by Andy Walsh

Last week NVIDIA was in Hamburg, Germany for the International Supercomputing Conference to talk to Europe’s high performance computing (HPC) community about GPU Computing. If you’ve never been to Hamburg, go…’s a beautiful city with a great scene.

The biggest news of the show was the announcement of the June 2010 list of the global Top500 supercomputers. And the major news from the June 2010 list is a new supercomputer, equipped with Tesla 20-series GPUs, entered the chart at number 2! The system is called “Nebulae” and is built by Dawning China and deployed in the Shenzhen Supercomputing Center.

Nebulae - small_web

If you were wearing an NVIDIA shirt at this show, everyone wanted to stop and talk to you about this system. It scored a whopping 1.27 petaflops in the LINPACK benchmark to get the number 2 slot, but what is even more impressive is that they did this using just 2.55 megawatts! Compared to the number 1 supercomputer, which uses 7 megawatts to deliver 1.75 petaflops, Dawning achieved DOUBLE the performance per watt by using Tesla 20-Series GPUs, making it one of the most power efficient systems on the list.

The Nebulae system has 13,920 processors – 4640 GPUs plus 9280 CPUs. However, despite there being twice as many CPUs in the system, Tesla GPUs are doing the majority of the processing — more than 80%! In a press release at ISC, Intel claimed they were playing “the vital role” in the new Nebulae system and forgot to even mention that GPUs were used at all. Oops. In reality, this system illustrates a trend occurring in supercomputing where Tesla GPUs based on our Fermi architecture are being used increasingly to power the world’s top scientific computing systems.

Nebulae isn’t the only supercomputer on the list; the Institute of Process Engineering (IPE) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) also deployed a Tesla 20-series GPU-based supercomputer, called Mole 8.5. This is a smaller system but they still ranked in the Top 20, coming in at number 19. The Tesla business is just 3 yrs old this month, so securing two Top 20 supercomputers, including #2, is a great achievement and we congratulate Dawning and CAS-IPE for their hard work and commitment to making this happen.

Earlier that day, 65 professors, researchers and scientists from universities and supercomputing centers from around the world gathered at an NVIDIA-hosted breakfast briefing to hear from leading lights in the HPC world.

ISC10 morning briefing

Prof. Wei Ge from the CAS-IPE showed more than a dozen examples of important science bring run on Tesla GPUs and Prof. Erik Lindahl talked about advances in the molecular dynamics application, GROMACS as well as his thoughts on how the HPC community will scale to the millions, even billions of computing cores that will be available in the years to come. Finally, Prof. Thomas Schultess, two time winner of the Gordon Bell award for peak performance, Director of the Swiss National Supercomputing Center and Chair of the Computational Physics group at ETH Zurich spoke about extreme scale simulations and the acceleration provided by GPUs. Presentations from the event are now available to download.

One of the other highlights of the show was GPUDirect, a new technology from NVIDIA that enables the GPU to communicate with other devices like Infiniband switches, hard drives, frame grabbers, etc with reduced involvement of the CPU, thereby reducing communication overhead. Our lead development partner Mellanox had the system on show and were discussing how this new technology enables them to accelerate system communication by as much as 30%!


QLogic, another company bringing this technology to market, also announced their intent to support this new standard. It was a hot topic at the show for sure, and judging by the amount of questions we got from customers, channel partners and press, we believe it will become a mainstay for large scale GPU clusters deploying Infiniband.


Overall, ISC has been an exciting show, lots of Tesla on the show floor, many talks about GPUs and a huge milestone for the Tesla business with the Top500 announcement. We’re looking forward to SC’10 in New Orleans where we expect to have more groundbreaking news for you from the Tesla business.

ISC 2010 ISC 2010 - Germany
Candid shots from Hamburg, Germany