Tianhe-1A supercomputer breaks world record with NVIDIA GPUs

The Chinese supercomputer Tianhe-1A has been putting NVIDIA's Tesla GPUs to good use: using them to create the world's fastest supercomputer.  A whopping 50-percent faster than the previous record holder, Tianhe-1A scores 2.507 petaflops in LINPACK benchmarking despite being half the size of a regular supercomputer.

That's because the NVIDIA GPUs can each be set to work doing the task of several equivalent CPUs.  In fact, 7,168 Tesla M2050 GPUs (along with 14,336 CPUs) have been harnessed, which its creators, the National University of Defense Technology, reckon would normally require over 50,000 regular CPUs and double the floor space.  It's also a more power-efficient setup, consuming "only" 4.04 megawatts – a third the consumption of a regular machine.

As for what the Chinese plan to do with Tianhe-1A, they're going to run it as an open access system for large scale scientific computations.

Press Release:

NVIDIA Tesla GPUs Power World's Fastest Supercomputer

Half the Size, Lower Power and 50% Faster Than World's Top Supercomputer

The Tianhe-1A Supercomputer, located at National Supercomputer Center, Tianjin

SANTA CLARA, CA — (Marketwire) — 10/28/2010 — Tianhe-1A, a new supercomputer revealed today at HPC 2010 China, has set a new performance record of 2.507 petaflops, as measured by the LINPACK benchmark, making it the fastest system in China and in the world today(1).

Tianhe-1A epitomizes modern heterogeneous computing by coupling massively parallel GPUs with multi-core CPUs, enabling significant achievements in performance, size and power. The system uses 7,168 NVIDIA® Tesla™ M2050 GPUs and 14,336 CPUs; it would require more than 50,000 CPUs and twice as much floor space to deliver the same performance using CPUs alone.

More importantly, a 2.507 petaflop system built entirely with CPUs would consume more than 12 megawatts. Thanks to the use of GPUs in a heterogeneous computing environment, Tianhe-1A consumes only 4.04 megawatts, making it 3 times more power efficient — the difference in power consumption is enough to provide electricity to over 5000 homes for a year.

Tianhe-1A was designed by the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) in China. The system is housed at National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin and is already fully operational.

"The performance and efficiency of Tianhe-1A was simply not possible without GPUs," said Guangming Liu, chief of National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin. "The scientific research that is now possible with a system of this scale is almost without limits; we could not be more pleased with the results."

The Tianhe-1A supercomputer will be operated as an open access system to use for large scale scientific computations.

"GPUs are redefining high performance computing," said Jen-Hsun Huang, president and CEO of NVIDIA. "With the Tianhe-1A, GPUs now power two of the top three fastest computers in the world today. These GPU supercomputers are essential tools for scientists looking to turbocharge their rate of discovery."

NVIDIA Tesla GPUs, based on the CUDA™ parallel computing architecture, are designed specifically for high performance computing (HPC) environments and deliver transformative performance increases across a wide range of HPC fields, including drug discovery, hurricane and tsunami modeling, cancer research, car design, even studying the formation of galaxies.

For more information on NVIDIA Tesla high performance GPU computing products, go here


NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA) awakened the world to the power of computer graphics when it invented the GPU in 1999. Since then, it has consistently set new standards in visual computing with breathtaking, interactive graphics available on devices ranging from tablets and portable media players to notebooks and workstations. NVIDIA's expertise in programmable GPUs has led to breakthroughs in parallel processing which make supercomputing inexpensive and widely accessible. The Company holds more than 1,600 patents worldwide, including ones covering designs and insights that are essential to modern computing. For more information, see www.nvidia.com.