Nvidia's ARM chips power supercomputer

The Barcelona Supercomputing Center will deploy the first ARM-based CPU/GPU hybrid supercomputer based on Nvidia chips. Nvidia also announces a joint supercomputer deployment with Cray.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
Barcelona Supercomputing Center.
Barcelona Supercomputing Center is located in a former chapel. Barcelona Supercomputing Center.

Nvidia's Tegra chips will for the first time power a supercomputer--more evidence that ARM is movin' on up into Intel territory.

The chipmaker said today the Barcelona Supercomputing Center is developing a new hybrid supercomputer that, for the first time, combines energy-efficient Nvidia Tegra CPUs (central processing units), based on the ARM chip architecture, with Nvidia's graphics processing units (GPUs).

The supercomputing center plans to develop a system that is two to five times more energy-efficient compared with today's efficient high-performance computing systems. Most of today's supercomputers use Intel processors.

"In most current systems, CPUs alone consume the lion's share of the energy, often 40 percent or more," Alex Ramirez, leader of the Mont-Blanc Project at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, said in a statement. "By comparison, the Mont-Blanc architecture will rely on energy-efficient compute accelerators and ARM processors...to achieve a 4- to 10-times increase in energy-efficiency by 2014."

A development kit will feature a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU accelerated by a discrete Nvidia GPU. It is expected to be available in the first half of 2012.

Nvidia also announced today that the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is deploying a Cray supercomputer accelerated by Nvidia's Tesla GPUs. That's part of the Blue Waters project to build one of the world's most powerful computer systems.