Energy Department kicks off its giant Titan supercomputer with thousands of Nvidia and AMD chips

he Oak Ridge National Laboratory has completed work on the world’s fastest “open science” supercomputer, dubbed Titan. The system is powered by thousands of microprocessors from Advanced Micro Devices and graphics chips from Nvidia. It can perform more than 20 petaflops (20 million billion floating-point math operations per second), and will be used to solve all sorts of tough computing problems such as calculating the effects of climate change on the Earth.

Made by Cray, Titan, also known as the Cray XK7 supercomputer, has some gargantuan specifications. The machine has the computing power that is equal to 500,000 laptop computers, or 20,000 trillion calculations per second. It has 18,688 compute nodes, or servers that are part of the larger supercomputer. It has 299,008 AMD Opteron cores, or microprocessor brains. It has 18,688 Nvidia Tesla K20 “Kepler” graphics accelerators. It also has 710 terabytes of system memory, and total peak system performance of 20 petaflops.
The system has 200 server cabinets and a sophisticated cooling system. Each computing node has an AMD Opteron 6274 processor and an Nvidia GPU.
Nvidia says about 90 percent of the mathematical floating-point capability comes from its Tesla K20 graphics processing unit (GPU). The power efficiency of GPUs, which process lots of tasks in parallel, enables much more efficient computing to happen on Titan.

“We can augment the CPUs to provide power efficiency that is far better,” said Sumit Gupta, general manager of Nvidia’s Tesla GPU business. “This is like putting 500,000 laptops in a space the size of a basketball court.”

The supercomputer will attack problems related to climate change, biofuels, materials science, astrophysics, combustion, and nuclear energy. Scientists using the supercomputers will use it to make more efficient engines, higher capacity and lighter weight batteries, and search for cures for diseases.