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Cell Phone Chips Help Build Spanish Supercomputer

Supercomputers have a problem when it comes to energy, but it is a problem that the Barcelona Supercomputer Center in Spain believes it may have a solution to.  The steady evolution of supercomputers could be in jeopardy because of the problem, as if they keep on their current track, by the end of this decade, it could take the kind of energy used by an entire town to power them.

The Barcelona Supercomputer Center, however, thinks that it can resolve the issue by making use of the low power chip architecture that is used in so many of the world’s tablets and smartphones.  The Center has signed a new deal with chipmaker NVIDIA in order to manufacture a supercomputer using the firm’s Tegra cell phone CPUs, which make use of the ARM architecture.  If successful, those processors could end up replacing the x86 Intel-compatible processors that currently power the great majority of the supercomputers around today.

“ARM comes from the embedded world where you start with a power limit first”, says the manager of the NVIDIA business unit known as Tesla High Performance GPU Computing, Sumit Gupta.  The Barcelona Supercomputer Center is set to show off its ARM-based design at this week’s SC11 Conference in Seattle in the United States. It intends to demonstrate that the system will result in a four to ten-fold improvement in terms of energy efficiency, when compared to the majority of today’s best supercomputers, within three years.