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Europe's fastest supercomputer is also world's greenest

Not much has changed in the upper echelon of the Top500 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers, with one notable exception: the arrival of the newest and greenest member of the Top 10, the European Cray XC30-based Piz Daint system.

China's Tianhe-2 retained its top spot on the twice-yearly list released Monday by Top500 administrators Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim in Germany, Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Tianhe-2 was named the most powerful supercomputer in the world in June. For the November list announced at the SC13 conference in Denver, Colorado, the system built and operated by China's National University of Defence Technology was reported to have smashed the Linpack benchmark to the tune of 33.86 petaFLOPS per second.

The top five supercomputers retained their spots from five months ago:

  • No. 2 Titan, a Cray XK7 system installed at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (17.59 PFLOPs/s)
  • No. 3 Sequoia, an IBM BlueGene/Q system installed at DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (17.17 PFLOPs/s)
  • No. 4 K computer, built by Fujitsu and installed at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS) in Kobe, Japan (10.51 PFLOPs/s)
  • No. 5 Mira, an IBM BlueGene/Q system installed at the DOE's Argonne National Laboratory (8.59 PFLOPs/s).

However, coming in at No. 6 was Piz Daint, another Cray XC30-based system using Intel Xeon central processors and Nvidia's Tesla K20X GPU accelerators. Piz Daint is operated by the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS) in Lugano, Switzerland and is now the "most powerful system in Europe," according to the Top500 organisers.

It's also the greenest supercomputer in the upper reaches of the Top500 list.

"Piz Daint achieved 6.27 PFLOPs/s on the Linpack benchmark ... [and] is also the most energy efficient system in the Top 10, consuming a total of 2.33 megawatts and delivering 2.7 GigaFLOPs per watt," they said.

By comparison, No. 2 Titan, considered pretty energy efficient in its own right, consumes a total of 8.21 megawatts and delivers 2.143 GigaFLOPs/W.

"Piz Daint not only cranks out the performance, but is green, too. The Nvidia Tesla cards have a lot to do with that," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst for Moor Insights & Strategy.

The latest Top500 list includes 31 systems "with performance greater than a PetaFLOP per second," up from 26 on the June 2013 list, the Top500 organisation said.

As was the case five months ago, 53 systems on the list use a combination of CPUs and GPUs for accelerated computing and a better mix of linear and parallel processing power. Of those accelerator/co-processor-equipped systems, 38 have graphics processors from Nvidia, 13 have Intel's Xeon Phi chips, and two sport GPUs provided by Advanced Micro Devices, according to the Top500 organisation.

The No. 1 Tianhe-2 supercomputer is an entirely Intel affair, with Xeon CPUs matched with Xeon Phi processors. Stampede, a Dell-built system coming in at No. 7 on the Top 10 list, also uses the Xeon-Xeon Phi combination.

Titan, the second most powerful supercomputer in the world, sports AMD's Opteron CPUs and Nvidia's K20X GPU accelerators, while the No. 6 system, Piz Daint, features Xeon CPUs and K20X GPUs.

IBM's Sequoia (No. 3) and Mira (No. 5) both use Power processors, while Fujitsu's K computer is based on SPARC64.

Intel remained by far the largest supplier of processors for supercomputers on the Top500 list with an 82.4 per cent share of systems. Meanwhile, some 94 per cent of the systems on the November list "use processors with six or more cores and 75 per cent have processors with eight or more cores," according to the Top500 organisation.

Image: Flickr (GBPublic_PR)