Monday, November 16, 2009

Jaguar Faster than Road Runner

Jaguar the cat may not be as fast as a Road Runner (if a Road Runner really does exist),

but Jaguar, the CRAY supercomputer, is the fastest computing machine in the planet, overtaking IBM's Road Runner.

Big Blue held the title of supercomputing king for 5 years with Road Runner (shown below) and Blue Gene/L.

But the new king of the road is CRAY's Jaguar.

Jaguar, which the U.S. Department of Energy uses for complex problems such as climate change and combustion modeling, is capable of about 50% faster performance than the previous record holder, the IBM ( IBM - news - people ) Road Runner system that first broke the so-called petaflop barrier last summer.

The Top500 testers clocked Jaguar's number-crunching at 1.75 petaflops, or 1.75 quadrillion floating point operations a second. At that speed, the system would be capable of performing in about nine hours the same work that would take a typical Intel powered laptop around 2,000 years. Despite more than 30 years of supercomputing history, Seattle-based Cray has never before held the top spot on the Top500 list.

The less-than-subtle trick behind the company's coup? Piling on the processing power. Cray upgraded Jaguar earlier this year, switching out each of its four-core AMD chips for a six-core version processor AMD calls Istanbul, bringing the system's total cores to 224,000 from around 150,000. "This is the biggest jump from generation one to two we've ever seen," says Jack Dongarra, a computer scientist at the University of Tennessee and one of the Top500 testers.

Still, Cray Chief Executive Peter Ungaro argues that its upgrade represents more than mere brute force. The limiting factor in systems that cluster hundreds of thousands of x86 commodity chips is often the system's ability to exchange information between the processors. Cray configures its chips in a "torus" shape--resembling two donuts set side-by-side and turned 90 degrees--that maximizes communication from chip to chip. And although Cray, unlike some of its competitors, doesn't build those chips itself, it does design its own interconnect software between those processors. "That's the magic of a Cray machine," says Ungaro. "It's our custom interconnect--something that's Cray's alone--that allows this to be the highest performance machine in the world."

Original article found on Forbes Online.

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