climbs to #5

November 16, 2020

With the publication of the 56th Top500 list today from SC20's virtual proceedings, Japan's Fugaku supercomputer – now fully deployed – notches another win, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Texas A&M Announces Flagship ‘Grace’ Supercomputer

November 9, 2020

Texas A&M University has announced its next flagship system: Grace. The new supercomputer, named for legendary programming pioneer Grace Hopper, is replacing the Ada system (itself named for mathematician Ada Lovelace) as the primary workhorse for Texas A&M’s High Performance Research Computing (HPRC). Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

At Oak Ridge, ‘End of Life’ Sometimes Isn’t

October 31, 2020

Sometimes, the old dog actually does go live on a farm. HPC systems are often cursed with short lifespans, as they are continually supplanted by the latest and Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Gordon Bell Special Prize Goes to Massive SARS-CoV-2 Simulations

November 19, 2020

2020 has proven a harrowing year – but it has produced remarkable heroes. To that end, this year, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) introduced the Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia and EuroHPC Team for Four Supercomputers, Including Massive ‘Leonardo’ System

October 15, 2020

The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU) serves as Europe’s concerted supercomputing play, currently comprising 32 member states and billions of euros in funding. I Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Intel Xe-HP GPU Deployed for Aurora Exascale Development

November 17, 2020

At SC20, Intel announced that it is making its Xe-HP high performance discrete GPUs available to early access developers. Notably, the new chips have been deplo Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia-Arm Deal a Boon for RISC-V?

October 26, 2020

The $40 billion blockbuster acquisition deal that will bring chipmaker Arm into the Nvidia corporate family could provide a boost for the competing RISC-V architecture. As regulators in the U.S., China and the European Union begin scrutinizing the impact of the blockbuster deal on semiconductor industry competition and innovation, the deal has at the very least... Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE, AMD and EuroHPC Partner for Pre-Exascale LUMI Supercomputer

October 21, 2020

Not even a week after Nvidia announced that it would be providing hardware for the first four of the eight planned EuroHPC systems, HPE and AMD are announcing a Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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