Tom’s Trends and Highlights

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Always a popular slot at the ISC event is Tom Sterling’s “A year in review” talk, where he covers the highlights and key trends of the last year. Some InsideHPC highlights of this year’s highlights:

  • This year, the obvious first highlight was ‘Petaflops: IBM and LANL make it happen’, i.e. that after all the anticipation, the first official HPL score in excess of 1 PFLOPS was delivered without much surprise by IBM and LANL with the Roadrunner project.
  • The next trend, easily recognised by anyone involved with supercomputing, was the unambiguous arrival of power consumption both as a driver of the industry and as a limiting factor in procurements and operations. The increasing attention paid by the industry to programming multi-core architectures was noted, including the major investments by Microsoft and Intel among others.
  • The concept of the ‘mid-life kicker’ has now become common – extending the life of big machines with mid-life updates rather than fresh procurements to replace them. This approach of multi-phase contracts has been used in the UK national supercomputing services for several years (CSAR, HPCx, HECToR).
  • The Petaflops theme continues, with Tom noting that Petascale projects are in advanced planning in many places around the world. Commodity based supercomputers are still dominant but MPP systems are resurgent, with heterogeneous MPP emerging as the promise of a further leap in performance. And we’ve now moved on to talking about Exaflops, which will mean conquering multi-billion way parallelism.