Friday, 2 November 2012

The world’s most powerful supercomputer researches climate change

imageOak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in the US has installed the world’s most powerful supercomputer, known as Titan. It has a theoretical peak performance exceeding 20 petaflops, which apparently is equivalent to each of the world’s seven billion people being able to carry out three million calculations per second (if they could).

The good news is that Titan, which is supported by the US Department of Energy, will provide unprecedented computing power for research in energy, climate change, efficient engines, materials and other disciplines.

Titan will be 10 times more powerful than ORNL's last world-leading system, Jaguar, while using less power and taking up less space than previous generation of high-performance computers.

"One challenge in supercomputers today is power consumption," said Jeff Nichols, associate laboratory director for computing and computational sciences. "Combining GPUs (graphics processing units) and CPUs in a single system requires less power than CPUs alone and is a responsible move toward lowering our carbon footprint".

There’s more details about the machine and what it can do here.


Review:  One of the problems with supercomputers is the amount of power they use. In fact there’s a web site that provides a list of the world’s greenest 500 supercomputers, updated every six months (would you believe). Rankings are based on MFlops/Watt, so it’s only the energy efficiency when running that’s counted.

Other supercomputers at the Oak Ridge facility are ranked 95, 131 and 166 in the list of 500, hopefully Titan can do better. There does seem to have been an emphasis, if not a focus, on energy efficiency in its construction.

There is ultimately, though, a conundrum here. We need to research climate change, but the tools for doing so are a contributing factor.  In my book computers like this one are an essential aid in addressing the problem and so an important aspect of Green IT. We just need to address their emissions impact as best we can.

© The Green IT Review

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