Oak Ridge unveils Titan, the world's most powerful supercomputer


October 29, 2012

The Titan supercomputer

The Titan supercomputer

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The U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has just introduced Titan, the world’s most powerful supercomputer. The size of a basketball court and using enough power to run a small town, the water-cooled circuits of Titan are capable of 20 petaflops or 20,000 trillion calculations per second. This makes Titan ten times more powerful than ORNL’s previous computer, Jaguar and 200,000 times more than the average PC. What’s more, it achieves this through components originally created for gaming computers.

Also known as the Cray XK7 system, Titan has 18,688 nodes. Each of these consists of a 16-core AMD Opteron 6274 processor and an NVIDIA Tesla K20 graphics processing unit (GPU) accelerator. It also has 700 terabytes of memory.

GPUs are designed to handle computations simultaneously at high speed and make excellent supercomputer components. The 299,008 CPU cores in Titan are used to guide the simulations, while the GPUs do the brute-force number crunching.

"One challenge in supercomputers today is power consumption," said Jeff Nichols, associate laboratory director for computing and computational sciences. "Combining GPUs and CPUs in a single system requires less power than CPUs alone and is a responsible move toward lowering our carbon footprint. Titan will provide unprecedented computing power for research in energy, climate change, materials and other disciplines to enable scientific leadership."

The increased speed and computational power of Titan will allow for faster, more detailed simulations of a wide range of phenomenon. ORNL and Cray are still working on final system acceptance, but Titan is already working on projects, such as those from the Department of Energy's Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment program, better known as INCITE.

The INCITE projects that Titan will work on include nano-scale study of magnetic materials for new motors and generators. Another project is the creation of computer models of the turbulent combustion inside an internal combustion engine and large-molecule hydrocarbon fuels to improve fuel efficiency. It will also be used to simulate nuclear fuel rods to study extending reactor life and the development of more accurate climate modeling to not only determine if the climate is changing, but where and how.

But it's not only high-end scientific research that's set to benefit from the development of this monster computer – the GPU technology is also likely to find its way into consumer graphics cards in the future.

Source: ORNL

Update: This story has been modified in response to an error pointed out by a reader regarding the computing power of Titan compared to an average PC.

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

"What’s more, it achieves this through components originally created for gaming computers."

Needless to say- Sheldon, Leonard, Raj and Howard will NOT be happy about this misuse of resources!

Michael Shewell

This is great but, how does this help the department of energy provide fuel independence for Americans? After all that is the sole purpose of the DOE. Maybe this department is no longer needed and we could help reduce the budget by it's elimination.


Not to say that Titan ain't pretty quick, but folks, you done posted some bad math....

The article says "... 20 petaflops or 20,000 trillion calculations per second. This makes Titan ten times more powerful than ORNL’s previous computer, Jaguar and 20 trillion times more than the average PC."

2x10e16/2x10e13 = 1000 ops/sec. Shoot, the original 8088-based PC could do more (emulated) floating point than that...


Maybe they can research the most efficient and inexpensive fuel vapor systems (100mpg easy) and electrical resonant circuits for free electricity (when was the last time you heard about a radio station fading out from too many people tuned in to their frequency). Oops- those were proven around a hundred years ago. What are they relly using this thing for?


ok so that was a waste of money and what it does is little in comparison to what we've been doing in Australia.

Quantum computing anyone.

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