Nvidia-Powered Tianhe-1A Supercomputer Is World's Fastest

The Tianhe-1A supercomputer in Tianjin, China, uses 7,168 Nvidia Tesla M2050 GPUs and 14,336 CPUs.

The Tianhe-1A, a Nvidia-powered supercomputer that made its debut at the Annual Meeting of National High Performance Computing (HPC China 2010) in Beijing, set a performance record of 2.507 petaflops, as measured by the Linpack benchmark.

This performance record makes the Tianhe-1A the fastest system in the world today, based on performance data submitted for the June 2010 Top500 list. On that list, the supercomputer Nebulae, built from a Dawning TC3600 Blade system with Intel X5650 processors and Nvidia Tesla C2050 GPUs (graphics processing units), took the title of world's fastest supercomputer.

The Tianhe-1A was designed by the National University of Defense Technology in China. Nvidia reported the system is housed at National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin and is already fully operational. According to a Nvidia press statement, the Tianhe-1A supercomputer will be operated as an open-access system to use for large-scale scientific computations.

The supercomputer couples massively parallel GPUs with multi-core CPUs, and the system uses 7,168 Nvidia Tesla M2050 GPUs and 14,336 CPUs. Nvidia claimed it would require more than 50,000 CPUs and twice as much floor space to deliver the same performance using CPUs alone. A 2.507 petaflop system built entirely with CPUs would consume more than 12 megawatts. A petaflop is a measure of a computer's processing speed and can be expressed as a thousand trillion floating point operations per second.

"Thanks to the use of GPUs in a heterogeneous computing environment, Tianhe-1A consumes only 4.04 megawatts, making it three times more power-efficient; the difference in power consumption is enough to provide electricity to over 5,000 homes for a year," the company said in a statement.

Linkpack is a software library for performing numerical linear algebra on digital computers and makes use of the BLAS (Basic Linear Algebra Subprograms) libraries for performing basic vector and matrix operations. The package solves linear systems whose matrices are general, banded, symmetric indefinite, symmetric positive definite, triangular and tridiagonal square.

"The performance and efficiency of Tianhe-1A was simply not possible without GPUs," said Guangming Liu, chief of National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin, China. "The scientific research that is now possible with a system of this scale is almost without limits; we could not be more pleased with the results."

Nvidia's Tesla GPUs, based on the company's Compute Unified Device Architecture, parallel computing architecture, are designed specifically for HPC (high-performance computing) environments and are designed to deliver performance increases across a range of HPC fields, including drug discovery, hurricane and tsunami modeling, cancer research, car design or studying the formation of galaxies.

"GPUs are redefining high-performance computing," said Jen-Hsun Huang, president and CEO of Nvidia. "With the Tianhe-1A, GPUs now power two of the top three fastest computers in the world today. These GPU supercomputers are essential tools for scientists looking to turbocharge their rate of discovery."

According to the June list, the supercomputer named Jaguar, which is located at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, holds the top spot on the TOP500 with its record 1.75 petaflop/s performance speed running the Linpack benchmark. Jaguar has a theoretical peak capability of 2.3 petaflop/s and nearly a quarter of a million cores.