Supercomputer architecture

A supercomputer is a computer architecture designed to maximize calculation speed. This in contrast with a mainframe, which is optimized for high I/O throughput. Supercomputers are the fastest machines available at any given time. Since computing speed increases continuously, supercomputers are superseded by new supercomputers all the time.

Supercomputers are used for many tasks, from weather forecast calculations to the rendering of movies like Toy Story and Shrek.

Originally, supercomputers were produced primarily by a company named Cray Research. The Cray-1 was a major success when it was released in 1976. It was faster than all other computers at the time and it went on to become one of the best known and most successful supercomputers in history. The machine cost $8.9 million when introduced.

Cray supercomputers used specially designed CPUs for performing calculations on large sets of data. Together with dedicated hardware for certain instructions (like multiply and divide) this increased performance.

The entire chassis of the Cray supercomputers was bent into a large C-shape. Speed-dependent portions of the system were placed on the "inside edge" of the chassis where the wire-lengths were shorter to decrease delays. The system could peak at 250 MFLOPS (Million Floating Point Operations per second).

2015-09/cray-2-supercomputer.jpg

In 1985, the very advanced Cray-2 was released, capable of 1.9 billion floating point operations per second (GFLOPS) peak performance, almost eight times as much as the Cray-1. In comparison, in 2015, the Intel Core i7 5960X CPU has a peak performance of 354 GFLOPS ; more than 185 times faster than the Cray-2!

Supercomputers as single machines started to disappear in the 1990s. Their work was taken over by clustered computers – a large number of off-the-shelf x86 based servers, connected by fast networks to form one large computer array. Nowadays high performance computing is done mainly with large arrays of x86 systems. In 2015, the fastest computer array was a cluster with more than 3,120,000 CPU cores, calculating at 54,902,400 GFLOPS, running Linux .

In some cases specialized hardware is used to realize high performance. For example, graphics processors (GPUs) can be used for fast vector based calculations and Intel CPUs now contain special instructions to speed up AES encryption.

In 2015, the NVidia's Tesla GPU PCIe card (basically a graphics card but without a graphics connector) provides hundreds of vector based computing cores and more than 8,000 GFLOPS of computing power . Four of these cards can be combined in one system for extremely high performance calculations, for just a fraction of the cost of traditional supercomputers.


This entry was posted on Friday 11 December 2015

Earlier articles

Infrastructure as code

My Book

DevOps for infrastructure

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

(Hyper) Converged Infrastructure

Object storage

Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV)

Software Defined Storage (SDS)

What's the point of using Docker containers?

Identity and Access Management

Using user profiles to determine infrastructure load

Public wireless networks

Supercomputer architecture

Desktop virtualization

Stakeholder management

x86 platform architecture

Midrange systems architecture

Mainframe Architecture

Software Defined Data Center - SDDC

The Virtualization Model

What are concurrent users?

Performance and availability monitoring in levels

UX/UI has no business rules

Technical debt: a time related issue

Solution shaping workshops

Architecture life cycle

Project managers and architects

Using ArchiMate for describing infrastructures

Kruchten’s 4+1 views for solution architecture

The SEI stack of solution architecture frameworks

TOGAF and infrastructure architecture

The Zachman framework

An introduction to architecture frameworks

How to handle a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack

Architecture Principles

Views and viewpoints explained

Stakeholders and their concerns

Skills of a solution architect architect

Solution architects versus enterprise architects

Definition of IT Architecture

What is Big Data?

How to make your IT "Greener"

What is Cloud computing and IaaS?

Purchasing of IT infrastructure technologies and services

IDS/IPS systems

IP Protocol (IPv4) classes and subnets

Infrastructure Architecture - Course materials

Introduction to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

IT Infrastructure Architecture model

Fire prevention in the datacenter

Where to build your datacenter

Availability - Fall-back, hot site, warm site

Reliabilty of infrastructure components

Human factors in availability of systems

Business Continuity Management (BCM) and Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)

Performance - Design for use

Performance concepts - Load balancing

Performance concepts - Scaling

Performance concept - Caching

Perceived performance

Ethical hacking

The first computers

Open group ITAC /Open CA Certification

Sjaak Laan


Recommended links

Ruth Malan
Gaudi site
Byelex
XR Magazine
Esther Barthel's site on virtualization


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The postings on this site are my opinions and do not necessarily represent CGI’s strategies, views or opinions.

 

Copyright Sjaak Laan