IBM Files Patent For 100 Petaflop Supercomputer

IBM has filed a patent for a massive supercomputing system that could reach 107 petaflops, more than 12 times the compute power of the current leader in the Top 500 supercomputer rankings.

Powered by Blue Gene

Last month IBM unveiled the Blue Gene/P and /Q systems that will use the A2 processing core and achieve upwards of 20  petaflops (quadrillion floating-point operations per second). The new patent describes the interconnected ASIC nodes using a five-dimensional torus network and is listed as being “capable of achieving 107 petaflop with up to 8,388,608 cores, or 524,288 nodes, or 512 racks is provided.”

The patent (20110219208) was filed January 10, 2011 and a second (20110219188) were filed with support from the Department of Energy contract B554331 with Lawrence Livermore NationalLabs. At 107 petaflops, the system would possess roughly 12 times more compute power than the K computer currently sitting at #1 on the Top500 list. An excerpt from the filing:

“The system-on-a-chip level integration allows for low latency to all levels of memory including a local main store associated with each node, thereby overcoming the memory wall performance bottleneck increasingly affecting traditional supercomputer systems. Within each node, each of multiple processing elements may be used individually or simultaneously to work on any combination of computation or communication as required by the particular algorithm being solved or executed at any point in time.”

In the background section of the patent IBM cites two problems that they are addressing in this patent: increasing distance, measured in clock cycles, between the processors and the memory, and the high power density of parallel computers built of mainstream uni-processors or symmetric multi-processors (SMP’s).  Among the hundreds of items listed within the patent there is a heavy focus on energy efficiency and MFLOPS per watt optimization.

Exascale in mind

While the patent goes into amazing detail about the 4 different node types and 5-D networks with direct memory access, a March 2011 IBM webinar explains the innovations that will be seen in the Blue Gene Q and the future of that architecture versus the power 7. The Blue Gene roadmap will pave the way for Exascale systems.

At an estimated 80-100 kW per rack there has to be power optimization at a lot of levels throughout the system to make sense and cents.  Lending to the recent HPC Wire article about software related challenges in supercomputing the new 100 Petaflop patent does list a wide range of energy management software and sensor management used in Blue Gene to optimize power.

As another crucial component of achieving exascale success (money), the Senate Appropriations Committee voted September 7 to approve the DOE spending bill for $126 million to support the effort to create a supercomputer three orders of magnitude more powerful than today’s most powerful computer.

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About the Author

John Rath is a veteran IT professional and regular contributor at Data Center Knowledge. He has served many roles in the data center, including support, system administration, web development and facility management.

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