China has muscled into the No. 2 spot on the list of the world's fastest supercomputers thanks, in part, to specialized Nvidia graphics chips: a technology that Intel is now pursuing to keep pace with this new trend in high-performance computing.
China's Nebulae supercomputer is located at the recently constructed National Supercomputing Centre in Shenzhen, and achieved 1.271 petaflops/s (1.271 quadrillion floating point operations per second) running the Linpack benchmark, which put it in the No. 2 spot on the widely reported Top500 list. The latest list was formally presented Monday at the International Supercomputing Conference in Hamburg, Germany. (Jaguar, a Cray system at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, retained the top spot.)
Nebulae achieved this "in part due to its Nvidia GPU (graphics processing unit) accelerators...Nebulae reports an impressive theoretical peak capability of almost 3 petaflop/s--the highest ever on the TOP500," according to a press release Friday.
Though Nebulae also uses Intel Xeon processors, those are so-called commodity processors that are also employed in standard server computers. So, Intel--despite canceling its Larrabee graphics chip project--is pursuing a technology that leverages Larrabee R&D. On Monday, Intel said the first product of this kind, code-named Knights Corner, will be made on its future 22-nanometer manufacturing process--using transistor structures as small as 22 billionths of a meter--to pack more than 50 processing cores on a single chip.
On Tuesday, I spoke with Jack Dongarra, Distinguished Professor at University of Tennessee's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and director of the Innovative Computing Laboratory. Dongarra introduced the LINPACK Benchmark, which is used as the primary yardstick to measure supercomputer performance.
Q: Are GPU accelerators in supercomputers a trend we'll see more of in coming years? Jack Dongarra: This looks like this is going to be one of the modes of high-performance computing.… Read more