Wed, May 09, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Nation’s most powerful supercomputer unveiled

By Chien Hui-ju and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

From left, Central Taiwan Science Park Bureau Director-General Chen Ming-huang, National Applied Research Laboratories vice president Lin Ying-dar, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Hsu Yu-chin and National Center for High-performance Computing director-general Shieh Ce-kuen stand next to the Taiwania supercomputer in Yilan County yesterday.

Photo: Chien Hui-ju, Taipei Times

The National Applied Research Laboratories (NARL) on Monday unveiled the Taiwania, the most powerful supercomputer that has yet been built indigenously for publicly funded research.

Operating at peak efficiency, Taiwania can perform up to 1.33 quadrillion floating-point operations per second (petaflops) and has 3.4 petabytes of storage, NARL National Center for High-Performance Computing official Lu Hung-fu (盧鴻復) said.

When the graphics processing units’ (GPU) capacity is added to the total computing power, Taiwania’s performance increases to 1.7 petaflops, he said.

The supercomputer consists of 630 pure central processing units (CPUs) and 64 mixed central and graphics processing units, which boast a total of 25,200 Intel cores and 256 Nvidia P100 GPU accelators, he said.

The two-year program to build the cluster cost NT$430 million (US$14.44 million), he said.

The new supercomputer is vastly superior to the Advanced Large-scale Parallel Supercluster (ALPS) — also known as Windrider — that used to be the NARL’s most powerful cluster, he said.

Taiwania has seven times the processing power of ALPS, while its energy efficiency of 4 gigaflops per watt is an order of magnitude better, the center said.

Additionally, Taiwania’s high-density design is more volume-efficient at one-third the size of ALPS, the center said.

Taiwania is the first state-owned supercomputer to perform at petascale speeds and it was built to meet the high-performance computing needs of the nation’s research institutions, center director-general Shieh Ce-kuen said.

Taiwania has a wide range of practical applications in the simulation and analysis of complex phenomena, which facilitates biomedical research, such as gene or neurological pathway mapping, Hsieh said.

Taiwania’s computing ability will allow Taiwanese neuroscientists to scale up their neurological mapping studies from fruit fly brains of 130,000 neurons to mice brains of 70 million neurons, he said.

Such research could lead to faster medical diagnoses of hereditary conditions and deepen the understanding of neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, he said.

Furthermore, Taiwania could be used for air pollution-related research and provide faster alerts for dangerous air quality conditions, he said.

Taiwania is scheduled to be activated today and private research groups may utilize the cluster for an hourly fee of NT$0.7, he said.

NARL is to decommission its older supercomputers ALPS, Iris and Formosa 5 by no later than September, he said.

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