Supercomputers Focus on Energy Efficiency

Newer supercomputers favor energy efficiency over raw speed

Computer World, November 16, 2015. Image credit:  Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Supercomputer spending is increasingly focusing on energy efficiency rather than raw performance, the latest edition of the Top500 list of the world’s most powerful computers suggests.

The most significant changes, though, come when the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers are ranked by energy efficiency, measured in flops/watt.

The leader in the efficiency stakes at 4.86 gigaflops/watt is the two-year-old Tsubame-KFC/DL, built by NEC for the Tokyo Institute of Technology, but the next six are new entrants, all from China.

In second place is a Cluster W780I built by Sugon for the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Modern Physics, delivering 4.78 Gflops/W.

The seven most efficient machines are all built using a mix of Intel Xeon E5 and Nvidia Tesla processors. None score particularly highly for raw speed: they are ranked 392nd, 318th, 456th, and 225th through 228th in absolute performance, respectively, but they all deliver more than 3.77 Gflops/W.

Only about half the machines on the Top500 list are rated for energy efficiency. The average was 1.45 Gflops/W this time around, compared to 1.35 Gflops/W in July.

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