Posted recently on USENET newsgroups, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, part of the US Department of Energy, has announced that its three-year Titan supercomputer project is complete.
The supercomputer can handle 20,000 trillion calculations a second, which in computing language is referred to as 20 petaflops. ORNL says that makes Titan 10 times more powerful than the laboratory’s Jaguar supercomputer, once the fastest machine in the world and now the sixth.
That’s faster than half a million laptops. But it’s not cheap. This machine cost $100 million. Its electric bill will total $9 million a year. So what makes all this computing worth the price?
The Department of Energy, which oversees the national laboratories, will use Titan for research on a number of different topics, including biofuels, combustion engine efficiency, magnetics, astrophysics, climate, nuclear science and atomic-level materials science, among others.
Among the specific applications designed to run on Titan are CAM-SE, which will be used to research climate change adaptation and mitigation, Denovo, which will perform nuclear research on topics like the behavior of neutrons in nuclear reactors, LAMMPS which will research a way that molecules enter and exit living cells, and S3D, which will research combustion questions that tackle issues like the performance of large hydrocarbons.
Titan replaces Jaguar’s 224,256 processors with just shy of 300,000 faster AMD-made 16-core processors, along with 18,688 Nvida-built graphical processing units (GPUs), giving the supercomputer a third more processors than the older model. Titan will also have more than 700 terabytes of memory to keep it ticking over.
What makes Titan especially impressive is when we remember that the first exaflop supercomputer is promised for 2020. For the next seven years, supercomputing performance will have to climb by a factor of 50 over Titan and there is reason to believe that the industry can achieve this goal. Over the past seven years, supercomputer performance jumped by almost 120x. In June 2005, the world’s fastest supercomputer was Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s BlueGene/L with 65,536 cores, which were good for 136.8 TFlops.
It’s hoped that by 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy will upgrade Titan again, which could by then reach 200 petaflops — or 10 times the speeds of Titan.
Suffice to say, processing PAR files on the machine would be expectedly fast.