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Cray SV1 Named Best Supercomputer for 2001

Hemos posted about 13 years ago | from the and-the-winnnaaahhh dept.

Hardware 171

zoombat writes "The BBC reported that the Cray SV1 product line won the Readers' Choice Award for Best Supercomputer for 2001 by the readers of Scientific Computing & Instrumentation magazine. These beasts have some pretty remarkable stats, including a 300 Mhz CPU clock, up to 192 4.8 GFLOPS CPUs or 1229 1.2 GFLOPS CPUs, and up to a terabyte of memory. And they sure know how to paint 'em real nice. Of course, we all know how "scientific" the Readers' Choice Awards are..."

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Nostalgia Alert (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2111906)

Anyone remember how in the game Populous (I forget which platform, maybe SNES) there was a computer tileset and instead of castles, the highest level of structure was a Cray? Anyone happen to know the model (if you could tell from the graphic)

Re:Nostalgia Alert (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2118910)

Hey, I am the goatse man!
I stretch ass like noone can!

In the hole where I go poop,
I can fit a can of soup!

Yes I have a wide ass-hole,
stretched out by the giver's pole!

People tell me to go shove it,
They don't know how much I love it!

Yes I am the goatse man!
I stretch ass like noone can!

Three dead and several wounded (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2130069)

This [cnn.com] is what happens when decent people are denied the access to guns.

If guns are banned only criminals will have them. I just wonder how many people have to end up dead before you Europeans learn...

Re:Three dead and several wounded (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2116207)

What's worst, few Europeans shot dead by awkward criminals once in a decade, or million rednecks shoting at each other daily and kids rampage in schools?

Face it you silly Americans, keeping a gun handy under your pillow won't help you against military missils and corrupted congressmen. Burn that obsolete constitution already.

Re:Three dead and several wounded (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2130390)

million rednecks shoting at each other daily

Ok, Mr. Strawman-Argument.

Tell me, would you rather have a) people shooting at unarmed people who cannot defend themselves because the government took away their natural right to self-defence or b) people shooting at armed people who can return fire and defend themselves properly?

Face it. There will always be people who want to hurt others. What are you going to do if they come to your house and threaten the lives of your wife and children? Call the cops who will arrive in 20 minutes with good luck? Typical shoot-outs are over in a few minutes!

Re:Three dead and several wounded (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2123368)

>because the government took away
>their natural right to self-defence

"natural right"? What's a "natural right"? How is a right, any right, "natural"? How is access to a gun a "natural right"? Were we all deprived of our "natural rights" until the gun was invented? Or is access to a gun a specific example of a more generalised and technology-neutral "natural right"? I assume you mean the latter, and that this more generalised "natural right" is the right to self-defence - in the broadest sense (not tied to any particular technology, such as the gun).

Isn't the right to SAFETY more important than the right to self-defense? After all, if we have SAFETY we don't need access to high tech weapons, such as the gun.

Wouldn't SAFETY be best served by only letting the police and military have legal guns? Of course, we would need to ensure our safety from the police and military via open and accountable government.

So in the end, as always, it's not about guns or the right to self-defence. It's about the kind of government we have - and the way we govern ourselves.

More to say, but outta time.

Ass stretching (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2144299)

I stretched my girlfriend's asshole last night. I ain't the giver, but I still gave her a good bum-ride with my creamstick. That's for sure.

Sorry, but it has to be said... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2111907)

Can you imagine a Beowolf cluster of those suckers?!?

No, but... (1)

gmz (320638) | about 13 years ago | (#2114710)

...I can imagine running a Beowulf cluster on a few thousand emulators in one of "those suckers"! SCNR...

Re:Sorry, but it has to be said... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2129968)

No, I can't. Why don't you tell me what it would be like, you wise anonymous coward?

Imagine (1, Redundant)

blang (450736) | about 13 years ago | (#2112313)

a beowolf cluster of those...

fdas (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2113584)

the 20 second thing got me

Yeah, but... (3, Funny)

JBowz15 (451573) | about 13 years ago | (#2113585)

What I want to know is what supercomputer wins the award for congeniality?

Guess who won the award for most photogenic? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2132163)

The answer is here [goatse.cx] .

(Now come on, that was pretty funny. I know, I know, I guess it might be a troll, but it's still _funny_)

Re:Yeah, but... (1)

Tim (686) | about 13 years ago | (#2132165)

And don't forget the swimsuit competition! I can't wait for this month's Scientific Computing and Instrumentation centerfold! Hoo-ah! Did you see the CM5 from last month? Still sexy after all these years....

Big Deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2113587)

This is nothing. If you want to deal with real power, you've got to forget the Cray computers, and instead go with my aunt's Cajun Crawfish! Hot time in the city tonight!

Can you imagine.. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2113588)

a Beowulf cluster of these?

Re:Can you imagine.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2117239)

Only if you promise not to render any cutesy CG characters [die.die] with it.

Programming Language 2001 Readers' Choice Award (1)

nitromuriatic (254088) | about 13 years ago | (#2114709)

Hmm. their choice for best programming langiage is interesting:
Programming Language 2001 Readers' Choice Award Winner: Visual Basic
I've actaully tried doing data nalysis in VB with ADO. It works, but slowly.

clusters? (1)

tester13 (186772) | about 13 years ago | (#2115851)

Can someone tell me what the difference between a cluster and a network is? Speed? Proximity? Who defines it?

"best", but not most sexy... (3, Interesting)

green pizza (159161) | about 13 years ago | (#2117565)

Most sexy belongs to the Thinking Machines CM-5 "Blinking Machines":

(Nice big CM5)
http://archive.ncsa.uiuc.edu/Cyberia/MetaComp/Imag es/CM5_lg.jpg [uiuc.edu]


Makes the SGI Origins (see below) look like freakshows:

(128 CPU Origin 2000)
http://gepard.cyf-kr.edu.pl/GRIZZLY/or2.jpg [cyf-kr.edu.pl]

(A cluster of [many] 128 CPU O2K's)
http://www.ccic.gov/pubs/blue00/local_images/blue_ mountain.jpg [ccic.gov]

(A 256 CPU O3K, a 16 CPU O2K, and some RAIDs)
http://www.cines.fr/images/IRISetMINERVE2.jpg [cines.fr]

Re:"best", but not most sexy... (1)

ScumBiker (64143) | about 13 years ago | (#2118636)

>> http://www.cines.fr/images/IRISetMINERVE2.jpg [cines.fr]

Wow, a raised floor computer room with outside windows! Whodathunk. I've never seen one. Has anyone else seen a computer room with outside windows? All of the one's I've been stuck in are usually in basements.

Re:"best", but not most sexy... (2)

Durinia (72612) | about 13 years ago | (#2125300)

I'm still partial to the waterfalls that come with the Cray2 or T90...

(its in the back - kinda bad picture)
Cray2 [cray.com] - sometimes called "the world's most expensive fish tank".

T90 [cray.com]

Re:"best", but not most sexy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2125302)

The computer in the last picture looks a lot like Vorlon technology...

Re:"best", but not most sexy... (2)

teg (97890) | about 13 years ago | (#2142522)

Most sexy belongs to the Thinking Machines CM-5 "Blinking Machines":

Nah, the blinking lights on the CM-5 are pale imitations of the Intel Paragon - here you could see the dataflow between nodes visualized by the lights. Thinking Machines wanted that, but it became to complicated/costly - so they used a random algorithm instead.

More Origin 2000 Pics (2)

green pizza (159161) | about 13 years ago | (#2144119)

I ran across a few more... too bad the thing is so goofy looking (though, I have to admit, the old cube logo and Origin name is much cooler than the new "sgi 2800" name and logo).


(Two *big* Origin 2000s)
http://w3.physics.uiuc.edu/~wilkens/Images/NCSA/Or igin2000.JPG [uiuc.edu]

(The neat O2K LCD... too bad O3K doesn't have that)
http://w3.physics.uiuc.edu/~wilkens/Images/NCSA/Or igin2000Moniter.JPG [uiuc.edu]

(The O2K "boxes")
http://www.unite.nl/nieuws/algemeen/levering.html [unite.nl]

yeah, but no personality (1)

beanerspace (443710) | about 13 years ago | (#2120490)

A few years ago, I took the the tour of NCAR's computing center, a true nerd mecca if ever there were one. After I got done bowing to all the raw power, I noticed something about the Crays that disapponited me, the same thing that disapponts me about the Cray SV1-32.

They pretty much looked like all the other big iron in the room. Gone was tht distinctive C-shaped tower. So was the need to hire a plumber to help install the water or freon based cooling system.

Granted, these big guys are impressive, but they've lost that certain "soi de vie" (sp?) that once distingiuished them from the other iron in the room.

Re:yeah, but no personality (2)

Nater (15229) | about 13 years ago | (#2143358)

Know why?

Seymour Cray is dead. Dr. Cray was one of those genius-nutcase types, he wanted to build a private tunnel from his home outside Eau Claire, Wisconsin to his cottage on Lake Superior, for one thing. I know for certain that he insisted on at least two things. He believed that if you pay a million dollars are more for something, you should 1) be able to sit on it and 2) have your choice of any color. For that reason, you can get your Cray supercomputer in any color you like, and all the older "C-shaped" models that you refer to had padded seats somewhere on the case.

What about the Linux SuperCluster ?... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2121554)

... now that alpha arch has been sold... http://www.cray.com/products/systems/supercluster/

Well thank goodness (0)

Anonymous Slackard (254578) | about 13 years ago | (#2125096)

at least theres one server (www.cray.com) that won't get slashdotted.

Brooklyn Bridge for sale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2130032)

Plenty of space to store all Cray supercomputers you ever wanted.

Of course it's a Cray (1)

Cerberus9 (466562) | about 13 years ago | (#2130391)

"Milky Way Galaxy named Best Galaxy of 2001"

Can you imagine... (5, Funny)

Nastard (124180) | about 13 years ago | (#2130577)

just one of these?

Re:Can you imagine... (1)

Tokerat (150341) | about 13 years ago | (#2138427)

you beat me to it :-P

SV1 is one huge machine, but there are others (4, Informative)

green pizza (159161) | about 13 years ago | (#2132584)

If your app requires lots of vector crunching, the SV1 [cray.com] is one hellofa machine that'll keep you more than happy. The specs (mentioned above) are staggering... up to 1 TB of RAM, up to 1229 CPUs, air and/or water cooled.

However, it's not alone. There are some other pretty mighty machines out there. The NEC SX-5 [cray.com] has faster RAM and more powerful vector CPUs than the SV1, but does not scale as large. The SGI Origin 3000 [sgi.com] series is not vector, but rather a of (somewhat) traditional CPU design. It's available with up to 512 CPUs and 1 TB of RAM. Unlike both the SV1 and SX-5, the Origin can be ordered with graphics (which turns it into an Onyx).

Then, there's the upcoming Cray SV2 [cray.com] , which will be a combination of massive parallel & vector processing. Up to several thousand CPUs and a staggering RAM thruput of 250 GB/sec per bank!! (The Origin 3000 mentioned above has a total system bandwidth of 716 GB/sec.... but that's the entire machine. The SV2 will have more than that with just three banks of RAM alone).

Some of these machines are single image systems (in the case of the Origin 3000, SX-5 and >33 CPU SV1)... meaning they are one single machine, not a cluster. Most run very specific OSes made just for their hardware, with the possible exception of the Origin. SGI's big Origin and Onyx 3000 machines run IRIX 6.5, the same OS that runs on a $150 e-bay special SGI Indy workstation. Kinda cool. The compilers and math libraries are also heavily tuned and generally come with lots of example code and performance tips. When my university purchased a 96 CPU Origin 2000 a few years ago, SGI included a *box* of binders and CDs from some past performance computing seminars they had held. Our university still holds a support contract for the Origin, and thus we're still getting significant compiler and library updates.

Sort of belittles dual bank PC2600 DDR-SDRAM (2x 2.6 Gigabyte/sec = 5.2 Gigabyte/sec) and Myrinet (1 Gigabit/sec = 125 Megabyte/sec interconnect), doesn't it.

Of course... a 16 node x86 cluster doesn't cost $500K - $50M either...

finally (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2135284)

w00t!! fp is mine!!

The Year 2001 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2135287)

I wonder how many votes HAL received?

Oh yeah? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2136950)

I'm sorry to break it to all of you, but the Cray SV1 is just another example of the "Performance Myth." My G4, at only 450 MHz, can outperform any Cray model at PhotoShop. Allow me to demonstrate rendering this 200MB graphic image. The G4 renders it in only 20 seconds, while the Cray fails entirely!

Sorry, Cray. I'm not buying.

More Power! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2137115)

I bet that supercomputer would be a whole lot more powerful if it were running Mac OS X.

Beowulf? (1)

robbyjo (315601) | about 13 years ago | (#2137692)

Excuse me, but haven't they considered Beowulf clusters [beowulf.org] ? I think they are better in both scalability and price. Even some clusters managed to rank among 100 fastest computers.

Re:Beowulf? (3, Funny)

Detritus (11846) | about 13 years ago | (#2118267)

Real computers aren't named after some Danish nob with a sword.

Real computers are designed in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Real computers have high-speed interleaved main memory, and lots of it. Cache is for losers who can't afford a real memory system.

Re:Beowulf? (2, Interesting)

ScumBiker (64143) | about 13 years ago | (#2125304)

There's a 50ish lady that works at Cray, named Dorothy. I met her at this years Rockfest, in Cadott, WI., which is about 20mi north of Chippewa Falls. She was wearing a Cray tshirt, which of course caught my eye right away. I ended up making friends with her and getting a phone number and contect person for Cray to get my very own Cray tshirt. We talked about how SGI is sucking the life out of everything around it and I found out Cray is back out on it's own. So, it appears that Cray is going to survive SGI after all, and will still be building those insanely fast machines they're known for.

Re:Beowulf? (2)

Durinia (72612) | about 13 years ago | (#2141718)

Hate to break it to you...but the SV1 *is* the first Cray to have a cache. Specially designed, of course. :)

No. (2, Informative)

KupekKupoppo (266229) | about 13 years ago | (#2118811)

As fun as it is to try to tie everything to Beowulf clusters, it's not applicable and not necessary to bring up with every post. FWIW, not all tasks lend themselves well to being done in a distributed environment. Of course, that's been mentioned a few thousand times here before, so I won't waste my breath.

Re:No. (2, Informative)

the gnat (153162) | about 13 years ago | (#2109985)

I won't waste my breath.

I will. Crays are vector supercomputers, which is something entirely different from your garden-variety Intel or RISC chip. There are several different types of computer you need to consider in the sort of comparison you're making:

- Vector supercomputers. This includes Cray, and some by Fujitsu and Hitachi (perhaps NEC as well, but I think those are MIPS-based).
- Massively parallel shared-memory supercomputers. The IBM SP2 and SGI Origin 2000/3000 come to mind. You take two of these, plug them into eachother, and get one computer twice the size with (I think) virtually no loss of bandwidth. I'm pretty sure these can also be connected just for high-bandwidth communications, but the real advantage is in shared memory. Cray makes these too, and SGI's MPPs are largely based on Cray technology (hence the "CrayLink" on Origins).
- Distributed computers. Beowulf is just a set of patches (primarily to Linux) to make distributed-memory programming easier (e.g. utilizing multiple ethernet cards for higher bandwidth). You still have to write programs specially to take advantage of the machine.

The difference lies primarily in programming techniques. You can not run a simple multithreaded program that would saturate an SP2 or Origin on a Beowulf cluster. You'd have to re-write it with PVM or something. PVM is not difficult, but it's not transparent. Some Fortran 90 compilers will do automatic parallelization, but not for a distributed-memory system.

Basically, there's a hell of a lot more difference between a Cray and a Beowulf cluster than between the Beowulf cluster and the SETI@home network.

-Nat
( disclaimer- I am not a supercomputer programmer, but a lot of the people I work with are. I do know something about parallel code, however. )

Re:No. (1)

spinwards (468378) | about 13 years ago | (#2115296)

but isn't that comment very relavent. the article is talking about a super-computer clas computers, and a baewolf cluster is concidered just that. claiming its superiority over other things may be a bit zealous though, its not the best, it is afordable for you and me though... i hope to someday say that i run a supercomputer in my basement, "sure, i'll let you see it... can yours do this".

Re:No. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2160604)

Beowulf clustering is a decent solution for calculations that involve easily parallelizable tasks (ie. sub-tasks that do not need to communicate with each other).

If, however, the sub-tasks have to communicate with each other the bandwidth becomes critical and clustering over a network won't scale anymore.

Cray represents another approach to the problem. It has an absolutely amazing bandwidth and can deal with the hard problems that can't be parallelized over a network.

So, clustering Crays wouldn't help you at all.

Re:Beowulf? (-1, Redundant)

gatesh8r (182908) | about 13 years ago | (#2130068)

How about a Beowulf cluster of Crays?

Re:Beowulf? (2)

bmajik (96670) | about 13 years ago | (#2143072)

whast the biggest beowulf you've heard of ?

what does scalability mean ?

iirc, the MASPAR MPPs were 16384 Motorola 68k's.

Thats scalable - if you mean "lots of cpus".

or what about some of the ASCI computers ? 8192 cpus, 6144 cpus, etc etc. No beowulf that big, eh ?

What is it that you really mean by beowulf ? Or is it just "the buzzword" that everyone loves and this time (for the first time in 234092384234 slashdot articles) it happens to be slightly relevant ?

The idea of shared-nothing commodity clusters isn't new, and linux isn't the only place its done , much less beowulf. Infact, Cornell ditched some SP/2 boxes to build a cluster--but they used Win2k-- and apparently they love it. You can buy such a compute cluster from Dell just like theirs if you want it.

No, i dont think the issue here was "we've never heard of beowulf" or "well, we are against beowulf because we're snobs". Maybe, just maybe, they had criteria other than "must sound like 'eowulf' when they made a decision ?

Re:Beowulf? (2)

west (39918) | about 13 years ago | (#2144769)

Maybe, just maybe, they had criteria other than "must sound like 'eowulf' when they made a decision ?


Actually, in a lot of supercomputing fields, the decision is heavily based on "it must run Cray Fortran compiler in optimal fashion". There are simply huge amounts of Fortran code, much of which was written and optimized 20 years ago by brilliant graduate students who have taken maybe a single CS course, that would have to be rewritten moving to any other platform.

Rewriting all this code for a different system would make the Y2K update of all "that Cobol code where the source listing had been obsoleted because they'd modified the binaries because compilation took to long" seem like a walk in the park :-). Especially given that the new authors would likely be brilliant physics grad students who've taken (maybe) a single CS course.

(Cray may supply F90, but I'd bet Cray's spend most of their time running amazingly optimized F55 code :-))

Re:Beowulf? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2144147)

I have an interest in fluid dynamics (like weather prediction), and I would think that such things would be rather hard to do using a Beowulf cluster. I'm not really knowledgeable here, but with a fluids problem, in order to compute the next iteration, you need to know the last iteration. If you have a bunch of computers connected by some high speed connection, one of the major "slow downs" will be in communication the data from one computer to another. Really, if you want to do fluids problems fast, you gotta have shared memory.

Now there are other problems where the communication time is much less important, like the SETI programs, or many combinatorial programs that count things (e.g. http://www.xs4all.nl/~gp/PolyominoSolver/Polyomino .html [xs4all.nl]

Linux cost comparison (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2137693)

If you put Linux next to some other operating systems out there for a cost comparison, the conclusions are devastating for Linux.

Linux costs not only more because of the frequent updates which require new cdrom's to be bought if you don't have a high speed Internet connection.

Another factor in Linux cost is its maintenance. Linux requires a *lot* of maintenance, work doable only by the relatively few high-paid Linux administrators that put themselves - of course willingly - at a great place in the market. Linux seems to be needing maintenance continuously.

Add to this the cost of loss of data. Linux' native file system, EXT2FS, is known to lose data like a firehose loses water, when the file system isn't unmounted properly. Other unix file systems are much more tolerant towards unexpected crashes. An example is the FreeBSD file system, which with soft updates enabled, performance-wise blows EXT2FS out of the water, and doesn't have the negative drawback of extreme data loss in case of a system breakdown.

Factor in also the fact that crashes happen much more often on Linux than on other unices. On other unices, crashes usually are caused by external sources like power outages. Crashes in Linux are a regular thing, and nobody seems to know what causes them, internally.

The steep learning curve compared to about any other operating system out there is a major factor in Linux' cost. The system is a mix of features from all kinds of unices, but not one of them is implemented right. A Linux user has to live with badly coded tools which have low performance, mangle data seemingly at random and are not in line with their specification. On top of that a lot of them spit out the most childish and unprofessional messages, indicating that they were created by 14-year olds with too much time, no talent and a bad attitude.

I can go on and on and on, but the message is clear. In this world, there is no place for Linux. It's not an option for any one who seeks a professional OS with high performance, scalability, stability, adherence to standards, etc. The best place it should ever reach is the toy store, and even that would be flattering.

Re:Linux cost comparison (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2130034)

You have blasphemied against Linux. Prepare to be flamed by all of Slashdot.

Re:Linux cost comparison (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2144766)

For telling some simple truths?

Re:Linux cost comparison (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2125693)

Most of the "truths" are easily refuted, but I think more importantly, this whole thread is offtopic.

Save it for another time, guys, m-Kay?

Re:Linux cost comparison (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2132164)

You are abusing the Anonymous login. The karma for user Anonymous will go into the heavy negatives because of this post.

):

Re:Linux cost comparison (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2144763)

Mod this down to -1, Flamebait!

Re:Linux cost comparison (1, Flamebait)

siliconinc.net (447486) | about 13 years ago | (#2141716)

You do realize a bunch of linux zealots are never going to moderate this above -1 right? :)

We all know its true. But you just couldnt beat it into some peoples skulls even if it was affixed to the end of your cluebat with a wad of gum (which incidentally appears to be what is holding linux together).

Hey moderator: -2, i dare you!

Re:Linux cost comparison (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2125305)

It is flamebait, because it is partial and in places just plain wrong.

If I still had mod access I would mod you down aswell for being offtopic.

I know nothing of such high end hardware, but.... (1)

Bradmont (513167) | about 13 years ago | (#2138177)

300 MHz? That seems somewhat unimpressive... would someone mind educating me? :o

Re:I know nothing of such high end hardware, but.. (3, Informative)

boaworm (180781) | about 13 years ago | (#2122039)

... a 300 Mhz CPU clock, up to 192 4.8 GFLOPS CPUs or 1229 1.2 GFLOPS CPUs, and up to a terabyte of memory...

That's a lot of GFLOPS :-), and a LOT of Ram.
Im not an expert in CPU's but i've picked up a few things that maybe helps you.

There are several ways of doing a CPU fast. You can (the very popular way) increase the clock frequency, thus doing more operations per second. One hertz equals one "cpu instruction" (sometimes they takes more then one, depending on what kind they are). This is the popular way to make a CPU sellable, unexperienced PC buyers sometimes simply focuses on "How many MHZ does this harddrive has ?" :-)
The second way is closely connected to this, simply make more then one instruction per each clock frequency. This is working in parallell, a more complicated solution that helps in some types of operations, but not others. Some problems are not good for parallelizing.
A CPU has something called a branch, [some have more then one, ie parallell processing] you can compare it to an assembly line in a modern factory. More pipes = parallell computing. For some reason, a short pipe [fewer operations until done] gives faster execution but lower clock frequencys, maybe because of heat or something. Could anyone fill me in here ? Anyhow, a cpu like the G4 [motorola/apple] has a rather short pipe, 4 or 5 steps. The P4 [intel] has a rather long one, 20 or so. This is why a P4 doesnt reach the same MHZ as the P4, but still can compete in raw computing power.

You can also increase performance in a CPU by making special instruction sets the programmer can call, and then optimize those instruction sets. The Pentium++ for example, is a rather simple processor wrapped among a huge amount of addon instruction sets, like MMX, SSE, SSE2 (and many many more) etc. The wrapper hardware-compiles these advanced CPU-calls into the basic instructions the core CPU actually can understand.

Hope I clearified somethings, and if I missed something or got something wrong, please correct me :-)

Re:I know nothing of such high end hardware, but.. (3, Informative)

Nater (15229) | about 13 years ago | (#2113677)

Ye olde 8086 is much like the cannonical 1 cycle = 1 instruction CPU that you described. Since the minimum number of trasistors needed to execute an instruction is pretty much fixed (but occaisionally somebody somewhere figures out a way to reduce the number by a few), and the amount of time it takes for the signals to pass through a sequence of transistors is basically fixed (although better materials and smaller transistors can improve this), a 1 cycle = 1 instruction really just isn't capable of running at a high clock speed (Mhz).

There are several ways to improve speed. The direction Intel went with their chips (and many other vendors as well) is pipelining. Pipelining is when you take that fixed number of transistors and break it into groups based on when they do their work. A 2-stage pipeline is one where the instruction logic is separated into two steps. A 3-stage pipeline is three steps, and so on. A sequence of four instructions in a 3-stage pipeline executes like this:

1) The instruction is loaded and the first stage is executed in one clock cycle

2) The next instruction is loaded and it is executed in the first stage while the the first instruction is executed in the second stage (one clock cycle)

3) The third instruction executes in the first stage, the second instruction executes in the second stage, and the first instruction executes in the third stage (one clock cycle)

4) The fourth instruction executes in the first stage, the third instruction executes in the second stage, and the second instruction executes in the third stage (one clock cycle)

5) The fourth instruction executes in the second stage and the third instruction executes in the third stage (one clock cycle)

6) The fourth instrction executes in the third stage (one clock cycle)

So, as you can see, once the pipeline is filled, one instruction completes every clock cycle, but each instruction takes three cycles to complete. Neat trick, eh? There are a lot of hairy details to take care of between stages, and pipelined processors can get very complicated very fast, particularly if you're trying to implement an instruction set that wasn't designed for pipelined architechture (i.e. x86 instruction set).

Cray went a different way. A Cray process is uses vector instructions to process a lot of data in one instruction. Compare this to the pipeline where multiple instructions are in progess during any single clock cycle. A vector processor, on the other hand, has large sets of registers which are referenced as a vector and has instructions that can fill an entire vector from a particular chunk of memory, add two vectors and store the results in a third, multiply, divide, negate, whatever, a vector at a time. And then of course there is an instruction to store the contents of a vector into a particular chunk of memory.

Pipelining has the marketing advantage that if you make your pipeline long enough (the Pentium 4 is a 20-stage pipeline) then the stages take less time to execute and you can bump up the clock speed.

Vector architechture does not have this marketing advantage, but they are historically superior for certain applications and data sets (like weather modeling meteorological data).

Re:I know nothing of such high end hardware, but.. (2, Informative)

sprong (98748) | about 13 years ago | (#2144266)

"For some reason, a short pipe [fewer operations until done] gives faster execution but lower clock frequencys, maybe because of heat or something. Could anyone fill me in here ?"

Each stage in the pipeline lets the hardware work on the instruction a bit, to setup register access and whatnot. Quite a few of the steps in modern x86 processors are 'unwrapping' the CISC instruction and turning it into RISC. (This is a bit simplified). The more steps there are, the shorter (less time) each step can be, letting the clock rate go up. Fewer steps means (generally) that each step needs more time, therefor limiting clock speed.

Long pipelines have one drawback, though. Assume there's one instruction currently being executed. The next one, in memory, will be in the stage that's one back. The next instruction after that will be in the stage before THAT, and so on. This works most of the time, where you have many sequential steps in a row. However, if there's a branch, the pipeline has to be flushed; it'll take at least as many clockcyles as there are stages in the pipeline before any instructions start getting actually executed; there's a lag time there while the instructions are making there way from the start to the end of the pipeline. There may/will be overhead on top of that which can make the stall time greater than if there was no pipeline at all.

So, back to yer original question, a high-MHZ deep-pipelined chip can be slower than a lower-MHZ shallow-pipelined chip IF there are a lot of branches in the program, because each branch will require a pipeline flush, which takes a lot of time to recover from. Speculative branching helps out a lot here, but it's not 100percent accurate, and also requires a lot of silicon to deal with.

All the extra real estate on the chip dedicated to the logic for deep pipelines could be, instead, dedicated to speeding up operations or extra cache or whatever. But x86 chips need fargin' deep pipelines these days to get high MHZ numbers, or else each complicated CISC instruction would take a year or so to decode.

CPU speed is not relevant anymore! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2128793)

The fact is that even in ordinary PCs the processor speed is no longer a problem. The real bottle-neck is the I/O of both the memory and the mass storage.

This has been common knowledge in the world of supercomputing for decades. In a multiprocessor architecture the speed of an individual processor is not that important. What's important is that the processors can efficiently access the memory, mass storage and can rapidly communicate with the other processors.

If I were buying a new computer now I'd opt for a dual processor setup (possibly two 650 MHz P-III CPUs or something else in the same MHz range) over a single, blazingly fast CPU that chokes on the sluggish memory bus.

Re:CPU speed is not relevant anymore! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2136974)

Forgive my ignorance, but how is the memory bus on a dual processor board better than on a single processor one?

Re:CPU speed is not relevant anymore! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2137180)

There's twice the of amount cache that helps to reduce the bus congestion. Most scientific code consists of several tight loops and can be made to make very efficient use of the cache by paying attention to the order in which the variables are accessed within the loop.

Re:I know nothing of such high end hardware, but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2131046)

300 MHz is somewhat impressive, and may remain for many years, unless you're one of those Windows loonies who feel the need to buy the latest Intel toys every 3 months.

Re:I know nothing of such high end hardware, but.. (2)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about 13 years ago | (#2131686)

Well, it's kind of like this...
In an ordinary PC, you can use one CPU clocked really fast, but you're limited by the speed of the I/O bus and memory bus. This is where cache comes in, as small amounts of data and code can be held in extremely fast memory "close" to the CPU.
In a supercomputer like this, you use lots of slower processors, which aren't necessarily limited by bandwidth, but can individually get enough work done.

Imagine, if you will, 35 people in Edinburgh, who need to get to Glasgow, some 50 miles away.
Would it be quicker to transport them in a 160mph Porsche Boxster, one at a time, or take them in 5 Volvo estates?

Re:I know nothing of such high end hardware, but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2139710)

Imagine, if you will, 35 people in Edinburgh, who need to get to Glasgow, some 50 miles away. Would it be quicker to transport them in a 160mph Porsche Boxster, one at a time, or take them in 5 Volvo estates?

Having done something like this recently, I can say the best way to do this is to give them 200 quid, tell them to go to the railway station, and then you hire a private car for yourself.

Yuo're forgetting something fairly fundamental here. For the most part, you would never let 160 people into your car, particularly people from Edinburgh.

Hope that clears things up. Let me know if you have any other computer science problems you need solved.

Re:I know nothing of such high end hardware, but.. (5, Informative)

bmajik (96670) | about 13 years ago | (#2143801)

If its anything like the older Crays (SV1 stands for "scalable vector", iirc its sort of a mix of vector and traditional CPUs).. then it gets its speed from the vectorized nature of the cpu and more importantly, the problem at hand.

i was told in a CS course that the arch of the cray vector units is basically the same as the cray 1... the speeds have changed, the process has changed, the external peices have gotten much faster.. but at the core, the cray vector machines are very fast at the following type of thing:

given a vector of a given length

do foo to every element in that vector

_very_ efficiently

to see how this operates a bit better, consider how a normal cpu might do the following

for i = 1 to 64

begin

blah[i] = blah[i] + 1

end

that would end up getting compiled perhaps into something like this on a traditional cpu:

loop:

load blah[i]

increment blah[i]

save blah[i]

increment i

if i 64, goto loop

what we're seeing is that for 1 element, we do a load, an ALU op, a store, an ALU op, and a conditional branch.

conditional branches fuck cpus. badly. having load stores inside inner loops, fucks cpus badly.

to see why, you need to understand pipelining, but basically i'll make it short and easy: the instruction cache of a cpu is always stuffing the pipeline with its "guess" of what instructions should be... and its not until several of those 1.4ghz clock cycles later that you even know if you've got the right instruction... if you do, great.. if you dont, you're fucked and you flush the pipeline and start over.

conditional branches fuck this all to hell because without optimization, you've got a 50% chance of filling your pipeline with the wrong instructions.. so on a p4 with a 20+ stage pipeline you're talking about throwing away some sizable portion of those instructions... and then refilling them... now, branch predition realy helps this a lot, but conditional branches are just one problem... the load/store units of cpus also typically introduce huge pipeline delays... i.e. you need to load blah[i] but that takes 2 or 3 cycles (even from cache!! dont even think about it if you need to go to main memory) so any instructions which use blah[i] must be scheduled at least 2-3 clock cycles aftewrads...

so without keen optimization and ideal software loads, suddenly your 1.4ghz chip is stalling 2-3 instructions all the time.. and its only running like a 400mhz proc :)

so, to make traditional cpus fast, pipelineing and multiple EUs have been added. these have drawbacks (and i'velisted some of pipelinings above).

the "vector" approach is totally different. you actually have "vector" registers, and "vector instructions". the machine actually sets up "virtual" pipelines for you. so on a vector machine, the scenario above would be more like:

vectorsize=64

xv = xv + 1

(assuming xv is the vector register with your 64 elements in it)

what the cray hardware does is hooks up the peices of its cpu in a virtual pipeline that does something like this:

foreach element of vx

load

inc

save

notice that the foreach construct looks like a loop, but its not realy, its pipelined, so what actually gets sent through looks like this

load i

inc i, load i+ 1

save i, inc i + 1, load i + 2

save i+1, inc i + 2, load i + 3

save i + 2, inc i + 3, load i + 4

save i + 3, inc i + 4, load i + 5

etc etc etc

except for fill and drain, the load, inc, and save hardware units are always perfectly utilized. there is no branching or conditional logic involved.

the example i've chosen is very trivial, and may be subject to huge factual or conceptual mistakes :) the cray's amazing speed only works in situations where the problem can be expressed in vector instructions, i.e. do the same thing to a fuckload of data in such a way that the cray's hardware can pipeline it efficiently..

there are lots of interesting problems that the cray did _not_ handle well.. but for what its worth, the vector processors in the cray 1 aren't significantly different in operation and instruction set than the SV1 of today.. by many measures, cray "got it right" originally. the SV1 of today might use a normal BGA packaging on a CMOS based process, (the cray1 used discrete ECL logic and point to point wiring - all strung together by little old minnesotan women)

also the original cray 1 ran at either 100 or 80mhz, could take 32mb of ram.... i.e. for the 1970s it was faster than any desktop workstation until the mid 90s...

note that the top500 list crays are usually the T3Es.. which are a totally different beast than the vector processor.. a T3E is just a bunch of alpha CPUs on a very fast interconnect.. sort of like a "custom cluster in a box".

Re:I know nothing of such high end hardware, but.. (1)

Bradmont (513167) | about 13 years ago | (#2131830)

Hey, thanks for the info! That's really cool! :)

Reader's Choice (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2139443)

96.1 FM - KLPX rocks Tucson!

MHz speed comparisons are not fair (0, Flamebait)

Tim Browse (9263) | about 13 years ago | (#2139772)

300MHz for the Cray may not seem much, but I bet if you ran some real-world benchmarks, like Photoshop filters, you'd find it was actually equivalent to an 800MHz Pentium, or perhaps even faster. Don't believe Intel's hype about MHz speeds!

Anyone have Photoshop for the Cray? Doesn't it come as part of the SPECmark suite now?

Tim

Re:MHz speed comparisons are not fair (1)

siliconinc.net (447486) | about 13 years ago | (#2125692)

Clock speed really doesnt count. Its an X86 thing. Sure, you can hit 1.6ghz on your P3 machine, but can you do 1.3 gigabytes (not bits) across the bus? A 8 year old SGI Challenge L can. Can your P3 outrun a MIPS 195mhz R10K on distnet? No, it cant. Clock speed is a marketing thing. Not a performance thing. If you really believe your lil P3 clock speed can compare... then why is that 300mhz Cray SV1 called a supercomputer and your P3 isnt? X86 is not the answer, its the question. Check into alternative architectures. You may be very pleasantly surprised.

Re:MHz speed comparisons are not fair (2)

GigsVT (208848) | about 13 years ago | (#2136925)

Can your P3 outrun a MIPS 195mhz R10K on distnet? No, it cant

Assuming you mean distributed.net, you are incorrect.

MIPS processors do not implement the bitrotate instruction in hardware that x86 does, that RC5 cracking relies so heavily on. We benchmarked a 4 processor Origin 2000 with MIPS chips running at 300Mhz and it came out around a celeron in keyrate even using all 4 processors.

So, while your point is correct, using distributed.net as an example with MIPS processors is not a good idea.

8MB are good (1)

revoid (513662) | about 13 years ago | (#2141525)

Quote:
The Cray 1 was installed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1976. It boasted a record speed of 160 MFLOPS (million floating operations per second) and an 8MB memory.
Well I guess back then I could have competed with my superior 0,5GB RAM I have now...

But I find it frustrating to see this overclock'd circuits unleashed just for science. It may make a decent and nice Quake server though :)

Re:8MB are good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2114421)

But I find it frustrating to see this overclock'd circuits unleashed just for science.

AARRRGH!

Heretic! All non-scientific use of this much computational power is like wasting food or keeping all your watertaps open day and night. Costs money and is completely useless.

Re:8MB are good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2116335)

I bet you're one of those guys who won't renice their calculations as everyone else and hog the CPU.

Then, when everyone else is at the same priority, you look at the top-list, track down other people who are using CPU time on the shared system and go around the campus telling these people that they have to renice their projects to a lower priority because YOUR project is so much more important.

Oh yeah, I know your type.

Re:8MB are good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2123680)

Great Your CPU has 512Meg of Memory cache you simply rocks

Re:8MB are good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2130070)

I guess it just goes to show how pathetic Los Alamos National Laboratory and friends really are. They act like smart arses with their big iron mastodonts, but today we realize how amazing is 8MB memory. *roll eyes*

Gratuitous MS Bash... (2, Funny)

dankjones (192476) | about 13 years ago | (#2141679)

I'll betch one of these suckers could crash windows in a couple o' microseconds.

I have to wait almost all day for it.

I just woke up and don't know what I've done (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2118909)

forgive and forget

We had a company party yesterday. I had fun from the start but from the point I became acquainted with Mr. Jameson I can't remember anything.

I just woke up in my own bed in my suit. The suit is crumbled and has some yellow stains in its front. No idea what those are.

My mouth tastes like a bunch of monkies shat in it last night, but what worries me the most is that I really don't remember a thing about the party or what happened after it. How the hell did I get home? Did I punch the boss? Did I make indencent proposals to a female co-worker? Am I to expect a sexual harassment suit on Monday? Oh shit...

Damn Slashdot ate my link (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2143044)

Mr. Jameson

Meaning of course him [jameson.ie] .

Re:I just woke up and don't know what I've done (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2146791)

Did I make indencent proposals to a female co-worker?

No. You porked that ugly shrew in the middle of the room. And she wasn't a co-worker, she was your boss' wife.

500 Fastest Computers In The World (5, Interesting)

robbyjo (315601) | about 13 years ago | (#2143219)

Visit here [top500.org] to view 500 fastest computers in the world as of June 2001. Cray is actually number 11. IBM ASCI White SP Power 3 is the king.

It's interesting to note that a beowulf cluster is also there (#42)

Re:500 Fastest Computers In The World (1)

Gumshoe (191490) | about 13 years ago | (#2127256)

Unless the situation has changed since I heard this, Cray is the only company where you can buy supercomputers commercially - that is, "off the shelf".

Customer: I want the big red one on page 42

Cray Salesperson: Cool choice! We'll start delivering it next week at noon...

Other machines may be faster, but they're as rare as hens teeth.

Re:500 Fastest Computers In The World (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2132162)

That's an interesting list. p It doesn't list any of the NSA monsters...

Re:500 Fastest Computers In The World (2, Insightful)

RussGarrett (90459) | about 13 years ago | (#2112287)

It does list some of them, they're just not classified under "Cracking International Terrorists' PGP Keys". There are a few under "Classified", and "Energy Research" seems to need an awful lot of computers....

Re:500 Fastest Computers In The World (2)

camusflage (65105) | about 13 years ago | (#2139179)

What I found interesting is that they say the top four computers are at .gov research facilities, doing "energy research" (90 MPG engines? Cold Fusion? heh), and others are with the army and air force. Kind of makes you wonder what is more sensitive than weapons research that earns the "classified" title.

Re:500 Fastest Computers In The World (1)

Captain Nitpick (16515) | about 13 years ago | (#2118874)

What I found interesting is that they say the top four computers are at .gov research facilities, doing "energy research" (90 MPG engines? Cold Fusion? heh)

Simulating nuclear weapons also falls under "energy research". And it also most certainly takes that kind of computing power. Just thought you should know.

Re:500 Fastest Computers In The World (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2137305)

"energy research" (90 MPG engines? Cold Fusion? heh)

nuclear weapons

~~~

Re:500 Fastest Computers In The World (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2158296)

Uh... if there's one word I hate to see in the context of the government it must be "Classified".

We need an open government, a free government, that believes in openness.

Re:500 Fastest Computers In The World (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2144296)

Way to go, Mulder!

You sure know about supercomputers. You're a Mac user afterall...

Re:500 Fastest Computers In The World (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2125442)

What the heck do you think "Government" Installation Sites for "Classified" Areas of Installation are? There are two of those in the top twenty alone.

Posting as AC because I work for a "Government" Contractor.

Re:500 Fastest Computers In The World (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2137814)

IBM ASCI White SP Power 3 is the king.

That's fucking racist! IBM names their fastest computer "White Power"?!! I'm calling for a boycott immediately!

Re:500 Fastest Computers In The World (2)

m2 (5408) | about 13 years ago | (#2138815)

A related site, which I find a bit more interesting, is the clusters database [top500.org] . Particularly noteworthy are three PC clusters that cross the teraflops line (peak performance, mind you, but still impressive).

Criteria used: (3, Funny)

Giant Hairy Spider (467310) | about 13 years ago | (#2144287)

  • Does it sound familiar when we fill in this blank: "____ Supercomputer," with the company name?
  • Bigness of numbers.
  • Number of words that we don't understand. (ji... ga... flop?)
  • Cool paint job.
  • Number of clever supercomputer jokes accumulated around the brand. (Apple used a Cray to design their chips, Cray used an Apple to design...)
  • How easily could we imagine the case of this computer as concealing a hostile intelligence?

Can you imagine... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2145342)

... a Beowulf cluster of these?

Thank you.

--Patrick Bateman, Esq.

A clustered J90 ... (1)

LL (20038) | about 13 years ago | (#2160532)

Hmmm, and here I was thinking that the SV1 was basically a cluster of J90s (admittedly with souped up processors ... lost track of whether they called them the S+ or SE now) and some rather beefy I/O. If you're looking at raw vector grunt, then the NEC SX series is rather impressive though supplies may not have resumed after that anti-dumping action was lifted. Cray has not really produced a top-end vector machine since their T90s and with the Japanese hell bent on their Whole Earth Simulator project (40 Tflops), I don't really see the US catching up anytime. And no, a beowulf of Itaniums don't count unless the problem is embarassingly parallel and your compiler cooperates.

Anyway, now that Cray has been purchased by Tera (the guys who developed that highly threaded CPU) it will be interesting to see their technical direction. In terms of processor development, theirs is the only vaguely interesting CPU that has reached the semi-commercialisation stage.

LL

Re:A clustered J90 ... (2)

Durinia (72612) | about 13 years ago | (#2142524)

The SV1 was built as an upgrade path for the J90 users, so they were somewhat compatable as far as board swapping, etc. goes.

Now keep in mind that the J90/SV1 is Cray's "budget" line...The SV2 (due out next year) is supposed to be a successor to both the T90 AND the T3E (its both vector and Mass Parallel).

I'm curious to see what happens with the Tera multithreading systems as well. The first few years I imagine they will just be bought as computing research machines. (so that people can see what they do)

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