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© Photo Courtesy of T-Platforms

Russia aims high in supercomputing

by Oleg Nikishenkov at 01/08/2011 20:59

A Russian high-tech firm, T-Platforms, has set a new world record for data processing, and its Lomonosov supercomputer has reached a capacity of 1.3 petaflops – 13th place in the world’s strongest supercomputers Top-500 list.

By exceeding the petaflop benchmark, the machine joined the world’s high-performance computer systems (HPCs) elite club. But Russia faces a challenge in utilizing the speed of its machines with complex commercial R&D tasks.

A petaflop (10 to the power of 15 flops) machine can perform in one minute more operations than an average PC is able to fulfill in 1 billion years, experts say. A quadrillion operations per second is required to simulate complicated processes in such spheres as genetic engineering or quantum physics.

Medical research

Moscow State University’s supercomputing center, where the Lomonosov is installed, simulated processes of new medicines interacting with various human organs.

T-Platform deputy director Alexei Komkov said that the machine was upgraded for the third time a few months ago. Its previous capacity was 510 teraflops.

According to IDC Russia program manager Alexander Zagnetko, the local high-performance computer market is controlled by three players: HP, IBM and T-Platforms, which together built most of the HPCs currently operating here.

The Lomonosov was initially made as an HPC, designed for nonstop upgrading to keep up with market leaders, which isn’t an easy task given the fact that the IBM’s 20 petaflops Sequoia is going into operation as soon as 2012.

Virtual nuclear test

Viktor Sadovnichy (right) showing a supercomputer to Dmitry Medvedev

© RIA Novosti. / Sergey Guneev

Viktor Sadovnichy (right) showing a supercomputer to Dmitry Medvedev

President Dmitry Medvedev has strongly backed the T-Platforms project, visiting MGU’s supercomputing center and setting supercomputers the task of virtually testing Russia’s nuclear deterrent.

Medvedev said the government had allocated 2.5 billion rubles (about $90 million) to develop the industry.

Apart from the Lomonosov, Russia is also supporting two joint supercomputer programs with Belarus.

R&D focus

IDC experts say that state support is not enough, however, and the industry suffers from a lack of commercial R&D to use the full capacity of the smart machines.

Alexander Zagnetko, of IDC, estimated the annual market in Russia at about $40 million.

According to IDC, globally HPC market leaders spent about $10 billion in 2010.

Alexei Komkov, of T-Platforms, said universities were the company’s main clients in Russia. “We have supplied universities in Perm, Kazan and Tyumen with HPCs to conduct studies in molecular physics, chemistry, microbiology, nanotechnology and climate change,” Komkov said.


More about petaflops

 

A petafl op is a way of measuring performance of a computer’s fl oating point unit (FPU). One petafl op equals 1,000 terafl ops (or 10 to the power of 15 fl ops). Only a few of the world’s fastest supercomputers are measured in petafl ops, since most computers run at less than one petafl op.

The “Top-500 Supercomputers” list ranks High Performance Computers by their performance on the so-called Linpack Benchmark, under which they have to solve a dense system of linear equations. Top-500 Supercomputers says the user can scale the size of the problem and optimize the software to achieve the best performance for a given machine.

According to IDC, most of today’s supercomputers use standard servers (x86) with a high-speed LAN connection.

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