Residing in the Riken Advanced Institute For Computational Science in Kobe, a Japanese supercomputer capable of 8.16 petaflops of computational power has reclaimed the number one supercomputer spot on the Top 500 list. The last time Japan held the number one spot was in 2004 with their Earth Simulator. Dubbed the K Computer, the new Japanese machine has handily widened the gap between the now second place Chinese Tianhe 1A, which delivers close to a fourth of the computational power at 2.57 petaflops.
The K Computer Setup at Riken AICS.
What makes the new supercomputer especially interesting is that it uses only CPUs to deliver all 8.16 petaflops, and eschews any graphics processors or other accelerators. Specifically, the K Computer is comprised of 68,544 eight core SPARC64 VIIIfx processors, which amounts to 548,352 processing cores. When the supercomputer enters service at the Riken AICS, it will be capable of even more performance. Specifically, it will deliver more than 10 petaflops using 80,000 of the eight core SPARC CPUs (640,000 cores).
One of the K Computer’s racks.
Unfortunately, this top level computational power comes at a price, specifically the amount of power required to run the machine. While running the Linpack benchmark, the machine drew 10 megawatts of power, which is slightly more than twice the average power consumption of the other top 10 systems at 4.3 megawatts.
If the CPU-only design is capable of delivering greater than 10 petaflops once the K Computer is put into operation, it will be a very noteworthy feat. On the other hand, the climbing power requirements are an issue, and the competition is unlikely to surpass the K Computer without further breakthroughs in power-efficient processor and memory designs. Erich Strohmaier, the head of the Future Technology Group of the Computational Research Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory was quoted by Computer World as stating "Even if it is not desirable, we can adapt to 10 MW for the very largest systems, but we cannot allow power consumption to grow much more." You can read more about the new system over at Computer World.