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Big Green

With the twin growth of supercomputing demand on the one hand and energy cost on the other, it makes sense for companies to produce supercomputers that use less power. IBM started the trend with the Blue Gene series, of course, although that project was nore about building the fastest computer while keeping energy consumption somewhat reasonable. More recently, others have joined the fold. One such is SiCortex, who claim to have designed their systems from the chip level up to minimise power consumption. Their SC5832 machine offers 5832 1GFlops 64-bit processors for 20kW, while for the SC648 they claim half a teraflop powered from a standard wall socket.

That's not the only approach, of course. Floating-point accelerator boards and Graphics Processing Units are being used to boost computing power for specific applications while keeping costs low. The Register has a good overview article from November's SuperComputing conference. Meanwhile, in a talk at the Mardi Gras Conference last week, Satoshi Matsuoka explained how the Japanese are building a specialist supercompuiting facility that combines all these elements to maximise computing power and minimise energy usage. His slides are here (8.3MB). Incidentally, they also show an example of how to design machine room to make efficient use of air cooling, rather than the all-too-common practice of sticking a load of machines in a giant airconditioned room.

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