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Nvidia Builds World’s Most Efficient Supercomputer

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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The SATURNV system is powered by Nvidia’s own Tesla P100 GPUs and intended to help build autonomous driving software

Nvidia boasted a new supercomputer it constructed to aid its own engineering efforts has been ranked the most energy-efficient in the world by the Top500 rankings organisation.

The SATURNV system, powered by Nvidia’s own Tesla P100 GPUs, was ranked 28th on the list, which was dominated by Chinese and US research organisations.

GPU performance

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The system delivers 9.46 gigaflops per watt, 42 percent more efficient than the 6.67 gigaflops/watt of the most efficient machine on the previous list, six months ago. It is 2.3 times more efficient than the Camphore 2 system, which delivers similar performance.

Due to their parallel processing capabilities, GPUs have been instrumental in the current generation of machine learning tools, which allow artificially intelligent systems to “learn” from patterns found in large amounts of data and then apply those patterns to new situations.

Such systems are being increasingly applied in all fields of industry as well as in medical research and diagnosis, while cloud service providers now offer GPUs to enable such applications to be conducted on a pay-for-use basis.

Nvida said a team of a dozen engineers designed the system using another GPU-powered machine made up of 124 DGX-1 units, an appliance that bundles machine learning tools with Tesla P100s.

“Yes, we’re using GPUs to help us design GPUs,” the company said in a statement.

China-US competition

SATURNV is intended to help Nvidia build its autonomous driving software.

China continues to hold the top spot in the Top500 list with the same two systems that ranked highest six months ago, the Sunway TaihuLight, at 93 petaflops, and Tianhe-2, at 34 petaflops.

China and the US both had 171 systems in the rankings – a shift from a year ago, when the US had 200 and China only 108 – while the US led slightly in aggregate Linpack performance, with 33.9 percent of the total, compared to China’s 33.3 percent.

The UK ranks sixth on the list with 13 systems, behind France with 20.

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