NVIDIA-powered computers break Pi calculation record

Craig Lloyd - Mar 15, 2013, 10:20 am CDT
NVIDIA-powered computers break Pi calculation record

Yesterday was Pi Day, and to celebrate the yearly occasion, you no doubt tried your hardest to recite Pi to as many decimal places as you could. Of course, most of us probably couldn’t get past the first few decimal places, but there was one person who could, thanks to a set of computers powered by a handful of NVIDIA graphics cards.

Santa Clara University researcher Ed Karrels ended up breaking the world record for computing digits of Pi to eight quadrillion places to the right of the decimal point. Karrels used graphics cards to do the work rather than CPUs, and he spread the work across three different computers: one with four NVIDIA GTX 690 cards, one with two NVIDIA GTX 680 cards, and 24 computers at the Santa Clara University Design Center with one NVIDIA GTX 570 card each.

The calculation took 35 days to complete, from December 19 to January 22, beating out the previous held by a team at Yahoo, who used 1,000 CPU-only computers, which took 23 days to compute Pi to two-quadrillion places, just a quarter of what Karrels’s setup achieved. After the 35-day run, Karrels conducted a second run to double-check the math, which took just 26 days using newer versions of his programming tools.

Karrels will speak at the GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, California next Tuesday, where he’ll be explaining the math behind the Pi calculation achievement, as well as the programming tricks he used, as well as the logistics of conducting supercomputing tasks on a budget.

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