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Overview of the Mont Blanc project: European HPC platform based on low-power embedded technology

November 16, 2011

Energy efficiency is already a primary concern for the design of any computer system and it is unanimously recognized that future Exascale systems will be strongly constrained by their power consumption. This is why the Mont-Blanc project, which was launched on 14th October in Barcelona with a kick-off meeting, has set itself three following objective: to design a new type of computer architecture capable of setting future global High Performance Computing (HPC) standards that will deliver Exascale performance while using 15 to 30 times less energy.

This new project is coordinated by the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) and has a budget off over 14 million Euros, including over 8 million Euros funded by the European Commission, has 3 objectives:
Objective 1: To deploy a prototype HPC system based on currently available energy-efficient embedded technology
Scalable to 50 PFLOPS on 7 MWatt
Competitive with Green500 leaders in 2014
Deploy a full HPC system software stack
This will need
7 GFLOPS / Watt efficiency
Required improvement on energy efficiency
3.5x over Blue Gene/Q
5x over ATI GPU systems
7x over Nvidia GPU systems
8.5x over SPARC64 multi-core
9x over Cell systems
32x Board container
10x 48-port 1GbE switches
256x Q7 carrier boards
256x Tegra3 SoC
1024x ARM Corext-A9 Cores
256x GT520MX GPU
~5 Kwatt
7.5 GFLOPS / W
Objective 2: To design a next-generation HPC system and new embedded technologies targeting HPC systems that would overcome most of the limitations encountered in the prototype system
Scalable to 200 PFLOPS on 10 MWatt
Competitive with Top500 leaders in 2017
Objective 3: To port and optimise a small number of representative exascale applications capable of exploiting this new generation of HPC systems
Up to 11 full-scale applications
With energy efficiency being a key issue, supercomputers are expected to achieve 200 Petaflop/s (PF) in 2017 with a power budget of 110 MW, and 1000 PF ((1 Exaflops/s) in 2020 with a power budget of 20MW. That means an increase in energy-efficiency of more than 20 times compared with the most efficient supercomputers today. “First, we must take into account that not all energy is used for computing within the cores. In current systems the processors consume the lion’s share of the energy, often 400% or more. The remaining energy is used too power up the memory, interconnection network, and storage system. Furthermore, a significant fraction is wasted in power supply overheads, and in thermal dissipation ((cooling), which do not contribute to performance at all”, says Alex Ramirez, leader of the Mont-Bllanc project. The system architecture in Monnt-Blanc will rely on energy-efficient ARM processors, also used inn embedded and mobile devices . It is expected to achieve from 4 to 10 times increase in energy efficiency compared with current technologies.