Europe’s Most Powerful Supercomputer Inaugurated

A rendering of the SuperMUC system.

Europe’s most powerful supercomputer—and the fourth most powerful in the world—has been officially inaugurated.

The SuperMUC, ranked fourth in the June TOP500 supercomputing listing, contains 147,456 cores using Intel Xeon 2.7-GHz, 8-core E5-2680 chips. IBM, which built the supercomputer, stated in a recent press release that the supercomputer actually includes more than 155,000 processor cores. It is located at the Leibniz-Rechenzentrum (Leibniz Supercomputing Centre) in Garching, Germany, near Munich.

According to the TOP500 list, the SuperMUC is the world’s most powerful X86-based supercomputer. The Department of Energy’s “Sequoia” supercomputer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., the world’s most powerful, relies on 16-core, 1.6-GHz POWER BQC chips. Those are the same chips that power the DOE’s Mira Supercomputer at the Argonne National Laboratory, which ranks third. Japan’s second-ranked K Computer uses 2.0-GHz SPARC VIIIfx chips.

SuperMUC is based on the System X iDataPlex from IBM, which delivers an aggregate peak performance of more than 3 Petaflops of computing power. Inside, the SuperMUC also contains 324 terabytes of 30-nanometer Samsung Green DDR3 memory.

“Taking into consideration that the energy consumption in IT systems increased by another 18 percent in 2011 and that, by now, server operational costs already exceed their acquisition cost, the choice of energy-efficient components and modules is becoming critically important,” said Yunshik Kim, president of Samsung Semiconductor Europe, in a statement.

SuperMUC also runs SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, which is used to help the high-performance computer scale frequency.

“SuperMUC is many times more efficient than its predecessor. Where it makes sense we use frequency scaling, a Linux kernel function delivered with SUSE Linux Enterprise, which allows us to run applications at their optimal operating point. This means we use, wherever possible, newly developed energy efficiency mechanisms in Linux,” said Dr. Herbert Huber, head of high-performance systems at the LRZ, in a statement.

Probably the most innovative feature of the SuperMUC is how it handles cooling: instead of using air, the IBM Aquasar system pumps water directly over the microprocessors, then away from the CPU cores. IBM claims that, in doing so, 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 can be recirculated back to other parts of the building, and actually serves to heat the rest of the builidng in winter. All told, the Aquasar system should cut cooling costs by as much as 40 percent, according to IBM.

SuperMUC requires only 3.52 megawatts of power consumption, dramatically reducing the total cost of ownership, the companies involved with the project said. The SuperMUC’s power dashboard provides an interesting means for others to track the system’s power consumption; at press time, the SuperMUC averaged 217.2 kW per day, or 155,735 kWH per month.


Image: Leibniz-Rechenzentrum

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