When it comes to supercomputers, ISC 2017 (http://isc-hpc.com/) is the conference to go to see the latest and the greatest in terms of raw computing power done on a higher level than with normal desktop computers. We are talking about computers used a wide range of computationally intensive tasks in various fields, including quantum mechanics, weather forecasting, climate research, oil and gas exploration, molecular modeling and physical simulations, such as airplane and spacecraft aerodynamics, the detonation of nuclear weapons, and nuclear fusion. But, will they also play Crysis?
Apart from the Crysis game meme joke, supercomputers are the best of the best, the most powerful computers in the world used for a specific set of tasks and come with a very high number of both CPUs and GPUs. ISC 2017 is the conference to attend if you want to know about the latest trends in this incredibly power and performance hungry environment. Directly from the website:
“ISC High Performance is recognized internationally for its strength in bringing together different academic and commercial disciplines to share knowledge in the field of high performance computing. With our first event dating back over 30 years, we’ve created a community spanning the globe. Over that period we have welcomed attendees from over 80 countries, which has made ISC a highly diverse event.”
This year’s conference counted on more than 3200 attendees and still counting, which by the standards of this kind of event is a great number of interested parties, considering the major sponsors of the event are companies of the calibre of Intel, SuperMicro, Cray, Amazon Web Services, IBM, Dell, Nvidia and many others. Universities, national laboratories, automotive firms, defense agencies and their contractors, aeronautical firms, gas & oil companies, banks, pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers – essentially any organization that relies on HPC to help fulfill their mission attend to seek partners and solutions to their computing issues.
We had a unique chance to enter this enterprise world on monday June 19 thanks to our friends over at VRWorld.com, who granted us exclusive access to this incredibly interesting world we had only scratched the surface of from time to time. What we saw was a completely different world than the one we are used to, yet interesting in so many levels. You see products presented and people roaming through the stands of the exhibitors, like in any other expo. Yet, there was something unusual this time: people walking from stand to stand belong to the press, and nowhere to be seen were visitors, consumers, you now, normal people.
Another thing that got our attention was the low noise, apart from the occasional server rack turned on for demonstration purposes. No loud music playing, you could not hear the frantic noise of people asking questions about this or that product, nothing that usually is to be found on exhibitions this big and important. Instead, all the talking was done quietly, in conference rooms or around small tables with a couple of icy non-alcoholic drinks watering down. It was strange at first, but we got used to it fast.
For us the main attraction was the booth of where the “Sunway TaihuLight” supercomputer concept (of course, not the supercomputer itself…) was showcased, powered by a processor completely developed and manufactured in China (yes, you read it right: not the usual Intel or AMD this time…), named ShenWei 26010. The ShenWei 26010 is a 260-core, 64-bit RISC chip that exceeds 3 teraflops at maximum tilt, putting it on par with Intel’s Knight’s Landing Xeo Phi. TaihuLight contains 40,960 ShenWei 26010s, one for each node that also contains 32GB of RAM, adding up to a total of over 10 million cores. Impressive figures that allowed the Sunway TaihuLight reach the incredible record of 93 petaflops in the Linpack Benchmark (a kind of Cinebench but for supercomputers), earning it the 1st place in the TOP500 Super Computers. To get more information on the ShenWei 26010 processor, head over to hpcwire.com. The most exciting thing is that this beast is liquid cooled with consumer derived products… insane!
It was for us, and me personally, a great experience which opened new doors of understanding this market that is usually buzzing behind the curtains, but it actually is the one that drives all other markets, leading the path towards new computing solutions and advances in technology.