Saudi supercomputer world’s 2nd leader in energy efficiency

Updated 18 November 2012

Saudi supercomputer world’s 2nd leader in energy efficiency

RIYADH/FRANKFURT: The Saudi supercomputer “SANAM” has ranked second in the worldwide list of the most energy-efficient computers. In the “Green500” ranking published on Wednesday, which ranks the most energy efficient supercomputers of the world twice a year, the joint project of the leading Saudi research organization “King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology” (KACST) at Riyadh and the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS) achieved the second top position with a computing power of 2,351 million calculations per second per watt. The Saudi supercomputer was developed as a cooperation project between Saudi Arabia represented by KACST, and Germany represented by both FIAS at Goethe University and the Helmholtz International Center for FAIR (HIC for FAIR).
The Arabic name “SANAM” reflects performance and efficiency. It denotes the tip of something. It comes from its original meaning of the camel's hump that stores an amount of fat that could sustain the camel's survival without food for up to two weeks.
With an overall computing power of 421 trillion operations per second, “SANAM” is one of the fastest computers in the world, at position 52 in the worldwide “Top500” ranking. In the Middle East it is ranked first. “SANAM” will be used at KACST for applications related to seismic, aerospace, bioinformatics, weather and simulation. For the test runs, “SANAM” was first set up by a joint Saudi German team worked together at the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt, one major German research center for physics. It will be moved to KACST premises in Riyadh within a couple of months.
SANAM is based on an enhanced technology of the Frankfurt supercomputer LOEWE-CSC, which was the most energy-efficient multipurpose supercomputer in Europe when it went into operation two years ago. It has a special cooling system and uses commercially available high-performance graphic cards, like those in desktop computers and workstations. In terms of computing speed, “SANAM” is about 40 percent faster than the LOEWE-CSC, but requires merely one third of the power per computing operation. This was achieved by the use of a larger number of high-performance graphic chips in conjunction with software optimizations and by using energy-efficient storage chips.
From a technology perspective, the “SANAM” supercomputer is a computer cluster comprising standard servers connected via a high-speed network. The cluster consists of 210 servers with 3,360 processor kernels, 840 graphic chips and 26,880 gigabytes of main memory. The ASUS ESC4000/FDR G2 servers are each equipped with two Intel Xeon E5-2650 processors and eight 16 gigabyte-modules (128 GB) of very energy-efficient "Samsung Green Memory" components. Each server uses two AMD FirePro S10000 graphic cards with four graphic processors for acceleration. The network is an FDR InfiniBand network with a transmission speed of 56 gigabits/s. The servers were delivered by Adtech Global.
Dr. Mohammed Al-Suwaiyel, KACST president emphasized that “This is a clear and tangible demonstration of KACST efforts to transfer advanced technologies to the kingdom”. “SANAM will be utilized to support research activities by many institutions in Saudi Arabia,” said Dr. Turki Alsaud, KACST VP for research institutes. He Also said “Computing and electronics are priority areas in the Science, Technology and Innovation Plan of the kingdom, overseen by KACST. In this project, I’m pleased that we had a team of five engineers and two PhDs from KACST worked jointly with our German partner to develop SANAM”.
Leading scientists who worked on SANAM, Prof. Volker Lindenstruth, senior fellow, chairman of the FIAS-board and chair on HPC-Architecture at Goethe University said: “Faster supercomputers are a crucial tool for modern science. In the future they only can be implemented when energy-efficiency is a decisive criterion. We are glad to develop together with an ambitious research country new technologies for better and better computing efficiency and to set new milestones in the ‘Green500’-list.”
The semiconductor company AMD delivered the graphic cards for “SANAM”: “The entry of the GPU into the supercomputing space has had a huge impact on computing efficiency in a very short period of time” said John Gustafson, senior fellow and chief product architect, Graphics Business Unit AMD. “At AMD, we are designing the hardware and software to take computer efficiency to new heights as demonstrated by the SANAM Supercomputer. This system is very much an indication of the direction supercomputing will take in the years to come.” For Samsung, who provided the memory chips, Yunshik Kim, president of Samsung Semiconductor Europe said: “Achieving top ranks on the Green500 listings verifies the extreme levels of efficiency the system, along with all its components, holds. While supporting advanced performance requirements, every watt you can save matters. Samsung has supported this innovative project with our green memory using 30-nanometer class process technology and as part of our green memory strategy, Samsung continues to provide leading-edge solutions for HPC environment with its most advanced 20-nanometer class green DDR3 and SSD solution.”
KACST is an independent scientific organization administratively reporting to the Prime Minister. KACST is both the Saudi Arabian national science agency and its national laboratories. The science agency function involves science and technology policy making, data collection, funding of external research, and services such as the patent office.
The Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS) is an interdisciplinary research organization for theoretical research of complex structures in nature. It was founded by the Goethe Universität Frankfurt and is financed by public funding, foundations and private donations. In addition to computer science, the focus of its work lies in basic research in biosciences, neuroscience, chemistry and physics.
Goethe University Frankfurt, positioned among the top international research universities, offers a wide variety of academic programs, a diverse group of research institutes, and a focus on interdisciplinary approaches to solving complex problems. Today, Goethe University is one of the only universities in Germany that enjoys significant public funding alongside administrative autonomy and the ability to create a private endowment. With 41.350 students Goethe University is the third largest university in Germany.

Height of adventure: Treading the ‘Edge of the World’ near Riyadh

Updated 19 April 2018

Height of adventure: Treading the ‘Edge of the World’ near Riyadh

  • Cliffs in Tuwaiq were formed as a result of the movement of the Arabian plate toward the northeast because of the spread of the Red Sea rift
  • Several prominent Saudi tour companies offer daylong excursions to the site

Thrill seekers and fitness gurus all over the Kingdom will be pleased to know that their choices for weekend activities have increased. 

Several tour operators in Riyadh have started offering trips to the area known as the Edge of the World, making the location more accessible than ever.

With the country’s obesity rates on the rise and many citizens growing more concerned about their physical health and stress levels, people are seeking ways to maintain their fitness without having to restrict themselves to the monotony of a gym routine.

One such solution that has steadily increased in popularity over the past year is hiking, which many have embraced as being much more exciting and fulfilling than spending hours on the treadmill. And most popular of all for hiking and other fitness activities in a natural setting is the magnificent landmark of Jabal Fihrayn, more commonly known as the Edge of the World.

Described as a “window framed by rock,” the Edge of the World offers stunning views of the valley below, a lush grove of acacia trees teeming with wildlife and vegetation. The spot is well-known for being a favorite of visiting picnickers.

Hikers can choose from several trails of varying levels of difficulty, making their way to the top of the Tuwaiq escarpment to take in the magnificent views at the top of the trail, where the colossal cliff faces drop off to reveal the dizzying height from the valley below. In addition to the rich wildlife unique to the location, you can also find samples of fossilized coral and raw mineral deposits in certain areas of the valley.

The cliffs in the areas were formed as a result of the tectonic movement of the Arabian plate toward the northeast because of the spread of the Red Sea rift situated 1,000 km to the west of Tuwaiq.

Due to the increasing popularity of the site, the authorities have built a hardtop that leads to the gates of the sites and arrangements are in place to protect the area and its natural treasures. 

Several prominent Saudi tour companies offer daylong excursions to the site. The more intrepid explorer also has the option to go alone; though past visitors recommend that solo travelers take an all-terrain, 4x4 vehicle and extra precaution. Visitors can spend the day at the site and leave before 6 p.m. (when the gates are closed for the night) or stay behind for a night of camping to enjoy the sunset and the breathtaking celestial views of a star-studded night sky.

Nora Alfard, amateur hiking enthusiast and two-time visitor to the location, was quick to offer praise about her trip. 

“The trip out there was a bit tiring, but totally worth it,” she said. “The views are stunning, and the hiking itself is not that difficult. Most people should be able to make it to the top without too much trouble.” She said she was likely to go a third time, and encouraged others to do the same.

The Edge of the World is roughly 100km northwest of Riyadh, about 1.5 hours’ drive from the capital. Visitors should be prepared for at least 30 minutes of hiking, possibly more depending on your trail and your level of fitness and experience. Previous visitors recommend bringing water and snacks, and stress the importance of dressing appropriately — hiking shoes only!


What is hiking?

Hiking means a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails in the countryside. Day hikers generally carry at least food, a map or a GPS navigation device.