SAN FRANCISCO-- After the success in 2003 of its System X supercomputer, Virginia Tech is again pushing the supercomputing envelope, announcing its new HokieSpeed machine, said to be 22 times faster than its predecessor.
At just one quarter of the size of X and boasting a single-precision peak of 455 teraflops, with a double-precision peak of 240 teraflops, the HokieSpeed debuts with enough performance to vault it into the 96th spot on the most recent Top500 list.
HokieSpeed is also energy efficient enough to place it at No. 11 in the world on the November 2011 Green500 List, making it the highest-ranked commodity supercomputer in the United States.
The $1.4 million supercomputer is made up of 209 separate computing nodes, interconnected across large metal racks, each roughly 6.5 feet tall. In all, the machine occupies half a row of racks, three times less rack space than the X.
Each HokieSpeed node consists of two 2.40-gigahertz Intel Xeon E5645 6-core CPUs and two Nvidia M2050/C2050 448-core GPUs on a Supermicro 2026GT0TRF motherboard. That gives HokieSpeed over 2,500 CPU cores and more than 185,000 GPU cores.
To complement HokieSpeed’s sheer amount of computational ability, the supercomputer will also come with a visualization wall – eight 46-inch, 3-D Samsung high-definition flat-screen televisions – to provide researchers with a 14-foot wide by 4-foot tall display to render data on.
The display is still under construction but, once finished, will be hooked-up to special visualization nodes for researchers to see their computational experiments visualized in real-time. In the past, it was sometimes weeks before all the data from a computational experiment could be generated and then rendered as a video for viewing and analysis.
Wu Feng, associate professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Tech said the supercomputer would allow scientists to routinely conduct ‘what-if’ scenarios. “It will facilitate the discovery process or ‘accelerate the time to discovery,’” he said.
Feng expects that once the HokieSpeed has gone through its final stages of acceptance testing it will become the university’s next scientific war horse and make supercomputing accessible to a wider population.
“Look at what Apple has done with the smartphone and iPad. They have taken general-purpose computing and commoditized it and made it easy to use for the masses,” said Feng. “The next frontier is to take high-performance computing, in particular supercomputers such as HokieSpeed, and personalize it for the masses.”
The majority of funding for HokieSpeed came from a $2 million National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation grant, and it’s hoped the supercomputer will attract more international research projects to Virginia Tech, adding more to the College of Engineering’s income.
I would say that anything which brings supercomputing into mainstream education is absolutely cause for applause, yes. If it becomes normal for universities to have supercomputers, that's a huge advantage. In my opinion...
What a piece of crap article. This is 96th on the Top500 list! Talk to me about the top 5. Not the Top 96th! Thanks for wasting my time. Is this what they call AdverNews? I wonder how much $$$ EET got? Not surprised with what's going there.
Well, Help.fulguy, I'm terribly sorry this article wasn't to your taste. if you felt it was a waste of your time, however, you could have simply stopped reading it after paragraph 2, when you realized it was 96th. Instead, you chose to waste more time and write a comment accusing EE Times of taking money for editorial? Is that right? Is that what you believe happened here? Because that is not how we do things at EE Times. Just wanted to clarify that for you. I wrote about it because I happen to be passionate about HPC, about education, and about making supercomputing available to a wider, younger audience. Now, the fact that you are not passionate about that is fine, but I do hope you don't believe our news team writes ANYTHING for financial incentive. Ever. Have a great weekend.
Clustering existing technology has the advantage of enabling supercomputer performance from standard modules in a cost effective manner. How does the performance of such systems compare with that achieved through grid computing externally? Certainly the latency between nodes is much less than that achieved with external computers on the grid. If computations depend upon each other, having everything in one place probably significantly improves performance.
I wonder ten years from now what kind of computing power the average person might have and what new applications there might be for it. I noticed in ScienceDaily the other day that the smallest conductors ever developed in silicon, 1 atom tall and 4 atoms wide, are still governed by Ohm's Law. The article states that "For engineers it could provide a roadmap to future nanoscale computational devices where atomic sizes are at the end of Moore's law." Exciting stuff there. What does the future hold? What will a supercomputer be able to do at that time. Danny Dunn's Homework Machine might become a reality. ;)
it _is_ perfectly normal for universities to buy clusters. there are scores of companies that will set you up with the same configuration as this one, all off-the-shelf hardware. you can buy turnkey package deals, or do it yourself. for this config, figure about $7k/node.
wait, what is this "wider, younger audience" thing? lots of unis have clusters - are you saying that there's something new about the planned access to this cluster? it's not that uncommon for undergrads to have research-sponsored accounts on clusters...
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.