August 2005
The Coming Era of Low Power, High-Performance Computing — Trends, Promises, and Challenges
Jose Castanos, George Chiu, Paul Coteus, Alan Gara, Manish Gupta, Jose Moreira, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center


In October 2004, an 8-rack Blue Gene/L system, which occupied less than 200 square feet of floorspace, and consumed about 200 KW in power, passed the Earth Simulator (which occupies an area of about 70,000 square feet and consumes about seven MW of power) in LINPACK performance. In the recent, June 2005 TOP500 list,2 a 32 rack Blue Gene/L system, which has been delivered to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, occupies the #1 spot with a LINPACK performance of 136.8 Teraflop/s. Blue Gene/L systems account for five of the top ten entries in the June 2005 TOP500 list.

More importantly, several scientific applications have been successfully ported and scaled on the Blue Gene/L system. The applications reported in our studies 3 4 have achieved, on Blue Gene/L, their highest ever performance. Those results also represent the first proof point that MPI applications can effectively scale to over ten thousand processors.


In this paper, we described the main thrust of the Blue Gene/L supercomputer made of Lillputian low power, low frequency processors. By exploiting the superior performance/watt metric, we can package ten times more processors in a rack, thus it became the number one rated supercomputer since November 2004. In June 2005, five of the top ten supercomputers in the 25th TOP500 list were based on Blue Gene/L architecture. Blue Gene/L is currently producing unprecedented simulation in classical and quantum molecular dynamics, climate, quantum chromodynamics, and the list is growing. The future is likely to be even more power constrained due to the slowing of the power-performance scaling of the underlying transistor technologies. This will likely drive systems to aggressively search for opportunities to build even more power efficient systems, likely driving to more Blue Gene/L-like parallelism. In the future, the Lilliputians are likely to be active in nearly every area of computing.

The Blue Gene/L project has been supported and partially funded by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on behalf of the United States Department of Energy under Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Subcontract No. B517522.
1 IBM Journal of Research and Development, special double issue on Blue Gene, Vol.49, No.2/3, March/May, 2005.
2 TOP500 Supercomputer Sites, www.top500.org .
3 G. Almasi et al. "Scaling physics and material science applications on a massively parallel Blue Gene/L system," Proceedings of International Conference on Supercomputing, Cambridge, MA, June 2005.
4 G. Almasi et al. "Early Experience with Scientific Applications on the BlueGene/L Supercomputer," Proceedings of Euro-Par 2005, Lisboa, Portugal, August-September 2005.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5

Reference this article
Castanos, J., Chiu, G., Coteus, P., Gara, A., Gupta, M., Moreira, J. "Lilliputians of Supercomputing Have Arrived!," CTWatch Quarterly, Volume 1, Number 3, August 2005. http://www.ctwatch.org/quarterly/articles/2005/08/lilliputians-of-supercomputing-have-arrived/

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