My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Nvidia and the GPU Supercomputer - Go Speedracer


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Nvidia and the GPU Supercomputer - Go Speedracer

Build me straight, O Worthy Master!
Staunch and strong, a goodly vessel
That shall laugh at all disaster
And with and whirlwind wrestle

Longfellow, The Building of the Ship

GPU’s are the “next big thing” in super computing! So says the recent upset in the supercomputer world. The People’s Republic of China’s supercomputer aptly named “Tianhe-1A” is now the fastest supercomputer of them all as stated in the article “China unseats U.S in supercomputer rankings”, published November 14, 2010 10:00 AM PST by Erica Ogg, CNET News - Circuit Breaker.

The statistics are stated in the article “China grabs supercomputing Leadership spot in latest Ranking of World's Top 500 Supercomputers”, published Thursday, November 11 2010 at 22:42, Top 500.

As if that was not insult enough to the Americans and EU, the bastion of Democracy, the People’s Republic of China’s National University of Defense Technology, located in Tianjin, rubs more salt into the wound.

This is because China have relegated the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility’s Cray XT5 “Jaguar”, located in Tennessee coming in at 1.75 petaflop/s running Linpack benchmark to second place. China’s “Tianhe-1A” supercomputer is now the No. 1 with a speed of 2.57 petaflop/s.

For reference, a “flop” is a float point operation and represents a mathematical calculation.

Granted, their computer was built from off-the-shelf cobble together components, mostly American and European

It is nothing more than a Chinese utilization American Intel and Nvidia GPU (Graphics Processor Units) running on a Linux Distribution.

Professor Charlie Zender, Earth Systems Science at the University of California at Irvine, commented, saying, quote: “So we find ourselves admiring an achievement that certainly couldn't have been done without the know-how of  Silicon Valley and an operating system designed mostly by the United States and Europe; It's a time for reflection that we are now at a stage where a country that's motivated and has the resources can take off-the-shelf components and assemble the world's fastest supercomputer”.

GPU’s are becoming a defacto blueprint in the super computing world, as the next sets of planned supercomputers are GPU’s.

So says  NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications) Director Thom Dunning, who sees the bright side of this announcement from 2010 as stated in the article “NCSA Director: GPU is future of supercomputing”, published October 29, 2010 4:31 PM PDT by Brooke Crothers, CNET News Nanotech - The Circuits Blog: anybody can build a supercomputer.

Plus, graphic solving of complex computing problems will always be faster than heavy computation, a discussion the scope of which is beyond even myself, save to say for a simple analogy.

Finding the volume of an irregular shaped solid object by displacement is more easily done than scanning its Cartesian coordinates into a computer and has the computer fill in the space with points, Monte Carlo style, which may take longer.

Not a very good example, but should just scratch the surface as to the advantages of graphics manipulations vs hard numeric computations.

Nvidia’s GPU’s are certainly getting some advertising for their efforts, having being taped by Cray Supercomputing for their next big Supercomputer project as stated in the article “Cray taps Nvidia chips for large supercomputer”, published September 21, 2010 10:33 AM PDT by Brooke Crothers, Nanotech - The Circuits Blog.

So it seems that GPU’s are the next big thing in supercomputing. Case closed.

But wait! A problem still persists: Heat dissipation. Though I do not own a supercomputer, I do know as a fact that the Cray Supercomputer uses liquid Freon to cool the supercomputer during operation.

Albeit technical details as to the cooling of the Tianhe-1A are not forthcoming, most certainly superconductors would be most helpful in reducing the heat dissipation, as computers could operate at a lower temperature.

Still, the implications for Jamaica, which has three (3) Universities, namely the University of Technology, the University of the West Indies and the Northern Caribbean University is obvious.

Jointly, they can, as a demonstration of the computing prowess of the Caribbean, build a supercomputer with assistance from Intel and Nvidia as a clever means of having a supercomputer in Jamaica for research purposes without having to break American laws as it relates to the export of sensitive technology such as very strong encryption or powerful computers.

Heck, Telecom Provider CLARO may even be interested in sponsoring and proving support for such a joint venture, garnering support and advertising for their soon-to-be launched LTE (Long Term Evolution) Network – which I think is a tad too fast but great for interconnecting such a supercomputer using a Dedicated 100MBps Wireless Link.

Provided all the niceties of QoS via ISO9001 certification are in place as stated in my blog article entitled “Telecom Providers and 100MBps - Diamonds are Forever”.

Director of the Center for Molecular Biophysics, Jeremy Smith, at the University of Tennessee, puts it best, quote: “What you find historically with these supercomputers is they become the normal machines five or 10 years later that everybody uses; The Jaguar machine that we're so amazed at right now, it could be every university or company has one”.

USA, the next big challenger to supercomputing dominance may just be coming from the Caribbean, Speed Racer (2008) Style!
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