Futurism

This Tiny Supercomputer Consumes 98% Less Power and 99.93% Less Space

In Brief


AMD just unveiled Project 47, a tiny supercomputer that packs 1 petaFLOPS of computing power into a single server rack. It consumes 98% less power and 99.93% less space than a comparable computer from 2007 and is an important step forward on the path to computers that can manage ever-more-complex applications.

1 petaFLOPS, 1 Rack

This week, AMD unveiled Project 47, a supercomputer that crams a whopping 1 petaFLOPS of computing performance into a single server rack. This means Project 47 is as powerful as IBM’s $100 million Roadrunner — the world’s most powerful supercomputer in 2007 — which required 2,350,000 watts of electricity, 6,000 square feet of floor space, and 296 racks. In contrast, Project 47 consumes 98 percent less power and 99.93 percent less space, requiring just a single rack.

The IBM Roadrunner cluster was primarily composed of approximately 12,960 PowerXCell processors and 6,912 Opteron CPUs. Project 47 comprises 80 Radeon Instinct GPUs, 20 AMD EPYC 7601 processors, and 20 Mellanox 100G cards, and it includes 10TB of Samsung memory. AMD says it would take 33.3 MW of power and 1,000 Project 47 racks to scale Project 47 up to 1 exaFLOPS.

A Step Forward

Project 47 is part of a wider movement to reduce the footprint of supercomputers, and each stride forward means improved efficiency and less energy used to get the same amount of — or a lot more — computing power. Increasing computing power will be critical for the management of more sophisticated systems, such as those that house artificial intelligences (AI) in safe, productive ways.

The system is built around the 2U parallel computing platform Inventec P47. The P47 is designed for machine intelligence and graphics virtualization applications. Project 47’s 1 PetaFLOP was achieved using a single Inventec P47 systems rack. It requires only 33.3 kW for a petaFLOPS of computational power thanks to its 30 gigaFLOPS per watt energy efficiency — making it 25 percent more efficient than competing supercomputing platforms, according to AMD.

AMD claims the Project 47 rack beats any other comparably configured system in terms of compute units, cores/threads, memory channels, and I/O lanes in simultaneous use. The system should be on sale later this year, although AMD has yet to release the price.

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