CSIRO's supercomputer Australia's "greenest"

The GPU cluster has been ranked eleventh on the international Green500 list

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) graphics processing unit (GPU) has been recognised internationally as Australia’s “greenest” supercomputer.

The cluster was launched back in November 2009 and features 256 GPUs, and was the first of its kind in Australia.

The GPU was ranked eleventh on the Green500 List, a list of the world’s 500 fastest and most energy efficient supercomputers, calculated by performance speed per watt of energy consumed.

The list highlights the growing power consumption of the world’s fastest computers and encourages owners to reduce their carbon footprint by using technology that improves energy efficiency.

The CSIRO’s supercomputer ranked number 145 on the Top500 list earlier this week, performing the Linpack benchmark at 52.55 teraflops in double precision, with an energy efficiency of 555.5 megaflops per watt.

“We knew we had a fantastic computational facility in our GPU cluster, but we are particularly delighted to near the top of the Green500 List,” CSIRO group executive information sciences, Dr Alex Zelinsky, said in a statement.

The cluster combines Intel central processing units (CPUs) with 64 NVIDIA Tesla S2050 GPUs, an industrial version of the graphics cards found in game consoles and computers.

In June, the CSIRO was selected as a member of NVIDIA’s international network of research centres as a part of its new Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA) program, which looks to advance general-purpose computing on GPUs and includes a CUDA Certification Program with CUDA Research Centres and Teaching Centres.

GPU-based supercomputers are twice as energy efficient as regular CPU supercomputers, completing calculations around 10-100X faster than CPUs. Additionally, they are much cheaper to purchase, and occupy half the rack space which reduces cooling and data centre costs.

CSIRO’s computational and simulation science leader, Dr John Taylor, said energy efficiency and value for money were big drawcards for CSIRO.

“We were able to build a faster, greener supercomputer at a fraction of the cost using GPUs,” he said.

According to Taylor, making the Green500 List and seeing the speed ups scientists are achieving has validated the CSIRO’s decision to explore this technology.

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