Nvidia Corp. this week announced that its Tesla 2000-series compute accelerators now power three of top five supercomputers on the planet. The announcement shows that customers in the high-performance computing market are rapidly embracing heterogeneous computing model and take advantage of graphics processing units that deliver high horsepower amid moderate power consumption.
According to the updated Top 500 list of supercomputers, the most powerful system nowadays is Tianhe-1A located in National Supercomputing Center (NSC) in Tianjin, China. the system scores 2.566 petaFLOPS (PFLOPS) in LINPACK benchmark and can theoretically perform 4.7 quadrillion floating point operations per second (FLOPS). The most powerful supercomputer on the planet is powered by 14 336 six-core Intel Xeon X5670 (2.93GHz) central processing units (CPUs) as well as 7168 Nvidia Tesla 2050 compute boards.
Other supercomputers powered by Nvidia Tesla in the top 5 are Nebulae (1.271PFLOPS, 4640 Tesla compute boards, 2.55MW) that belongs to NSC in Shenzhen, China as well as Tsubame 2.0 (1.192PFLOPS, 4200 Tesla compute boards, 1.340MW) located in GSIC Center of Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan.
It is interesting to note that Tianhe-1A's Rmax performance in LINPACK benchmark is 83% lower than theoretical Rpeak rating. When it comes to CPU-based clusters such difference is usually around 30%, but GPU-based supercomputers listed in Top 500 tend to show much higher gap between actual and theoretical performance.
Despite of the fact that supercomputers powered by compute accelerators like Nvidia Tesla are only beginning to take off, their performance per watt efficiency is pretty spectacular. For example, Tianhe-1A consumes 4.04MW of power, whereas a CPU-based cluster based on today's microprocessors with 2.566PFLOPS performance would have used 50 thousand of CPUs and consumed 12.7MW of power, according to Nvidia. One of the most notable new entry to the Top 500 is Tsubame 2.0, the new supercomputer from Tokyo Institute of Technology. The system delivers petaflop-class performance while remaining extremely efficient, consuming just 1.340MW, dramatically less power than any other system on the top five.
"Tsubame 2.0 is an impressive achievement, balancing performance and power to deliver the most energy efficient petaflop-class supercomputer ever built. The path to exascale computing will be forged by groundbreaking systems like Tsubame 2.0,” said Bill Dally, chief scientist at Nvidia.