Mellanox builds China's first petaflop supercomputer

Mellanox has announced that its ConnextX-2 adaptors will be used in a new petaflop supercomputer called the Mole-8.5, which will use the InfiniBand adaptors to give a transfer speed of up to 40GB/s.

The ConnextX-2 40GB/s InfinBand adapters come with GPU-Direct technology and an IS5600 648-port switch with FabricUT fabric management software and fibre optic cables, which it is providing for the Institute of Process Engineering (IPE) at the Chinese Academy of Science for what will be the first petaflop GPGPU in China and will offer one of the fastest speeds in GPU-to-GPU communications.

A petaflop is 10 to the power of 15 (1,000,000,000,000,000) floating point operations per second, a term used to measure a computer’s performance, particularly in the scientific community which makes heavy use of floating point calculations. IBM’s military supercomputer “Roadrunner” was the first to reach the petaflop speed in May 2008, but the Mole-8.5 is the first of this speed in China.

TechEye spoke to Brian Sparks, Senior Director of Marketing Communications at Mellanox, who told us that the advantages of the new speeds capable depend on the application being used. “In some cases we see double performance increase from going to 20GB/s to 40GB/s.”

The Mole-8.5 supercomputer is already in use at IPE to conduct scientific simulations in chemical engineering, material science, biochemistry, data and image processing, oil exploitation and recovery and metallurgy, but the new adaptors will up the performance and open new avenues for scientific research.

“By incorporating Mellanox 40Gb/s InfiniBand with GPU-Direct technology, we have been able to conduct scientific simulations using GPUs at performance levels that we would never have been able to achieve using a different interconnect,” said Dr. Xiaowei Wang of IPE. “The new Mole-8.5 Petaflop cluster, with industry-leading interconnect performance and efficiency, enables us to shorten the time it takes to run applications that are critical in the process of scientific discovery.”

We asked Sparks what the term Mole-8.5 means and he said it “came from IPE” and Mellanox is “not sure what it means”. The Mole-8.5 system was designed to achieve high efficiency in real applications with a low cost in establishment and power consumption. By using Mellanox InfiniBand adaptors GPUs compute at a much faster rate, increasing the performance of applications run on the Mole-8.5 supercomputer.

Sparks told us that Mellanox is not resting on its laurels and is now working on “even more application productivity and system efficiency with new technologies such as CORE-Direct that offloads the MPI communications from the CPU and GPU-Direct which offloads the CPUs involvement when handling GPU memory data from the CPU to the interconnect.”

We’re not sure what all that means but we are happy to tell Mellanox that a mole is an animal from the Talpidae family in the order Soricomorpha. It could also refer to a spy working secretly from an organisation or country. Hope this helps!