U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced that Titan, a new supercomputer located at the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was named the world’s most powerful according to the Top 500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers.
Ten times more powerful than its predecessor, the Jaguar system, Titan will provide unprecedented power to accelerate scientific discoveries using technologies first developed for video game systems like Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
The DOE now has five systems out of the fastest 20 in the world, with Sequoia at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, in second place; Mira at Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Illinois, in fourth place; Cielo, located in Los Alamos, New Mexico and operated jointly by Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, ranked 18th; and Hopper at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, ranked 19th.
“The nation that leads the world in high-performance computing will have an enormous competitive advantage across a broad range of sectors, including national defense, science and medicine, energy production, transmission and distribution, storm weather and climate prediction, finance, commercial product development, and manufacturing,” said Secretary Chu. “Titan joins the Department’s top-ranking supercomputers in equipping our nation’s researchers with the tools needed to keep the United States on the cutting edge of innovation.”
Titan uses a combination of traditional central processing units (CPUs) and a family of processors called graphic processing units (GPUs) that were first created for computer gaming and have a unique capacity to perform the same operation simultaneously on multiple pieces of data.
In video games, this capacity enables them to update the pixels on a display to make the imaging more realistic. For Titan, the combination of CPUs and GPUs help the system perform parallel processing operations at blinding speeds. Titan reached a speed of 17.59 petaflops (quadrillion calculations per second) on the Linpack benchmark test — the specific application that is used to rank supercomputers on the Top500 list.
Titan is capable of a theoretical peak speed of 27 petaflops. Additionally, because the CPU-GPU combination provides more processing per watt of power, Titan occupies the same space as Jaguar while using only marginally more electricity.
Scientists will use Titan’s computing power for a wide range of research, including developing the next generation of materials used to manufacture U.S. goods; for nuclear research to model the behavior of neutrons in a nuclear power reactor; to model the combustion of fuels in an internal combustion engine to improve engines for cars and trucks; and to simulate the atmosphere at new levels to help researchers better understand future air quality.
Earlier this fall, 61 science and engineering projects were selected for access to 1.84 billion core processing hours on Oak Ridge’s Titan and 2.83 billion hours on Argonne’s Intrepid and Mira computers through the Department’s Innovative & Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program. INCITE grants scientists and engineers at universities, national laboratories, industry and other research organizations access to lightning-fast high-performance computing systems not commonly available in academia or the private sector.