A supercomputer at the government’s Oak Ridge National Laboratoryin Tennessee has been named the fastest in the world.
Titan, a Cray XK7 system occupying 200 cabinets, reached a speed of 17.59 petaflops — 17.59 quadrillion calculations per second. The latest semiannual Top500 global ranking was announced Monday at a supercomputing conference in Salt Lake City.
Titan zipped past the previous winner, named Sequoia, at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, east of San Francisco, which regained the U.S. title from China in the previous 2012 rankings. In the latest list, U.S. supercomputers hold three of the top five positions and five of the top 10.
Titan last month replaced the Energy Department lab’s XT5 Jaguar, which was ranked the fastest computer in November 2009 and June 2010. It was used to develop models for climate change.
The lab explains what makes Titan king:
Titan is a Cray XK7 system that contains 18,688 nodes, each built from a 16-core AMD Opteron 6274 processor and an NVIDIA Tesla K20X GPU accelerator. Titan also has 710 terabytes of memory.
Its hybrid architecture – the combination of traditional central processing units (CPUs) with graphic processing units (GPUs) – is largely lauded as the first step toward the goal of exascale computing, or generating 1,000 quadrillion calculations per second using 20 megawatts of electricity or less.
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 Jeff Nichols, the associate director for computing and computational sciences at the Oak Ridge lab. “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.”