Paving The Road to Exascale – Part 1 of many

1996 was the year when the world saw the first Teraflops system. 12 years after, the first Petaflop system was built. It took the HPC world 12 years to increase the performance by a factor of 1000. Exascale computing, another performance jump by a factor of 1000 will not take another 12 years. Expectations indicate that we will see the first Exascale system in the year 2018, only 10 years after the introduction of the Petaflop system. How do we get to the Exascale system is a good question, but we definitely put some guidelines on how to do it right. Since there is much to write on this subject, this will probably take multiple blog posts, and we have time till 2018…  :)

Here are the items that I have in mind as overall guidelines:

-  Dense computing – we can’t populate Earth with servers as we need some space for living… so dense solutions will need to be built – packing as many cores as possible in a single rack. This is a task for the Dell folks…  :)

-  Power efficiency – energy is limited, and today data centers already consume too much power. Apart from alternative energy solutions, the Exascale systems will need to be energy efficient, and this covers all of the systems components – CPUs, memory, networking. Every Watt is important.

-  Many-many cores – CPU / GPU, as much as possible and be sure, software will use them all

-  Offloading networks – every Watt is important, every flop needs to be efficient. CPU/GPU availability will be critical in order to achieve the performance goals. No one can afford wasting cores on non-compute activities.

-  Efficiency – balanced systems, no jitters, no noise, same order of magnitude of latency everywhere – between CPUs, between GPUs, between end-points

-  Ecosystem/partnership is a must – no one can do it by himself.

In future posts I will expand on the different guidelines, and definitely welcome your feedback.

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Gilad Shainer
Senior Director, HPC and Technical Computing
gilad@mellanox.com