In the latest TOP500 rankings, the number of supercomputers that reached a Linpack petaflop or more grew to 95 systems – nearly a fifth of the list. The number of such systems has been growing steadily since IBM’s Roadrunner broke the petaflop barrier in 2008. And while machines of this magnitude are still considered elite, hardly a month goes by now without a new system or two being deployed.
One of the most popular sessions at last week’s ISC High Performance conference was titled "Scaling Beyond the End of Moore’s Law," which was a series of three talks that delved into some of the technology options that could reanimate computing after CMOS hits the wall sometime in the next decade. The subject’s popularity is unsurprising, given that the supercomputing digerati that attend this event are probably more obsessed with Moore’s two-year cadence of transistor shrinkage than any other group of people on the planet.
With the launch of the Knight’s Landing Xeon Phi, Intel is hoping to capitalize on the unmet demand for an alternative to the GPU. The previous incarnations of Xeon Phi weren’t quite on par with their GPU counterparts in some significant ways, especially in the performance realm. But Knight’s Landing has made up a lot of lost ground in FLOPS, while offering the convenience of being able to run without the assist of a CPU host.
Multiple outlets are reporting that Oak Ridge National Lab’s (ORNL) Summit supercomputer, one of the three pre-exascale systems being developed for the Department of Energy under its CORAL program, will hit 200 petaflops when it becomes operational in two years. The implication is that the US is responding to the announcement of TaihuLight, the new Chinese supercomputer that captured the top spot on the latest TOP500 list. But the storyline here is a lot more nuanced than that.