Oakley Supercomputer Aims For Speed, Efficiency

Just like the heroine it is named after, the new Oakley supercomputer at the Ohio Supercomputer Center is expected to be a pioneer in its field. While the supercomputer won’t be preforming any sharpshooting tricks like its namesake, Annie Oakley, did, it will be used to conduct innovative academic and industrial research.

OSC’s new $4.1 million HP-built, Intel Xeon processor is Ohio‘s newest GPU-accelerated supercomputer system. Called the Oakley Cluster, the supercomputer can achieve 88 teraflops, tech-speak for performing 88 trillion calculations per second. The new supercomputer exceeds the ability by one and a half times the performance of  the Glenn Cluster (named after astronaut John Glenn) supercomputer and with far more storage capacity.

image via Ohio Supercomputer Center

In its announcement, the center described the supercomputer as “energy efficient,” but didn’t provide details as to how much energy it is expected to use, or how it will use less energy than other supercomputers. But in the past we’ve seen supercomputers achieve efficiency by aggregating many low-power processors. Another trend, according to the Green500, which works to encourage green supercomputing by providing a ranking of the most energy-efficient supercomputers in the world, is toward “using energy-efficient accelerators, typically from the gaming/graphics market, e.g., AMD Radeon GPU, NVIDIA Tesla Fermi GPU, Cell, and Intel Knights Corner, to complement the commodity CPUs from Intel and AMD.”

Seeking efficiency instead of simply raw power is a fairly recent trend in supercomputing, says Green500, “as a response to the emergence of supercomputers that consume egregious amounts of electrical power and produce so much heat that extravagant cooling facilities must be constructed to ensure proper operation.” The goal of the list is to “raise awareness to other performance metrics of interest (e.g., performance per watt and energy efficiency for improved reliability),” as well as to “encourage supercomputing stakeholders to ensure that supercomputers are only simulating climate change and not creating climate change.”

Kristy Hessman is a writer and native Oregonian who currently resides in California. Before starting her own company, she worked as a reporter covering business and politics for daily newspapers and The Associated Press.