October 11, 2011

Nvidia GPUs to Power the World's Top Supercomputer


The U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory will use Nvidia chips to power what it hopes will be the fastest and most powerful supercomputer in the world.

The new system, dubbed Titan, should be completed by 2012, putting the U.S. back on pace with Asian countries like China and Japan, which own the top 5 supercomputers in the world, according to the Wall Street Journal. Supercomputers are generally used for research in the fields of material science, energy technology, medical research and geoscience, among others.

Unlike the U.S.'s legacy supercomputers, Titan will be loaded with graphics processing units (GPUs). The Nvidia Tesla GPUs will help enable Titan to deliver over 20 petaflops of peak performance, making it more than two times faster and three times more energy efficient than today's fastest supercomputer, according to the chip maker.

Nvidia also built GPUs for China's "Tianhe-1A" supercomputer, which is currently ranked second on the list of the 500 fastest supercomputers.

Steve Scott, chief technology officer of Tesla products at NVIDIA, said that Oak Ridge's decision to embrace GPU technology for supercomputers – along with similar moves from China and Japan – underscores "the growing belief that GPU-based heterogeneous computing is the best approach to reach exascale computing levels within the next decade."

Scott said that Tesla GPUs will provide over 85 percent of the peak performance of Titan.

Jeff Nichols, associate laboratory director for Computing and Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge, said that the new supercomputer will be used to help develop "more commercially viable biofuels, cleaner burning engines, safer nuclear energy, and more efficient solar power."

The first step in the transition, currently underway, involves upgrading Oak Ridge's current Jaguar supercomputer with 960 Tesla M2090 GPUs based on the Nvidia's "Fermi" architecture. In 2012, the lab will leverage a next-generation Nvidia architecture named "Kepler" to deploy around 18,000 Tesla GPUs, taking Titan to what it hopes will be the top spot among supercomputers.


Beecher Tuttle is a TechZone360 contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves




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