Published — Sunday 18 November 2012
Last update 18 November 2012 7:38 pm
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.