Feeds

How green is your supercomputer?

Color is relative

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

If supercomputers weren't so useful for predicting weather and climate change, the tree-huggers of the world would insist they be outlawed. But supercomputers are here to stay and - so it seems - to suck up a lot of juice.

Twice a year, the Top 500 list of supercomputing sites racks and stacks the biggest, baddest machines in the world, testing their sustained performance on a set of Fortran benchmarks called Linpack. The list is compiled by a gaggle of supercomputer experts - Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon, computer scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee, and Hans Meuer of the University of Manheim - and being on the list gives system vendors and supercomputer centers some serious bragging rights. Not to mention some marketing help.

With the 31st edition of the Top 500 listing announced in June, IBM's "Roadrunner" hybrid Opteron-Cell machine - created for the U.S. government's Los Alamos National Laboratory - was the first supercomputer in history to break the one petaflop barrier. That's 1 quadrillion floating point operations per second. It was also the first time that the systems' power consumption data was made available.

And so, in this energy-crazed 21st century, you can now peruse the Green 500 list, which sorts the Top 500 by flops per watt.

The listing is interesting, in that trends you wouldn't think about become clear. Among the top 10 machines in the original list, the average machine consumes 1.32 megawatts and has a power efficiency of 248 megaflops per watt. (Roadrunner, at 437 megaflops per watt, is bringing up the class average - bigtime). But across the 50 biggest machines on the list, average power consumption falls to 908 kilowatts and average power efficiency falls to 193 megaflops per watt. And across the whole list of 500 machines, average power consumption falls to 257 kilowatts and efficiency falls further to 122 megaflops per watt.

On the Green 500 sorting, blade servers based on the QS22 Cell Power chip are coming it at 488 megaflops per watt - but these fairly small machines are ranked towards the bottom of the Top 500 list in terms of power. At the other end of the scale is Roadrunner, which hit the one petaflop performance level while consuming 2.35 megawatts. That gives you a 437 megaflops per watt rating on the green scale.

Of the top 50 machines on the Green 500 ranking, a ridiculously large number of machines bear the IBM label, being either blade clusters using Cell or X64 chips or BlueGene PowerPC clusters in large or small sizes. Interestingly, the BlueGene design is showing pretty linear scalability in terms of megaflops per watt, which was part of IBM's design goal a decade ago when it started the project.

The most energy-efficient non-IBM machine on the Green 500 list is a Xeon server cluster built by Silicon Graphics for Total Fina's oil exploration. It's ranked at number 10 on the Top 500 list, but with a rating of 240 megaflops per watt, comes in at number 17 on the Green 500 ranking. Similar machines are ranked in the 40s on the list, and you have to go quite a bit father down on the green list to start seeing Fujitsu, Dell, SGI, and Appro show up, and by then, you are down into the 150 megaflops per watt efficiency range.

Interestingly, number 499 on the list is the Earth Simulator super created by NEC, a box that was at the top of the Top 500 for a number of runs. This machine is the largest vector supercomputer every built - at least that anyone will cop to outside of a black ops budget. It has a rating of 5.6 megaflops per watt. When you turn it on and the lights in the entire country dim, you can't hide its existence for long.

Earth Simulator is still ranked number 49 on the Top 500 list, with just under 36 teraflops of performance. It's just a pity that this massively parallel vector box consumes 6.4 megawatts of juice. And the absolute worst green box is the "Thunder" Itanium-Quadrics box at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which is rated at 19.9 teraflops but burns 4.9 megawatts. That's a measly 4 megaflops per watt. ®

Reducing security risks from open source software

More from The Register

next story
Sysadmin Day 2014: Quick, there's still time to get the beers in
He walked over the broken glass, killed the thugs... and er... reconnected the cables*
SHOCK and AWS: The fall of Amazon's deflationary cloud
Just as Jeff Bezos did to books and CDs, Amazon's rivals are now doing to it
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
BlackBerry: Toss the server, mate... BES is in the CLOUD now
BlackBerry Enterprise Services takes aim at SMEs - but there's a catch
The triumph of VVOL: Everyone's jumping into bed with VMware
'Bandwagon'? Yes, we're on it and so what, say big dogs
Carbon tax repeal won't see data centre operators cut prices
Rackspace says electricity isn't a major cost, Equinix promises 'no levy'
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.