In case you did not know the fastest machine in the world (running the HPL benchmark) was ORNL Jaguar. This year at SC09, the 1.75 petaflop/s calculator placed at the top of the the list. The achievement also gave AMD some bragging rights as Jaguar used their new six core AMD Opteron. A bit more interesting to me was the machine at the number 5 spot. Tianhe-1 is housed at the National SuperComputer Center in Tianjin/NUDT, China and combined Xeon E5540/E5450 processors and ATI Radeon HD 4870 GP-GPUs to achieve 563.1 teraflop/s. Not only did the Intel and AMD hardware work together without a lawsuit, this was a rather big win for the GP-GPU crowd.
In 2009, we heard a lot about Nehalem and Telsa. AMD and AMD/ATI were not taking a nap. Their efforts are paying off and as the following video will illustrate, they have some great technology to offer the HPC crowd. Indeed, AMD has been a big supporter of OpenCL and has now released the ATI Stream Software Development Kit with OpenCL support. The promise of OpenCL is portability across processors and GP-GPU’s (not cluster nodes, however). The SDK from AMD/ATI has beta support for both x86 processors and ATI video cards. As you can see in the second half of the video, OpenGL has arrived.
It seems each year I spend less time with people I know at SC. This situation my be due to the fact that I know so many people and I just don’t have time to talk with everyone. So before you think I’m some kind of social networking want-to-be, let me just say, the first time I went to SC was when it was called SuperComputing and I was showing software in the nCUBE booth. I have been to SC for so many years my “HPC Rolodex” is actually quite full. Many people would consider this a good thing ™ and I do as well, but it leaves me missing the side conversations, the technical discussions, and general HPC scuttlebutt. A case in point is my friend Don Becker. The longest conversation I had with him this year was the interview below. We both helped organize and attended the Beowulf Bash, but I never got a chance to talk with him and some other friends. The huge crowd did not help either — free beer will do that. Check out the video, Don as always has interesting things to say.
This next video was from the disruptive technologies area. Each year there are a handful of companies that are showing technologies that may have “disruptive effects” on the industry. Of course, the word disruptive has buzz-word status among the marketing droids. For myself, I tend to think of it in the past tense. That is, what things really disrupted the market, rather than if something might disrupt the market. In any case, this display did catch my eye. Have a look at the video and hopefully the rest of what I say will make sense.
I’m not sure how to take contraptions like these. One the one hand, the technology is really interesting and makes a lot of sense. Indeed, I can envision entire data centers in huge vats of dielectric oil with the sysadmins moving about in some kind of scuba suit — or better yet a completely automated systems where any node can be extracted in true matrix fashion. In all seriousness, it has the making of a green technology and it is certainly efficient. On the other hand it seems like a lot of expense and hassle to move heat. From what I was told, you can remove a blade, let it hang for 24 hours and it is perfectly dry. Adds a bit of latency to the old repair cycle. Plus higher heat capacity means more weight. That is the thing about air, poor heat conductor, but it does not weigh much and we need to have it around for people to breath. I’m still wondering about the french fies.
Another week and another set of videos. I think I have enough for 2-3 more weeks, after that I’ll have to come up with some new topics to write about. As long as we are talking contraptions, I’m still convinced my coffee cup warmer-PC is still a good idea. Take one of those 150 watt CPUs and attach it to a large metal plate and make it the top of the computer case. It will keep your coffee warm and maybe even cook your lunch. When you are not in need of hot food prep, why then just flip on the Sterling Engine and charge your phone, ipod, or tooth brush. Genius I tell you.
Douglas Eadline is the Senior HPC Editor for Linux Magazine.