Kolob—First Supercomputer based on Graphical Processing Units at Heidelberg University

4 11 2008
With a theoretical peak speed of 17 Teraflop/s (17000 billion floating point operations per second) is kolob among the 150 fastest computers in the world
Since September 2008 kolob, the first computing cluster based on graphic cards, is operational at the Center for Computer Engineering (ZITI) of Heidelberg University. Graphic cards (=GPU: graphical processing units) offer a huge power for parallel computing tasks, which accelerates traditional processors, as they are used in standard PCs. One GPU performs up to 128 operations at the same time. Such powerful GPUs have been originally developed to accelerate graphical performance of computer games. Meanwhile they are getting more and more importance for those scientific computing tasks, which require highest computing speeds. Its theoretical computational power of 17 Teraflop/s put kolob among the fastest 150 computers in the world.

The kolob compute cluster is a joint project of Center for Astronomy (Zentrum für Astronomie, ZAH) at Heidelberg University (Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics ITA and Astronomical Computing Institute ARI (Institut für Theoretische Astrophysik, Astronomisches Rechen-Institut) with ZITI. The astronomical institutes will perform their numerical simulations on star formation and evolution of stellar clusters on the GPU cluster. Computing gravitational forces, which is one of the dominant forces in astrophysical processes, is very efficiently accelerated on GPUs.

Using GPUs for numerical computations has seen a recent breakthrough due to a publicly available programming language and interface (CUDA) developed by the graphic card producer NVIDIA. NVIDIA is our project partner providing assistance with support and hardware. Previously, acceleration of astrophysical computations has been done on special hardware developed at the University of Tokyo (GRAPE). The new GPU technology will supersede these in the future due to its broader applicability and higher performance, at lower price.

With the use of GPU technology Heidelberg astronomers belong to a small international group of early adopters from a couple of disciplines. Scientists at ZITI and the astronomical institutes therefore invest their efforts to pave the way for other scientists to use this relatively cost-efficient supercomputing technology, using their national and international collaborations. The project is partly supported by the German federal and state governments’ excellence initiative under the frontier innovation fund of Heidelberg University.

Technical Information on kolob:
40x2 Xeon Quadcore 2.33 GHz, Gflop/s: 37.28 each, total: 2.98 Tflop/s
40x Tesla C870 128 floating point processor cores, Gflop/s: 350 each, total 14 Tflop/s
Combines System: 5440 cores, 17 Tflop/s.

Please direct questions to:
Dr. Robi Banerjee
Institut für Theoretische Astrophysik
am Zentrum für Astronomie der
Universität Heidelberg
Albert-Ueberle-Str. 2
69120 Heidelberg
phone  06221 548967, fax 544221

Further Project Partners:
Prof. Dr. Ralf Klessen, ITA-ZAH
Prof. Dr. Reinhard Männer, ZITI
Prof. Dr. Rainer Spurzem, ARI-ZAH

More general inquires from journalists should be addressed to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Public Information Officer
Heidelberg University
phone 06221 542310, fax 542317

Irene Thewalt
phone 06221 542310, fax 542317
Editor: Email
zum Seitenanfang/up