Trinity and UCD add to Irish supercomputer list

18 Dec 2015

The latest listing of Ireland’s most powerful computers has seen three new additions, with Trinity College adding two and UCD adding one, contributing to the country’s growing portfolio in this area.

Now including 28 machines, the fifth ‘Irish Supercomputer List’ reveals that the Galway-based Irish Centre for High-End Computing, naturally, hosts the most powerful machines in the country.

Trinity College is the highest-ranked educational facility on the list, hosting three of the top 10 machines in Ireland.

The latest list shows how Ireland is following an understandably global trend of powering up its processors, with the combined number of CPU cores on the current list standing at more than 75,000.

It also shows the growing push to harness co-processor technologies for high-performance computers, with more than 20pc of the 28 listed machines making use of accelerators, including GPU and Xeon Phi, with a combined total of more than 106,000 cores.

“The Irish Supercomputer List has matured and is now keeping pace with domestic change,” said Dr Brett Becker of UCD, who maintains the list.

Revealed twice a year, the changes this December come after 12 months of stagnation, something which the compilers seem particularly pleased about.

“The use of accelerators is becoming more mainstream, with nearly one-quarter of installations utilising them. The global race to exascale is intensifying, with major funding initiative announcements made in 2015, particularly in the US,” said Becker.

“The latter half of this decade will be an exciting one in high-performance computing and we may see the first exascale installation before 2020.

“We anticipate the total performance of Irish HPC installations to reach over 1 petaflop in this timeframe – no small feat for an island with a population of just over 6m people.”

Of course, Ireland’s computers lag far behind global leaders like the US and China. During the summer, the supercomputer arms race accelerated, in political terms, after US president Barack Obama penned a plan to build the world’s first exascale (can run 1,000 petaflops) computer.

Currently, the world’s fastest supercomputer sits in China, with the Tianhe-2 running at 33.86 petaflops, meaning it can perform 33.86 quadrillion arithmetic operations per second.

The US, currently, has the second-fastest machine, which runs at about half that.

Updated 8am, 21 December 2015: This article was updated to reflect the fact that over 20pc of machines listed use accelerators

Supercomputer via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic