German Research Computer QPACE is the most energy efficient in the world

QPACE node card in front of four QPACE racks with 1024 of that nodes (photo: JSC).

The high-performance computer QPACE (QCD Parallel Computing on the Cell) is the most energy-efficient supercomputer in the world. It is the top entry on the Green500 list, which provides a global ranking of energy-efficient supercomputers. QPACE was developed by an academic consortium of universities and research centres as well as the German IBM research and development centre in Böblingen within the framework of a state-sponsored research association. The QPACE core team consists of about 20 scientists and developers. Within the consortium, headed by the University of Regensburg, the research centres DESY and Jülich have central responsibilities.

A number of scientists from DESY in Zeuthen contributed to this project. They headed the design activities and made contributions including development and implementation of the logics for a new user-optimised network, as well as design and production of a management card for the global control of the machine. For this purpose, the collaborators made use of their experience gained in previous projects for the development of massively-parallel computers.

QPACE was deployed in mid 2009 with four racks each at the Research Centre Jülich and at the University of Wuppertal. It is used for the simulation of fundamental forces in elementary particle physics, especially in the research area of quantum chromodynamics (QCD). QCD describes, for example, how a proton is made up out of quarks and gluons. QPACE is being used by members of the Collaborative Research Center/ Transregio 55 “Hadron Physics from Lattice QCD,” which is located at the Universities of Regensburg and Wuppertal and supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

For a long time, in the world of supercomputers performance was solely associated with speed. This notion led to the development of computers that use enormous amounts of energy. Energy efficiency was usually ignored. With the scarcity of natural resources and energy awareness rising over the past years this aspect gained importance for the development of supercomputers. Along with the Top500 list of the fastest computers, the Green500 list of supercomputers with the least energy use emerged as criterion for the rating and ranking of computer performance. Both lists are updated and presented twice a year at the international Supercomputing conference. In the Top500 list, QPACE ranks110 with a computing power of 55.71 teraflops.

The members of the QPACE team of researchers are the University of Regensburg, DESY and the Research Centre Jülich, the University of Wuppertal, the University of Ferrara (Italy), the University of Milan-Bicocca (Italy) as well as the companies IBM, Eurotech, Knürr, Zollner and Xilinx.

The DFG as well as the states of Bavaria and North Rhine Westphalia fund QPACE with approximately three million Euros. The development costs are distributed between the consortium and IBM. Additional subsidies within the framework of the eQPACE project of the European research initiative PRACE (Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe) serve to develop a more general communications structure.

More information on Green500-Ranking: