On Tuesday, the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), a government funded research center in Spain, revealed plans (pdf) to build the world's first ARM-based CPU/GPU hybrid supercomputer using Nvidia's Tegra ARM-based SoC and a CUDA GPU installed on a hardware board designed by SECO. The hybrid supercomputer will be used to accelerate a variety of scientific research projects.
"Supercomputers are becoming increasingly capped by power," Nvidia's Sumit Gupta said in a blog. "Extreme scale supercomputers (petascale, exascale) are required for advancing science and technology, but the power consumption of these systems has already reached the 10 megawatt to 20 megawatt range. This means one of today’s larger supercomputers will use as much power as a small town. This rate of power consumption is not sustainable."
To prevent this type of insane power consumption, BSC said it will develop a large scale system that is two to five times more energy-efficient than current Intel and AMD-based x86 solutions while also delivering exascale-level performance. This will be accomplished by using the Nvidia CUDA GPU to accelerate supercomputing applications running on the Tegra processor.
"In their search for more energy efficient architectures in supercomputers, BSC concluded that typical x86-based CPUs in today’s supercomputers consume up to 40 percent of the system’s total power," Gupta added. "They’ve also realized that ARM CPUs are much more energy-efficient than x86 CPUs from Intel and AMD."
In conjunction with the BSC announcement, Nvidia said that it plans to release a new hardware and software development kit for similar ARM-based initiatives. The kit will include hardware developed by SECO, and a quad-core Tegra 3 accelerated by a discrete Nvidia GPU. The kit will be supported by the CUDA parallel programming toolkit and released in the first half of 2012.
BSC is currently showing its hybrid supercomputer system design publicly for the first time at this week's SC11 Conference, which runs Nov. 14-17 in Seattle, Wash., in exhibit booth #235.