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Friday, 27 July 2012 09:44

Europe's fastest computer switched on

Written by Nick Farrell



SuperMUCking about


Europe has turned on the region's most powerful supercomputer. The SuperMUC, ranked fourth in the June TOP500 supercomputing listing, just below Lady Gaga is built around 147,456 cores.

The chips are Intel Xeon 2.7-GHz, 8-core E5-2680 chips and the beast has been built by IBM. SuperMUC has been installed at the Leibniz-Rechenzentrum which is German for the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre which is in Garching, Germany, near Munich. SuperMUC is currentl the world’s most powerful X86-based supercomputer. The world’s most powerful, which is the US Department of Energy’s “Sequoia” supercomputer uses 16-core, 1.6-GHz POWER BQC chips.

SuperMUC is controlled by the System X iDataPlex from IBM, makes sure it can manage 3 Petaflops of computing power.   This can do in a second what a bloke counting on his fingers can manage in a trillion or so years using the BBC's method of working out computer speeds. SuperMUC also contains 324 terabytes of 30-nanometer Samsung Green DDR3 memory which, according to our BBC Click guide to computing as being the same memory as two hundred trillion elephants who have been fed a diet of fish for two hundred years.

SuperMUC also runs SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, which is used to help the high-performance computer scale frequency.  The BBC Click guide says that Linux is like Windows and iOS played on a banjo.
Dr. Herbert Huber, head of high-performance systems at the LRZ said that SuperMUC was many times more efficient than its predecessor. The Linux kernel function delivered with SUSE Linux Enterprise, allowed him to run applications at their optimal operating point even while making energy efficiences.

One of the innovations is the use of water cooling which the BBC Click guide says is like lowering the whole computer into a cold bath. It users the IBM Aquasar system pumps water directly over the microprocessors, then away from the CPU cores.  The water does not have to be cold, as even warm water can provide adequate cooling, since the surface temperature of the microprocessors itself is typically far warmer when under load. The water then heats the rest of the building in winter, although we would have thought that in summer it would be a bit of an arse.

SuperMUC requires only 3.52 megawatts of power which is not much for a supercomputer. Click tells us that a megawatt of power is enough electricity 1000 homes and would produce a power bill which my Southern Electric pay-as-you-go metre once claimed I owed it  for watching an evening's television.

Nick Farrell

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