Nvidia and Oak Ridge unveil Titan super computer


The Oak Ridge National Laboratory has finished working on what is believed to be the world's fastest "open science" supercomputer.

Dubbed Titan, the cluster system uses thousands of processors from AMD and graphics units from Nvidia. The supercomputer can perform more than 20 petaflops of calculations and among other things will be used to calculate the effects of climate change on the environment.

Supercomputing company Cray built Titan. The system, also known as the Cray XK7, has the computing power of half a million laptops.

The super computer has 18,688 Nvidia Tesla K20 graphics processor units running as compute nodes. It also has 299,008 AMD Opteron cores and a staggering 710 TB (Terabytes) of system memory.

The super computer is housed in 200 server cabinets and boasts a sophisticated cooling system.

The Titan is more than 10 times faster and five times more energy efficient than its predecessor, the 2.3-petaflops Jaguar system, while occupying the same floor space. Had Oak Ridge upgraded Jaguar by simply expanding its CPU-based architecture, the system would be more than four times its current size and consume more than 30 megawatts of power.

Titan is operated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, part of the US Department of Energy's network of research labs, as an open-science system. This means it is available to researchers from academia, government laboratories, and a broad range of industries, who will use Titan to model physical and biological phenomena and seek breakthroughs faster than possible by experimentation alone.

"Science and technology have always been our primary goal, and Titan is a ground breaking tool that will allow researchers worldwide to leverage GPU-accelerated computing to make unparalleled breakthroughs," said Jeff Nichols, associate laboratory director for computing and computational sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Nicholls added that the new GPU accelerators offer "the performance and energy efficiency that enable Titan to scale to unprecedented performance levels without consuming the energy equivalent of a small city."

Steve Scott, CTO at Nvidia's GPU Accelerated Computing business, said that basing Titan on Tesla GPUs allows Oak Ridge to run phenomenally complex applications at scale, and "validates the use of accelerated computing to address our most pressing scientific problems."

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.