Indiana University's supercomputer may utilise Nvidia's Ampere GPU

Written by Jennifer Allen

February 4, 2020 | 11:00

Tags: #ampere #big-red-200 #supercomputer

Companies: #indiana-university #nvidia

Indiana University is currently building its new Big Red 200 supercomputer and with it comes suggestions of what to expect from Nvidia's Ampere GPUs. 

The supercomputer which uses the Shasta architecture has always been a two-stage deployment with the first phase involving the CPU deployment, and the second involving a GPU, but it's been delayed ever so slightly for a very special reason - a better and new GPU. 

The first stage comprises of 672 dual-socket nodes powered by AMD's Epyc 7742 'Rome' CPU, thereby offering 64 physical cores and 128 threads. Impressively vast then, but it's the second phase that's most fascinating right now because it could involve yet unseen technology.

The phase won't commence until this summer and is certain to add more Rome processor nodes. More interestingly, it'll also introduce a new and next-generation Nvidia GPU that's yet to be announced. Basically, this is where the potential insight into Ampere comes into the picture. Big Red 200 was originally meant to have Volta-based Nvidia Tesla V100 graphics cards installed but Indiana University has held back on its deployment. As Brad Wheeler, vice president for information technology and chief information officer VP for IT at Indiana, explained in a statement, Nvidia offered something special "at the last minute" without alluding to what that could be. 

Once the new and so far unannounced GPU is installed, Wheeler reckons it will deliver close to 8 petaflops - 2 petaflops more than if the University stuck with the V100 cards. 

For now, Big Red 200 is running in CPU-only mode which as we've noted before still means 672 nodes, and each are equipped with 256GB of memory and 2 AMD Epyc 7742 CPUs. Current suggestion is that once the new GPU is implemented, there'll be a 70 percent to 75 percent increase on performance than that of the previous generation.  

For now, we'll have to wait and see how accurate that is, and exactly what it is. We suspect the performance increase will depend on how you use it, and its purposes, rather than being that huge a boost across the board.

Still, with Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference only a month away at this point, we've got a strong feeling that Ampere GPUs may finally be unveiled. 

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