Sunday, November 20, 2011

A personal look: Super Computing 2011

SC11 Logo Reverse
Here is  a quote from my blog about 2009 Super Computing conference commenting on the purpose of the TOP500 list
So what? Many people ask this question today. "So what?" The business model this list promotes brought the bankruptcy of SGI, Thinking Machines, Cray Research, SiCortex and many who designed supercomputers based on one criteria: to pass a LINPACK test. This was originally introduced in 1979, 30 years ago. It tests the floating point and little more. LINPACK tells nothing of how easy is to solve complex problems with a given supercomputer.
Sure Science and Defense need these supercomputers. They always did. However, once one developed such a winner, it was difficult, if not impossible to sell it to a commercial entity, who also needs these powerful computers, but they must make money from the investment

What you see about is this year TOP500 winner, Riken K computer
As of the November 2011 TOP500 list, the K computer uses 88,128 2.0GHz 8-core SPARC64 VIIIfx processors packed in 864 cabinets, for a total of 705,024 cores, manufactured by Fujitsu with 45 nm CMOS technology. Each cabinet contains 96 compute nodes in addition to 6 IO nodes. Each compute node contains a single processor and 16 GB of memory. The computer's water cooling system minimizes failure rate and power consumption. 
As it is today, the computer uses power as ten thousands suburban homes and the water cooling reduces the failure rate, but there is no word about what the real number is. For the next year the plan is to double the number of cabinets to nearly two thousands and probably the power consumption will reach the equivalent of twenty thousands homes.

In this spirit, I wonder whether the SC11 is not a the equivalent of TOP500 pharonic pyramides. We live in the green era, yet SC11TOP 500  lives in the ancient history mentality. Here are the slides: the most interesting is the power consumption on slide 34, projected to grow with the steepest gradient for the Top 10 supercomputers
Top500 11/2011 BOF Slides

Whereas most computer shows are for meeting more customers, SC11 has no clear purpose. While I was there, I had to read on line what is going on. No one can see or witness it all. I think SC11 is all about to show off what humans can do with unlimited financial resources.

The huge booth of the Government Agencies on level 4 of the show, all paid with taxpayer money, explains why  Mitt Romney  (would be 2012 presidential aspirant) wants to eliminate the departments of Education and Energy.

We were lucky Mitt Romney did not attend SC11. Department of Energy  must continue to exist, but they can not control the specs of their procurement, simply because they have the money. I sincerely hope Fujitsu will survive and grow and not meet the fate of Thinking Machine and Cray Research.
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