Author(s): Oraye Godspower, V.I.E Anireh
Approaches to supercomputer architecture have taken dramatic turns since the earliest systems were introduced in the 1960s. Early supercomputer architectures pioneered by Seymour Cray relied on compact innovative designs and local parallelism to achieve superior computational peak performance. However, in time the demand for increased computational power ushered in the age of massively parallel systems. While the supercomputers of the 1970s used only a few processors, in the 1990s, machines with thousands of processors began to appear and by the end of the 20th century, massively parallel supercomputers with tens of thousands of "off-the-shelf" processors were the norm. Supercomputers of the 21st century can use over 100,000 processors (some being graphic units) connected by fast connections. Throughout the decades, the management of heat density has remained a key issue for most centralized supercomputers. The large amount of heat generated by a system may also have other effects, such as reducing the lifetime of other system components. There have been diverse approaches to heat management, from pumping Fluorinert through the system, to a hybrid liquid-air cooling system or air cooling with normal air conditioning temperatures. Systems with a massive number of processors generally take one of two paths: in one approach, e.g., in grid computing the processing power of a large number of computers in distributed, diverse administrative domains, is opportunistically used whenever a computer is available. In another approach, a large number of processors are used in close proximity to each other, e.g., in a computer cluster. In such a centralized massively parallel system the speed and flexibility of the interconnect becomes very important, and modern supercomputers have used various approaches ranging from enhanced Infiniband systems to threedimensional torus interconnects.