Supercomputing Trends: Performance Lags, China Rises, Cray Gains

 
 
By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2015-11-23
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    1 - Supercomputing Trends: Performance Lags, China Rises, Cray Gains
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    Supercomputing Trends: Performance Lags, China Rises, Cray Gains

    While the overall performance of systems continues to increase, that growth continues to slow. We look at these and other supercomputing trends.
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    2 - A Case of Stunted Growth
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    A Case of Stunted Growth

    According to the organizers of the list, the total combined performance of all 500 systems this time was 420 petaflops (quadrillions of floating-point calculations per second), up from the 361 petaflops in July and 309 petaflops in November 2014. That's a slowdown in growth that's been occurring over the last two years.
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    3 - It's Static at the Top
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    It's Static at the Top

    The overall slowdown in performance can be seen in the continued low turnover at the top of the list. In the most recent list, there were only two new systems in the top 10: Trinity at No. 6 and Hazel Hen (pictured) at No. 8.
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    4 - It's Slow at the Bottom
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    It's Slow at the Bottom

    For the past six years, the performance of the 500th—and last—system on the list has continued to lag behind historical trends. From 1994 to 2008, performance grew by 90 percent a year; since then, it has increased 55 percent annually. The last system on the list had a performance of 204.3 teraflops (trillions of calculations per second), compared with 164 teraflops in July.
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    5 - China on the Rise
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    China on the Rise

    Another overarching trend was the growing presence of China in the supercomputer space. On July's list, there were 37 supercomputers from China. On the current list, that number jumped to 109.
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    6 - Other Regions on the Decline
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    Other Regions on the Decline

    China's growth came at the expense of the United States, which saw its number of installed systems on the list fall from 231 in July to 200, the lowest number for the country since the list was started in 1993. Europe also saw a sharp decline, from 141 to 108, while Japan's share dropped from 40 to 36.
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    7 - China Also Still No. 1
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    China Also Still No. 1

    The Tiahne-2 system, installed at China’s National University of Defense Technology, remained the fastest system on the list for the sixth consecutive time, with a performance (33.86 petaflops) almost twice that of the second-fastest system, Titan (17.59 petaflops).
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    8 - That May Change Soon
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    That May Change Soon

    Other countries and vendors are gunning for Tianhe-2. For example, the U.S. Department of Energy—as part of its FastForward 2 program—has awarded hundreds of millions of dollars to companies like IBM, Nvidia, Cray and Mellanox to build supercomputers that will be five to 10 times faster than Tianhe-2.
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    9 - Chinese Companies Also Making Some Noise
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    Chinese Companies Also Making Some Noise

    Lenovo's acquisition of IBM's x86 server business gave it some presence in on the Top500 list. Lenovo now has 25 systems on the list (up from three in July), with some that were listed as IBM systems now being listed as either IBM/Lenovo or Lenovo/IBM. In addition, Chinese vendor Sugon now has 49 systems on the list, overtaking IBM.
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    10 - Cray Surges Forward
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    Cray Surges Forward

    The U.S. supercomputer maker claimed 24.9 percent share of installed total performance, up from 24 percent in July, and had five systems in the top 10. IBM was second, with a 14.9 percent share (down from 23 percent), followed by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, with 12.9 percent (a drop from 14.2 percent).
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    11 - More Petaflops, More Performance
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    More Petaflops, More Performance

    There were 80 systems with a performance of more than 1 petaflop on the most recent list, up from 67 in July.
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    12 - Lots and Lots of Cores
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    Lots and Lots of Cores

    Ninety-eight percent of the systems on the list use processors with six or more cores, while 88 percent use eight or more cores. Forty-seven percent use chips with 10 or more cores.
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    13 - The Use of Accelerators Speed Up
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    The Use of Accelerators Speed Up

    In all, 104 systems use GPU accelerators or coprocessors, an increase from 90 in July. Of these, 66 use Nvidia Tesla GPUs, and three use Radeon GPUs from Advanced Micro Devices. Twenty-seven use Intel's x86 Xeon Phi coprocessors, and four use a combination of Nvidia GPUs and Xeon Phis.
 

Since 1993, the Top500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers has been released on a twice yearly basis, and has given the industry a view not only of what those systems are, but also overall trends in the high-performance computing (HPC) space. The most recent list was released Nov. 16 during the SC 15 supercomputing show in Austin, Texas, and it was a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same. There was little movement in the top 10—only two new supercomputers from the list that was released in July—but a lot of changes throughout the list. China's presence continues to grow; more systems are using accelerators for greater performance and power efficiency, and more compute cores are being crammed into them. Lenovo rises and IBM falls a year after Lenovo bought IBM's x86 server business. However, the overarching trend is that while the overall performance of systems continues to grow, the growth itself is still slowing, something that started happening several years ago. This eWEEK slide show takes a look at some of the trends found in the latest Top500 list.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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