Energy Dept.'s Titan Supercomputer: Record Breaker?

Oak Ridge National Laboratory turns on new 20-petaflop Titan supercomputer, which may be world’s most powerful.
14 Amazing DARPA Technologies On Tap
14 Amazing DARPA Technologies On Tap
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With a throughput capacity of more than 20 petaflops, Oak Ridge National Laboratory's new Titan supercomputer, which Oak Ridge said opened for business Monday, could be the most powerful computer yet.

When the latest release of the biannual Top500 supercomputing rankings are released in several weeks, Titan is likely to come in either first place or a close second place to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Sequoia, which topped June's list with a peak of 20.1 petaflops. According to Oak Ridge, this type of power "is on par with each of the world's 7 billion people being able to carry out 3 million calculations per second."

The Department of Energy, which oversees the national laboratories, will use Titan for research on a number of different topics, including biofuels, combustion engine efficiency, magnetics, astrophysics, climate, nuclear science and atomic-level materials science, among others.

Among the specific applications designed to run on Titan are CAM-SE, which will be used to research climate change adaptation and mitigation, Denovo, which will perform nuclear research on topics like the behavior of neutrons in nuclear reactors, LAMMPS which will research a way that molecules enter and exit living cells, and S3D, which will research combustion questions that tackle issues like the performance of large hydrocarbons.

Titan is officially an upgrade to another former world-beating Oak Ridge supercomputer, Jaguar. However, the name is far from the only thing to have changed -- Titan boasts 10 times the processing power of its predecessor, which formerly ranked sixth on the Top500 list with a peak of 2.6 petaflops.

The massively parallel Titan is a Cray XK7 system with 18,688 computing nodes in 200 cabinets. Each node is powered by a 2.2-GHz AMD 16-core Opteron 6274 processor with 32 gbytes of DDR3 memory and a Nvidia K20 Tesla GPU with 6 gbytes of high-speed memory. All told, the machine has 710 Tbytes of memory. There's also a new, more scalable interconnect.

Despite the upgrades, Titan will occupy the same physical footprint, and thanks to its combination of CPUs and GPUs will use only slightly more electricity than Jaguar. The computer will consume 9 megawatts of power, less than three times the 30 megawatts it would have taken to power Titan had it consisted of a solely CPU-based architecture.

One piece of the system that will remain in place is the Spider file system and its 240 Gbps bandwidth and 10 petabytes of storage capacity. Oak Ridge plans to upgrade the file system next year on both fronts. Other peripheral tools include the HPSS data archive, LENS data analysis and visualization and EVEREST high resolution data visualization.

Titan has been under development since 2009. Throughout much of the upgrade, Jaguar was up and running, powering apps that, for example, sparked new insights in fields like computational fluid dynamics.