12 Apr

New Oak Ridge supercomputer outperforms the old in a fraction of the space

    Enterprises may not need supercomputers, but regularly upgrading the computing gear they do use can improve speed and power consumption.

    The conventional wisdom is that you should update your IT gear, namely the servers, every three-to-five years, which is usually when service warranties run out. However, some companies hold onto their gear for longer than that for a variety of reasons: lack of funds, business uncertainty, on-premises versus the cloud, and so forth.

    And for a while, the CPU guys weren’t helping. New generations of processors were only incrementally faster than the old ones making it hard to justify an upgrade. The result was longer lifecycles for server hardware. A 2020 survey by IDC found 20.3% of respondents holding on to servers for six years and 12.4% keeping servers for seven years or more.

    The Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF), part of Oak Ridge National Labs, is among the latter group. In 2019, it decommissioned Titan, a supercomputer that had been deployed in 2012 but was now beyond obsolete with its antiquated CPUs.

    Crusher is a Mini Me version of Frontier, an exascale supercomputer due to be deployed this year or next. Both computers are based on the same hardware, but Crusher much smaller and serves as a testbed for applications that will eventually run on Frontier.

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