The fastest in Poland - Prometheus from Krakow took 241st position on the TOP500 list

The most recent edition of TOP500, the list of fastest supercomputers in the world, has been published on November 18th, 2019 at the Supercomputing'19 conference in Denver, USA. Once again the Polish supercomputer Prometheus took a very high position on this list.

Prometheus – number one among Polish supercomputers

Prometheus with its 2,4 PFlops of theoretical performance has been listed at 241st position. This top-efficient supercomputer located in Poland has been built by Hewlett-Packard according to requirements and partial design provided by Cyfronet.

Prometheus consists of more than 2,200 servers based on HP Apollo8000 platform, combined with super-fast InfiniBand network with 56 Gbit/s capacity. Its energy saving and high-performance Intel Haswell latest-generation processors offer 53,604 cores. These are accompanied by 282 TB DDR4 RAM in total, and by two storage file systems of 10 PB total capacity, and 180 GB/s access speed. Prometheus has been also equipped with NVIDIA Tesla GPGPUs.

To illustrate Prometheus' speed, one would have to harness the power of more than 50,000 first-class PCs, in their strongest configuration, additionally connected to super-fast network and managed by special software, to catch up with its abilities – says prof. Wiatr, Director of ACC Cyfronet AGH.

Thanks to the innovative technology of direct liquid cooling, Prometheus is also one of the most energy-efficient computers in its class in the world. This was achieved by using the cooling liquid having a temperature of 28°C. To cool down the liquid to such a temperature in our climate it is enough to use cheap in use dry-coolers, instead of ice water generators, consuming relatively large amounts of electricity and technologically advanced precision air conditioning systems. The liquid cools both CPU and GPGPU processors as well as memory modules using a special hermetic system of heat pipes and contact heat transfer between the servers and the system in which the liquid circulates. The servers themselves remain "dry" – they can be removed at any time without the risk of liquid leakage in the cooling system. Liquid cooling has also made it possible to achieve a very high installation density – up to 144 computing servers in a single rack.

The Prometheus PUE factor is comparable with some of the largest data centres in the world, such as Google, Amazon or Facebook. Furthermore, liquid cooling allows for extremely high installation density, therefore Prometheus, weighing of more than 40 tons, covers 18m2 area and is placed on 20 racks only. To achieve the same computing power in case of Zeus (Prometheus' predecessor), it would have to take about 160 racks. Baribal, the predecessor of Zeus, with computing power of 1,5 TFlops was placed on 8 racks. To achieve the computing power of Prometheus it would take as many as 12,000 Baribal's racks – points Cyfronet's Director.

The Prometheus architecture responds to the diverse needs of researchers by providing computing resources organized in partitions:

  • classical cluster of computing servers with highly efficient CPU nodes equipped with Intel Xeon Haswell and Intel Xeon Gold processors,
  • cluster of servers equipped with graphic accelerators GPGPU NVIDIA Tesla K40 XL,
  • acceleration partition including GPGPU NVIDIA K80 cards as well as Intel Xeon Phi 7120P and Nallatech FPGA accelerators,
  • set of servers designed for Cloud computing.

Prometheus has been installed in a high-tech computing room, exclusively adapted for its operation. The supercomputer's proper functioning is additionally supported by the accompanying infrastructure, including such systems as guaranteed power supply with an additional generator, modern air-conditioning and gas extinguishing.

Zeus supports Prometheus

For less demanding computing tasks, supercomputer Zeus still offers its computing power. The heterogeneous architecture of this supercomputer consisting of four dedicated hardware partitions provides 25,468 computing cores and 204 GPGPUs with total theoretical computational power of 374 TFlops. This is accompanied by 60 TB of RAM and 2.3 PB of disk storage. Zeus is built of over 1,300 individual blade servers, interconnected via high-speed 40 Gb/s InfiniBand network.

It is worth noting that even the highest positions on the TOP500 list, or the latest technologies used to build high-performance computers, do not fully reflect the importance of this type of computing resources for the Polish scientific community. The usefulness of supercomputers made available by ACC Cyfronet AGH as a tool for conducting scientific research is best demonstrated by statistical data on their use. In 2018 the two most powerful supercomputers in ACC Cyfronet AGH – Zeus and Prometheus, executed 8 342 686 jobs with a total duration of 42 436 years of CPU time.

Scientific calculations from different fields

Prometheus and Zeus are part of the European cloud and grid infrastructure within the European Grid Infrastructure (EGI). At the same time, Prometheus and Zeus are important supercomputers in the PLGrid nationwide computing infrastructure for scientific research in silico (performed with the help of computers).

Thanks to the PLGrid infrastructure, scientists can intensively use the computing power of Prometheus and Zeus. Dedicated computing environments, so-called domain grids, and specialised IT platforms enable conduction of increasingly complex research problems.

Scientists conducting research with use of the Cyfronet infrastructure represent many fields. Advanced modeling and numerical calculations are used mainly in: physics, chemistry, biology, medicine and material technology, as well as in astronomy, geology and environmental protection. Research topics include: modeling of the electron structure of composites containing graphene oxide, the physicochemical properties of biodegradable polymers, modeling the activity of selected anticancer drugs through carbon nanoparticles, the use of gravitational lenses as space telescopes. Researchers also conduct research on the activity of storm clouds on a local and global level, using quantum methods for image analysis, fatigue tests of the drill string and drilling fluids' flows.

Scientific computations do not include simulations only. Computing power is utilised by Polish scientists also within international projects, including experiments like CTA, LOFAR, EPOS, Large Hadron Collider in CERN and the recently discovered gravitational waves in LIGO and VIRGO detectors.

Use the power of supercomputers in scientific research

Supercomputers enable to significantly reduce time of computations that using a single computer would often take many years (in specific cases more than 150, 700 or even 1000 years). Here they may be usually performed within a few days. Cyfronet users can benefit from the professional support – starting from access to full documentation, through training, to individual consultations with experts. Information concerning the use of the Prometheus and Zeus' resources by scientists is available on http://www.cyfronet.pl and http://www.plgrid.pl. It is worth to register in the PLGrid portal https://portal.plgrid.pl and use many unique services.

Supercomputers from Poland compared to Europe and the world

Summit – the supercomputer from USA – again took the first position on TOP500, with more than 200 PFlops of computational power (theoretical). The list is dominated by supercomputers from China (228 units) and USA (117 units).

The European countries having supercomputers on the list (15 countries including Russia) occupied a total of 94 positions. The fastest European supercomputer is Piz Daint from Switzerland, ranked 6th. The top ten list also includes a supercomputer from Germany, SuperMUC-NG, in the 9th position. The countries in Europe with the largest number of supercomputers on the TOP500 list are: France (18 units), Germany (16 units), and the Netherlands (15 units).

As in the previous edition of the TOP500 list, Prometheus still remains the only supercomputer from Poland.