French hybrid supercomputer to exceed 300 TFLOPS by 2009
French supercomputing institute Grand Equipement National de Calcul Intensif (GENCI) along with former nuclear research institute CEA (Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique) has asked Bull to make the first hybrid PC cluster in Europe. The new machine will be housed south of Paris in Bruyères le Châtel, a data centre also used by military institute CEA-DAM. The Bull Novascale series machine will be composed of 1068 cluster nodes, each consisting of eight Intel processor cores and an additional 48 GPU application accelerators with 512 cores each. The supercomputer will also have 25 TB of RAM and 1 PB of hard drive storage.
The CPU cores will have a collective computing power of 103 TFLOPS, with another 192 TFLOPS coming from the graphics cards; the GENCI would then be ranked in the Top500 list just ahead of JUGENE housed at a German research Center in Jülich, but still far behind the Texan Ranger and BlueGene/L at the very top of the list.
Hybrid super computers, which combine ordinary processors with application processors or co-processors, are hot items at the moment and are currently supported by DARPA. IBM is working with AMD to build Roadrunner, which combines Opteron and Cell chips. It may be able to offer as much as 1 PFLOPS. Cray is also working on the hybrid architecture it calls XT5h even as it continues to offer the XT5 and XT4, which only contain Opterons. In Japan there's the Tsubame by Sun Microsystems, which combines Opterons with ClearSpeed cards.
According to French news website PC Inpact, in the GENCI HPC cluster Bull plans to combine Intel's upcoming Nehalem server processors with Nvidia Tesla systems. Nvidia is working feverishly on the GPGPU concept with a CUDA interface, thus competing with AMD's Torrenza / Stream Processors / CTM and Intel's Larrabee.
Bull also emphasises that the system will run under Linux and use other open source software, such as the Lustre cluster file system.