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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Titan the world's 'fastest supercomputer in existence'

by Mark Ollig      

The largest energy and science research laboratory in the US Department of Energy (DoE) is the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL,) located in Tennessee.

ORNL was established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II.

The state of Tennessee, along with universities and industries, partner with ORNL to find answers to challenges in advanced materials, physics, manufacturing, security, and energy.

The ORNL annual budget is $1.65 billion, and is staffed by more than 4,400 people.

The completion of a new supercomputer; its hardware provided and designed by the Cray supercomputer company, was announced by ORNL.

The late Seymour Cray, who was called “the father of supercomputing” founded Cray Research in 1972.

Cray has a Minnesota connection. He received his Bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering at the University of Minnesota, where he graduated in 1949.

The new supercomputer is called Titan, and is an upgrade from a previous supercomputer version called Jaguar.

Titan was recently declared the world’s fastest computational computer.

The LINPACK benchmarks are a measurement of a computer system’s floating-point computational performance.

Titan’s LINPACK benchmark test results were 17.59 petaflops (quadrillion floating-point operations per second).

A petaflop is equivalent to one thousand-trillion (quadrillion) mathematical operations performed every second, so, yes, this is one fast-operating, number-crunching computer.

This bests the previously fastest supercomputer, the IBM Sequoia, which operated at 16.32 petaflops.

By comparison, a standard hand-held calculator operates at about 10 flops.

The Titan supercomputer has a potential processing speed of 20 petaflops.

This supercomputer’s processing power is mind-boggling. An analogy would be if each of the 7 billion people on the planet were making 3 million calculations – per second.

This type of performance, according to ORNL, will enable researchers to obtain unparalleled accuracy in their simulations and obtain research breakthroughs faster than ever before.

The Titan supercomputer boasts almost 19,000 central processors, made up from 299,008 individual AMD Opteron processing cores, 710 TB (terabytes) of random access memory (RAM), and 10 PB (petabytes) of data storage memory.

More than 177 trillion – yes, that’s “trillion” with a “t” transistors are used in the Titan supercomputer.

Power consumption of the Titan is rated at 12.7 MW (megawatts).

The Titan supercomputer is made up of rows of some 200 cabinet enclosures covering over 4,352 square feet of floor space, which is almost the size of a basketball court.

There are metal pipes traversing atop these cabinets carrying coolant to dissipate the heat generated by the computing components inside Titan.

What is the cost for all of this supercomputing power? $97 million.

“Titan will allow scientists to simulate physical systems more realistically and in far greater detail,” said James Hack, director of ORNL’s National Center for Computational Sciences.

The Titan supercomputer is linked to the DoE’s Energy Sciences Network (ESNET) via a 100Gbps backbone.

“As scientists are asked to answer, not only whether the climate is changing, but where and how, the workload for global climate models must grow dramatically,” said Kate Evans of ORNL. “Titan will help us address the complexity that will be required in such models,” she added.

The Titan supercomputer will provide information for modeling climate change, determining weather patterns, nuclear energy models, various technology applications, the calculations needed in researching more efficient biofuels, and developing better energy-efficient engines for vehicles.

I can only imagine how fun it would be playing the video game, Diablo III, using the Titan supercomputer.