EDN Article Explains the Role of Power in the Path to Exascale Computing

April 7, 2015

EDN LogoA recent article in EDN described the importance of power in today’s supercomputers, and the next generation, Exascale computing. The performance of these systems is mindboggling. As the author, Paul Pickering, explains:

How fast will an Exaflop machine be? To give you an idea, imagine performing one calculation per second starting at the Big Bang and continuing to the present day. Now compress that into 1 second. You’d be slightly less than halfway there.

While today’s systems can’t yet deliver Exascale performance, researchers are working to address the challenges that currently limit performance. This is particularly true for the power systems.  Already the location of many high performance computers is determined by the cost of power: Google’s Hamina data center is in Finland because of the relatively low cost of electricity and the low temperatures that reduce the cost of cooling – in fact the system also uses seawater to remove heat. Making the power chains more efficient will not only reduce the operating costs, but also allow a higher density of computing power.

In the article, Paul interviews Dr. Paul Coteus, IBM Fellow and one of the chief engineers behind the Blue Gene family power system. Dr. Coteus describes how IBM used our Factorized Power Architecture (FPA) to build power chains that produce a range of voltage rails, including 0.8 V, 0.9 V, 1.0 V, 1.35 V, 1.5 V, 2.5 V and 3.3 V from multiple 48 V supplies, with a total output of 2.8kW to power each compute node card. This is achieved by using two redundant PRMs and multiple VTMs mounted on the processor node card.

Although a supercomputer is a very challenging power application, Vicor’s Power Component Design Methodology, as well as the high efficiency and compact size of our PRMs and VTMs products, have allowed IBM to create the stunning Blue Gene/Q machines. To learn more about the power systems in these incredible computers, read the EDN article Up Against The (Power) Wall: Power Management And The Path To Exascale Computing.


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