One of the key metrics we’ve been waiting for since AMD launched its Zen architecture was when it would re-enter the top 10 supercomputer list. The previous best AMD system, built on Opteron CPUs, was Titan, which held the #1 spot in 2012 but slowly dropped out of the top 10 by June 2019. Now, in June 2020, AMD scores a big win for its Zen 2 microarchitecture by getting to #7. But there’s a twist in this tale.
Measuring success by the TOP500 list is not so much for scoring revenue, but for scoring prestige. On the database are systems that were built over a decade ago, so a chance to put something into the list on the latest and greatest at a fraction of the size and power ends up being a big promotional opportunity for the company whose hardware is involved (as well as where it ends up being based). Obviously since AMD started introducing its new Zen-based processors, as a return to the high-end of performance after several years, we’ve been wondering how long it would take for a large scale AMD deployment.
AMD has had HPC success in the past, most notably with the Titan supercomputer, built on a mixture of Opteron 6274 CPUs paired with NVIDIA K20x accelerator cards. The machine hit #1 in 2012, and still sits at #12 today. This was a sizeable deployment, coming in at 17.6 PetaFLOPs for 8.2 MegaWatts.
Anand back in the day event went for a look around:
When it comes to AMD’s Zen designs, the two main CPUs we have to look for are Naples (1st Gen EPYC) and Rome (2nd Gen EPYC). That latter has been getting a lot of attention for having up to 64 high performance cores as well as a lot of memory bandwidth and heaps of connectivity for storage and add-in cards.
However, the first Zen system on the top 500 was technically neither of those.
The Hygon joint venture actually provided the first Zen based supercomputer to join the list in November 2018 at #38….