World's Fastest Supercomputer is Also One of the Most Efficient

titan supercomputer© Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Just this past week, Oak Ridge National Laboratory's new Titan supercomputer was named the world's most powerful by the Top500 list that ranks major computing systems around the world, and now, it has also made it near the top of another ranking of supercomputers, the Green500 list, which takes the Top500 list and ranks those same machines in order of energy efficiency. Titan made it to the third spot on that list, quite the feat considering its immense computing power.

Titan just recently replaced the XT5 Jaguar at the laboratory, which was ranked number one on the Top500 list in both 2009 and 2010.

Oak Ridge explained Titan's processing power versus it's relative energy efficiency:

Titan reached a speed of 17.59 petaflops on the Linpack benchmark test - the specific application that is used to rank supercomputers on the Top500 list. Titan is capable of a theoretical peak speed of 27 quadrillion calculations per second - 27 petaflops - while using approximately 9 megawatts of electricity, roughly the amount required for 9,000 homes.

That capability makes Titan 10 times faster than Jaguar with only a 20 percent increase in electrical power consumption - a major efficiency coup made possible by GPUs, which were first created for computer gaming.

"It's not practical or affordable to continue increasing supercomputing capacity with traditional CPU-only architecture," said ORNL's Jeff Nichols, associate laboratory director for computing and computational sciences. "Combining GPUs and CPUs is a responsible move toward lowering our carbon footprint, and Titan will enable scientific leadership by providing unprecedented computing power for research in energy, climate change, materials, and other disciplines."

Researchers think that Titan's combination of both CPUs and GPUs could be the first step toward exascale computing, or the ability to generate 1,000 quadrillion calculations per second using 20 megawatts of electricity or less.

Titan is luckily putting all that computing power to work to make scientific breakthroughs, like coming up with solutions to climate change, and it's not alone in its pursuits. Just this past month, Yellowstone, the world's first supercomputer devotedly entirely to climate change was powered on at the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

World's Fastest Supercomputer is Also One of the Most Efficient
The Titan supercomputer was ranked as one of the most energy efficient supercomputers by the Green500 list.

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