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high-performance computing ➤

from a top performance of 59.7GigaFlop/s to33.9PetaFlop/s, an improvement by a factor of 568,000.

l Cost: Systems prices have increase from $30m for CM-5/1024 to $390m (USD) for Tianhe-2. On a $/FLOP it’s a factor of 44,700 improvement.

l Power Consumption: System power requirements have jumped from 96.5 KW for CM-5/1024 to 17.6 MW for Tianhe-2, an increase of 5,500 times.

l Hardware parallelism: Over the last several years most performance improvements have come by adding parallelism: both more processors in the system and more cores/ threads per processors. Te CM-5 of 20 years ago had 1,024 single-core processors whereas Tianhe-2 has 32,000 Intel Xeon processors, each with 12 cores and 48,000 Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors, each with 60 cores. Tis is an increase in parallelism of 3,234 times (ignoring vectorisation). Tis is an astounding performance increase

that will continue apace as we reach Exascale levels of performance by about 2022. Progress across the HPC landscape is, of

course, uneven, and advances in one sector create challenges in another. For example, as HPC processing power continues to grow rapidly there is also a concomitant need to modernise, or parallelise, soſtware applications. But many of our most important HPC codes, both in the public domain as well as




commercial applications, have not received the parallelisation beyond MPI (e.g. SMP parallelisation and vectorisation) needed to fully leverage supercomputers comprised of hundreds and thousands of processors with large numbers of vector parallel cores/threads. Fortunately, code modernisation is starting to receive the attention and resources that it so urgently needs. As for the explosion in power consumption,

this is being addressed in a number of ways. For example: the Intel Xeon Phi product line delivers exceptional FLOP/s per Watt; silicon photonics provides vastly improved energy per bit moved; stacked memory significantly improves memory bandwidth at constant power; water cooling and

30 SCIENTIFIC COMPUTING WORLD Intel’s chips have been at the forefront of advances in HPC

other system design enhancements reduce the power required to cool supercomputers. Tese and other issues can and must be

overcome because the revolution in the scientific method has elevated the economic value of scientific discovery and HPC systems to the level of national security. We used to say ‘to out-compete is to out-compute,’ as though supercomputers delivered a favourable advantage and little more. Now supercomputers and superiority in predictive scientific simulation are fundamentally bound up with the economic security of nations and entire regions. Tus, individual countries and aggregations

of nation states, such as the EU, are spending billions to develop, acquire, and leverage leadership-class HPC systems and their predictive scientific and engineering capabilities. To concede HPC computing superiority to competing countries and regions would be an abdication of responsibility by national leaders. Look at the enormous impact of HPC on

science, engineering and national security: l Personal genomics, providing the ability to

tailor drug treatment regimens for cancer and other diseases based on one’s own therapeutic needs. Tis will end one-size-fits-all medicine and move toward individualised treatments.

l Better batteries: a five-fold improvement in power density and a five-fold lower cost over the next five years will mean more energy efficient transportation, better use of alternative energy sources, and lower environmental impact required to keep us warm, working and moving.

l Improved estimates on global climate changes and their attendant impacts on water resources, agriculture, real estate, political systems and human migration.

l Democratisation and decentralisation of manufacturing through the ‘maker movement’ enabled by implicate technical computing.

l Optimisation of the IoT (Internet of Tings), giving jet engines a 3-5 per cent efficiency improvement resulting in billions of gallons of fuel saved per year. Tis extends to the optimisation of refrigerators and air conditioners, reducing power demands when the electrical grid is under the greatest strain.

l Many areas of national security, such as major enhancements in military aircraſt, ship and radio antenna design, as well as the meshing and geometry generation used to in the representation of weapons systems. As HPC technology advances, problems will

always arise. But the innovative genius resident in the HPC community continues to overcome these issues. It’s a continual case of many steps forward for every step back. As we look ahead at the challenges facing humanity, supercomputers are and will be a critical element showing us the way toward healthy, effective solutions. Code modernisation will ensure our success. Te best part of the great ride we’re on is still

to come.

Mark Seager is chief technology officer, Technical Computing Ecosystem, at Intel

@scwmagazine l

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