A new world leader has emerged. It—rather than he or she—had its genesis within the last eight years (Larry Greenemeier, “Crunch Time” Scientific American, January 2013, p. 18):
“In 2005 engineers at the U.S. department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory unveiled Jaguar, a system that would later be upgraded into a world-beating supercomputer. By 2011 it had swelled to a room-size system that used seven megawatts of energy, ran nearly 225,000 processor cores and had a peak performance of 2.3 quadrillion calculations per second.”
That is fast! Nonetheless, energy research continues to demand greater supercomputer muscle. Therefore, when studying how to enhance Jaguar, just adding more CPUs would not have been a smart strategy. Additional CPUs would have come at a very high power cost and with diminishing returns. Scientists relooked at the possible solutions and settled on enhanced GPUs (graphics processing units) as Greenemeier describes:
“In late October 2012 Jaguar became Titan, a supercomputer that leverages both CPU and GPU . . . accelerators to deliver 10 times the performance of Jaguar while consuming five times less power. It has become the world’s most powerful supercomputer.”
All that new supercomputer capability will not go to waste. Via Titan, plans are in place for improved research in such areas as nuclear power-plant neutron-behavior simulations. This project will help extend the life of nuclear power plants.
How does Titan compare with its old self, Jaguar? On the current neutron-behavior project, Jaguar would have needed 60 hours to run the simulation. Titan wraps it up in just 13.
We do indeed have a new world leader . . . and it will not be the last one.