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Supercomputing The Internet

BOINC Exceeds 2 Petaflop/s Barrier 114

Posted by kdawson
from the faster-faster-for-science dept.
Myrrh writes "Though an official announcement has not yet been made, it would appear that the BOINC project as a whole has exceeded two petaflop/s performance. The top page features this legend: '24-hour average: 2,793.53 TeraFLOPS.' According to last month's Top500 list of supercomputers, BOINC's performance is now beating that of the fastest supercomputer, RoadRunner, by more than a factor of two (with the caveat that BOINC has not been benchmarked on Linpack)."
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BOINC Exceeds 2 Petaflop/s Barrier

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  • Finally! (Score:5, Funny)

    by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @03:08PM (#28694723) Homepage Journal

    BOINC finally has enough computing power to handle Vista Ultimate and a few applications!

  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @03:08PM (#28694725)

    We could make T-shirts saying "Computer scientists BOINC faster", but I not sure that sends the right message.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      BOINCing computer scientists: now petaphiles x2!

    • by Shakrai (717556)

      We could make T-shirts saying "Computer scientists BOINC faster", but I not sure that sends the right message.

      Most women who've slept with computer scientists would agree that they are pretty fast ;)

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by modecx (130548)

        Most women who've slept with computer scientists would agree that they are pretty fast ;)

        On the plus side, they know how to press the right buttons. Or, so I'm told.

    • by mrgiles (872216)
      Actually, Sir, it's pronounced Beyonk
    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      "Grid volunteers do it in groups of 571,534"

  • by gubers33 (1302099) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @03:09PM (#28694735)
    That'll do
  • anyone?? =)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by XPeter (1429763) *

      ?? The article is clearly talking about super computers not operating systems, silly.

  • A good question to ask is how many kWh were consumed for that computing output.

    Since they know what CPUs are running on every BOINC client and the thermal power of them are generally known, it should be possible to calculate...

    • I doubt it needs to run for long to reach its maximum FLOPS.
    • Nothing. BOINC requires no CO2 to operate.

      It could just as easily be run on computers powered by nuclear or solar power, producing no CO2 (past initial construction).

      Why does CO2 have to be the end-all-be-all of everything? Why not ask how much coal dust or mercury is now in the atmosphere thanks to the plants that power most of those computers.

      • by brunes69 (86786)

        I think the main point of the OP is BIONIC is using idle time, which means every second that BIONIC is running is a second your PC could be sleeping in S3 suspend.

        Frankly I wonder if everyone running BIONIC relaisezes this... as if they live in an average US State it is basically costing them $10+ / month to run the thing for every PC it is on 24/7.

        • I'm aware. My point is that I'm tired of "but how much CO2 does it generate?" being tacked on to everything because it's the current fad question.

          The coming ice-age was a science disaster fad. So was the coming overpopulation and world famine. And the ozone holes that would cause everyone to get skin cancer. And....

          There are more important questions. Much of this energy would be used anyway, but it would be in centralized supercomputers. This way though it's cheaper for the scientists so we can get more research done, even though it's slightly less efficient.

          I'm just really tired about CO2 being discussed attached to everything. "Should I buy new shoes?" "Well, the CO2 produced from rubber is... and.... but...".

          • by vadim_t (324782)

            And the ozone holes that would cause everyone to get skin cancer

            Duh, we're not getting skin cancer because we actually fixed the problem.

            1. We discovered a problem: The ozone hole. We found it before it got large enough to start causing really big problems.
            2. Predictions were made of what would happen if it continued getting bigger, and the potential consequences were unpleasant.
            3. Actions were taken to correct the situation.
            4. That made things a lot better. It's not been eliminated, but at least it's on th

          • Sorry to quibble, but I can't help it!

            I'm aware. My point is that I'm tired of "but how much CO2 does it generate?" being tacked on to everything because it's the current fad question.

            Fair enough, the answer has such a large range of possible answers that it is meaningless.

            The coming ice-age was a science disaster fad.

            Well there were a few papers [realclimate.org] on the subject. But it was more speculation than accepted scientific consensus. Would you rather all scientist in a field focus on one thing, or explore every conceivable angle?

            So was the coming overpopulation and world famine.

            Well I can't easily believe the Earth can harbour 6.7 billion people with the level of affluence that the west have. Something has to give, either quality of life or population.

        • There are a few things though, for one, many people live in apartments where all utilities are paid for (excluding cable and telphone service but including electricity) and for another, to most of us, $10 more or less on our powerbill doesn't really matter in the end because we allocate funds already for that.
          • by Chabo (880571)

            Plus in colder climates the cost of electricity for running the computer is directly offset by the amount saved on using other sources of heat, whether they be electric, oil-based, or gas-based.

            At my parents' house in New Hampshire, my bedroom regularly got to 45 degrees in the winter if the door was closed and no electronics were on, because my room was across the house from the furnace. I'd turn on my computer, overclock my video card, and play games until my room temperature was closer to 60F. Overnight,

      • It could just as easily be run on computers powered by nuclear or solar power, producing no CO2 (past initial construction).

        Maybe for solar, but in both cases that initial construction is not an insignificant caveat, and in the case of Nuclear, cleanup and waste storage bears significant costs.

        CO2 is the end-all-be-all because the science is well established and reasonably convincing. Also, most things that generate coal dust or Mercury tend to generate CO2 as a byproduct.

        Personally, I tend to just straight

        • by MBCook (132727)

          It doesn't matter than nuclear energy has possible waste disposal issues. My point is that discussing the CO2 output caused by this project is useless. The question is how much energy is wasted, not how much CO2 is created.

          We just happen to be on a kind of energy that frees previously trapped CO2. We could be mostly on one that produces radioactive waste, or one that uses up silicon (solar), or ones that cool down the earth (hydrothermal, to the teeny-tiny degree it does).

          If we are going to discuss the ener

          • by PitaBred (632671)
            Why do you keep saying "waste"? It's not like they're just running Prime95 or SuperPi or whatever. They're calculating things for various scientific simulations and models and such. Are you saying that simulation has no value? That you'd rather, say, set off nuclear bombs to test them instead of modeling them in software?

            If anything's a waste, it's the electrons you used in your post.
            • by MBCook (132727)

              I'm arguing on the theory that it's causes more waste (i.e. CO2, nuclear waste, coal ash, etc.) than if the computer was idle.

              I don't think it's neccessarily a waste. In this comment [slashdot.org] I mention that this "waste" may mean scientists can get more research done for the same money and in less time, which may be a net benefit to society.

              I don't really think it's that wasteful. I used to run SETI@Home on all my computers. But if someone complains about the excess CO2 released due to software like this, I figure th

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Since they know what CPUs are running on every BOINC client and the thermal power of them are generally known, it should be possible to calculate...

      That only counts CPU usage. It doesn't count I/O, which would at least include memory I/O, disk I/O, network I/O.

    • by Chabo (880571) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @03:19PM (#28694859) Homepage Journal

      I can guarantee that several orders of magnitude more kWh are consumed by computers that are needlessly on and idle.

      Running BOINC on a computer that's sitting idle helps improve its energy efficiency. It may be consuming electricity, but at least then it's doing something.

      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        Makes me wonder...
        As far as I know, typical CPU's consume energy in steps; there is no difference between a CPU that's idle (i.e. just running the OS) and one that's doing just a tiny bit more than idle.
        Wouldn't it be possible to create a grid computing client that just does as much processing as possible without the CPU going into the next "step"?
        It'd be very low performance compared to current clients, but then again it would consume no additional energy whatsoever.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        BOINC pretty much ensures the processor isn't idling, its using the processor constantly, which is drastically different than an idle state, but thanks for looking at it from a completely ignorant point of view.

        My PC doing nothing uses less electricity than my PC running BOINC, please explain to me with that in mind how it 'improves efficiency' of what you are calling idle processors. You can't, a processor running BOINC simply isn't idle.

        • and thanks for showing your complete ignorance of the word "efficiency"...

          if i use 100 watts and produce NOTHING, i am LESS efficient than if i use 1,000,000 watts and produce ANYTHING.

          of course you could argue that an idle machine saves you boot-up time, etc...

          but something thats left on overnight of for several hours while you're out for a long lunch - having the machine achieve ANYTHING is that time is hugely more efficient than something that produces NOTHING.

          and yes, i agree with you, energy use wo
        • by Chabo (880571)

          wisdom_brewing said pretty much everything I would, but I'll add a car analogy:

          A Ferrari F430 is not a terribly efficient car, but if you use up a whole gallon of gasoline going to the store 2 miles away, that's inefficient, but still more efficient than pouring only a pint of gasoline on your driveway and lighting it with a match. Less consumption does not equal better efficiency.

          Here's a rewording of my original statement, to counteract your sarcasm:
          "Running BOINC on a computer that would otherwise be s

    • by wjh31 (1372867) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @03:21PM (#28694875) Homepage
      half a million computers, times a couple of hundred watts would gives ~10MW which is about 4 blue whales or 3 diesel locomotives http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orders_of_magnitude_(power)#megawatt_.28106_watts.29 [wikipedia.org]
      • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @03:31PM (#28694975) Journal
        That's ridiculous, why would you use ~4 BW or ~3 DLs when you could use 1 POOT (Power Output Of Togo). BOINC uses about 1 POOT.

        Surely we can reduce the inefficiency, and POOT less.

        Why are we using a distributed system of energy-inefficient comPOOTers?

        The big question is, how many cow farts would we need to harvest to produce one POOT of energy?
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Em Emalb (452530)

          Haven't you heard? The POOT is out as a measure of energy. People in the know(TM) these days are using the FART. (Free African Republic of Tonga)

          I understand that Taco Bell has chosen to support the FART as well. Something to consider. The POOT's reign has come to an end. Long live the FART.

        • god damnit you are funny.
        • sumofabitch - that was funny! I can't stop laughing!!
          • sumofabitch - that was funny! I can't stop laughing!!

            Just goes to show...

            Even on a decidedly intellectual discussion site, a decent fart joke still blows them away.

    • by nweaver (113078) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @03:25PM (#28694923) Homepage

      Lets say a typical computer running BOINC contributes 1 GFlop at 100W (1e2W). So at 2e6 GFlops, tats 2e8W or 2e5 kW.

      According to the energy department, we can assume that 1.4 pounds of CO2 per KWh, so that says BOINC is at ~3e5 pounds/hour of CO2, or about 140 tons/hour of CO2.

      I get a very similar number if I back of the envelope what a coal plant should be based on ~500 tons/1 GW.

      http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/page/co2_report/co2report.html [doe.gov]

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        CO2 ratings like this are retarded. As long as I keep seeing measurements in the form of weight rather than mass, I'm going to continue to think of everyone who talks about it as blabbering idiots.

        140 tons where? At the surface of the planet or higher up in the atmosphere where it 'weighs' less? A cubic (insert whatever measurement you'd like) at sea level weighs differently than one in Death Valley or one on the ISS.

        I might start listening when you start using proper forms of measurement for what you ar

        • by Jedi Alec (258881)

          CO2 ratings like this are retarded. As long as I keep seeing measurements in the form of weight rather than mass, I'm going to continue to think of everyone who talks about it as blabbering idiots.

          140 tons where? At the surface of the planet or higher up in the atmosphere where it 'weighs' less? A cubic (insert whatever measurement you'd like) at sea level weighs differently than one in Death Valley or one on the ISS.

          I might start listening when you start using proper forms of measurement for what you are m

    • The irony that climate models usually require super computers to run in a timely manner is not lost on me.

    • Once that's done, we can do a comparative analysis of CO2 of all the machines machines running WoW (factoring in the increased power draw of a machine with a higher end video card, plus increased disk & memory I/O compared to a machine running BOINC). I'd be willing to be the BOINC 24x7x365 number works out to be smaller, or at least on par with a WoW machine going 4 hours a night several times a week.

      Waste is, and will always be, a relative term.

      • by maxume (22995)

        The amount of energy consumed by 'comfort' degrees of heating and cooling would be far larger (That is, people don't really need to heat their house to 75 F in the winter and cool it to 70 F in the summer, but they do).

    • Are the emissions really because of BOINC? I thought part of their selling point was that it uses computing power that your computer was going to waste on a screen-saver anyways.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mhaskell (658865)

      Actually I run the Linpack HPL here at the lab, once with two clusters (one 228 nodes 4cpus x 4cores each x 4 float ops per cycle, and one 1152 node cluster of the same AMD configuration) we hit 1.069 MegaWatts and I started peeling the paint off of a huge transformer in the basement. I had to do one at a time. Linpack is a power pig with double precision floating point if your cpu/thread/mpi balance is correct.

  • Still far behind... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @03:17PM (#28694823)

    Folding@home [wikipedia.org], which has passed 5 petaflops on February. Note that Folding is a single project, while the Petaflop measurement for BOINC are the aggregate total for that platform, which runs many independent and often unrelated projects.

    Getting that thing bundled on PS3 was brilliant.

    • Also, newer (as in I'm not sure how far back it goes) versions of ATI/AMD's Catalyst drivers and control center installation defaults to installing Folding@Home. So when a PC gamer new to building their own PC goes with ATI, figure 1/4 don't bother to check what's going in the installation, and increasing the number of machines with Folding@Home...
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Okomokochoko (1490679)
      The Folding@home nVidia/ATI GPU clients are even more important: F@H Client Statistics [stanford.edu]. By themselves, they account for roughly 3/4 of the project's FLOPS count.
  • Botnets (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bigredradio (631970) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @03:18PM (#28694849) Homepage Journal
    I wonder what the computing power is of some of the larger botnets. They are not likely to be listed in the "Top500".
  • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @03:38PM (#28695029)

    BOINC uses 571,534 computers. The indirect cost of supporting and maintaing the software, hardware, etc is borne by the volunteers but it still has to be paid.

    Additionally, they claim it uses between $3 and $8 a month extra in energy in the US*, and double to triple that in Europe.

    * This number is poorly derived. They based it on an 'average' electrical rate in the US, e.g. it looks like they added up all the rates and divided by 50. The average American however pays more than the average rate, because the majority live in the dense states where electricity costs most. Florida, New York, Caifornia, etc vs the relatively tiny populations in North Dakota where electricity is cheap.

    Further, I'm confident that the skew is weighted towards broadband users, which further skews things away from rural North Dakota where electricity is cheap.

    Further, they fail to account the extra cooling required as a result of generating more heat. Granted in -some- places where you need more heat this will offset your heating bill in your favor, but again, most people are clustered in areas that require more cooling than heating.

    So, bottom line, I'd say their assessment of electrical costs is on the low side.

    For the sake of argument, lets say it averaged out to 10$/mo. (Including europe.) What kind of computing power could you build and run with $5.7M/month.

    Especially when you have the freedom to install it where you want, and factoring in that industrial electricity is cheaper than residential. With a $68M/year budget, could you beat boinc?

    • Do you think you could get more than half a million people to pay to you $10 per month each?

      • by PitaBred (632671)
        Depends on what you did with the money. People are willing to do so because the money comes directly out of their pocket, while the only thing that BOINC/Folding@Home/etc. get is data. People are more charitable when they know you aren't gonna waste their generosity on hookers and blow.
    • by Pichu0102 (916292)

      You easily could, but you're not the one paying the (processing, at least) electric bills, and the huge cost is spread out over hundreds of thousands of contributors, so while it really uses a huge amount of electricity and money, the average user running it is only going to see a relatively small increase in cost of electricity, making it that much more likely that they'll contribute, whereas you'd be pretty hard pressed to find a way to get 68 million for any reason.

    • by RobVB (1566105)

      I think people are more likely to contribute to BOINC and spend 10$/month extra on electricity and cooling than actually pay 10$/month to contribute to research. I bet a lot of people who contribute to BOINC didn't even think about the higher electricity bill.

      Your arguments are all valid, it's just that from a marketing point of view I think BOINC has an advantage.

      • by vux984 (928602)

        it's just that from a marketing point of view I think BOINC has an advantage.

        I agree. But I find it ... unethical. People wouldn't pay for this if they were presented a dollar amount up front that said "this is what it costs, please pay it." but they will pay it if you can have it silently lumped in with there electricity bill, where they can't see it.

        On an ethical level, how can these 'volunteers' really be giving informed consent, when most of them are unaware or barely aware that they are being charged o

  • by SpaFF (18764) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @03:43PM (#28695091) Homepage

    According to last month's Top500 list of supercomputers, BOINC's performance is now beating that of the fastest supercomputer, RoadRunner, by more than a factor of two (with the caveat that BOINC has not been benchmarked on Linpack)

    Sigh...why do these projects (BOINC, *@home, etc.) insist on comparing their performance to superpercomputers on the TOP500 list? Of course BOINC has not been benchmarked on Linpack. If it was, the performance wouldn't come close to anything at the top of the TOP500 list. A bunch of workstations running a grid client and talking to each other over the internet is never going to have the same type of message passing bandwidth as a supercomputer using something like locally connected infiniband.

    • by NiteMair (309303)

      Worse, for all we know, some of those TOP500 computers *are* part of BOINC... making BOINC ineligible for comparison.

      BOINC is the software, not the computer.

    • by SETIGuy (33768)
      I am unaware of any BOINC project that actually does make such a comparison. People unaffiliated with the projects often do, however.

      And if you actually find someone from a project that does make a claim of their total floating point performance, please ask them how they calculated the number of floating point calculations their application does. Chances are that their number is high by a factor of 10. (See my post elsewhere in this discussion titled "Not really 2 PetaFLOP/s")
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @03:51PM (#28695187)

    This is NOT a supercomputer. This is a cluster, and a very slow cluster at that. It seems like people think that anything fast is a "supercomputer" and as techies, we ought to know better.

    What makes a supercomputer "super" is its internode communication. You have extremely fast links so that, in theory, any node can access the memory from any other node as it would its own local memory. Now in reality there are some performance penalties, but still. Basically you really have created one large computer, rather than tons of small ones.

    This is a cluster, which is as the name implies just a bunch of little computers networked in some fashion working on the same problem. That's great, but not the same thing. The nodes do not have high speed communication, some may even be on modems and only connected occasionally.

    Now, why does this matter? Well it depends on the problem you are trying to solve. Some problems need very little communication. A good example would be cracking cryptography. You just divide up the keyspace among all your nodes. There's also very little data to send back and forth. You send you the problem, consisting of the encrypted message to the nodes, and then all the communication from this on is:

    Node: Didn't find the key.
    Controller: Ok try this range.
    Node: Ok.

    As such link speed of the cluster can be very slow. Well other problems still work in a clustered environment, but need higher link speeds like gig Ethernet. 3D rendering would be an example. All the nodes can act independent, they are just divided up on frames to render, or parts of a frame or whatever. However since the problem and results are much larger in this case, they need faster communication to make it practical. A modem won't cut it for transferring images that are 50MB each when you are rendering thousands.

    However, there are other problems where there is heavy inter node communication. A particle simulation would be like this. Since what happens with one particle affects all others, nodes have to chat continuously. For this, you need a supercomputer. The bandwidth of links must be extremely high and the latency must be extremely low, or else processor power will be wasted just waiting on getting the data that is needed.

    So just because something has a lot of CPUs and can crunch a lot of numbers, doesn't make it a supercomputer.

    • by Dirtside (91468) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @04:03PM (#28695365) Journal

      So just because something has a lot of CPUs and can crunch a lot of numbers, doesn't make it a supercomputer.

      There's no reason "supercomputer" needs to only refer to monolithic machines with high-speed interprocess communication, merely because it has primarily meant that in the past.

      • So just because something has a lot of CPUs and can crunch a lot of numbers, doesn't make it a supercomputer.

        There's no reason "supercomputer" needs to only refer to monolithic machines with high-speed interprocess communication, merely because it has primarily meant that in the past.

        Yes there is.

      • If any cluster is a supercomputer, then just get rid of the term supercomputer and be done with it.

        Also there IS a reason, and that is because, as I mentioned, only certain kinds of problems can be solved by a cluster. Thus it becomes an important distinction. Is this a cluster or a supercomputer? If your application requires a supercomputer, you don't want to get duped in to buying a cluster that is being called a "supercomputer" that won't handle your app.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dtfusion (658871)
        Well, you're both wrong. You can't simply redefine the terms to win your argument and the term supercomputer doesn't necessarily refer to computer cores networked by a high speed interconnect. Come to think of it, the original post is absurd, because there is no way BOINC could run LINPACK which is the measure of the TOP500 rankings anyway. LINPACK stresses communication performance as well as scalar processor performance. BOINC would probably be slower than my desktop for that purpose. Like a lot of these
      • The specificity in the language exists to fill a need. Some people need to be able to succinctly identify the difference between a cluster and a supercomputer. If you don't need to then just don't worry about it, but that doesn't mean that there's no reason.
    • 82% solution (Score:2, Insightful)

      by symbolset (646467)
      Strangely enough 410 of the supercomputers listed in the top500, or 82% are of architecture type "cluster".
  • I think there's an untapped resource that's wide open for a non-profit organization to utilize that puts homeless or unemployed people to work powering computers. Imagine a company that sets up row after row of electric generating treadmills that homeless or unemployed people are given a cursory medical examination (blood pressure and heart rate), sign a waiver and generate electricity on treadmills that power computers. Like donating blood, the program participants can return again and again and like a c
    • by mrsurb (1484303)
      ... and then we're one step closer to "The Matrix".
    • by necro81 (917438)
      Alas, the economics of this are unlikely to pan out.

      A fit human can produce somewhere between 150 and 300 watts continuously, with perhaps the occassional excursion to higher. (In contrast, one horsepower is approximately 750 W.) So, in a day, a person might be able to pump out 1-2 kWh, which on the wholesale electrical market might fetch a whopping $0.10. If the company is clever, they'd store and release that power during peak demand, in which case they might get twice that. Could you live on $0.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I will have a podcast with the creator of Boinc out this Saturday at midnight (EDT) at http://rce-cast.com

  • Well, you know what they say... Scientific progress goes BOINC.
  • Barrier? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by necro81 (917438) on Tuesday July 14, 2009 @05:27PM (#28696601) Journal
    Was there some sort of fundamental, theoretical limit that could have made getting to 2 petaflop difficult or impossible? Did a graph of BOINC computer power vs time ramp up from zero, stall around 2 PFLOP, and only now punch through? Did the administrators have to come up with some sort of breakthrough or new insight to reach this mark? Two PFLOP is just a round number - is it really any different from 1.9 or 2.1?

    I think not: 2 petaflops is just a matter of recruiting enough computers and having them running BOINC at the same time. If it has achieved this mark, then it couldn't have been that much of a barrier, could it?
  • What exactly is Flop/s? It's FLOPS. FLoating point Operations Per Second.
  • In order to understand how much work BOINC is really doing, you need to understand how that 2 PetaFLOP/s is calculated. It is based upon the total amount of credit granted by all of the BOINC projects in existence.

    Most projects grant credit by multiplying the run time of an application by some benchmark scores done by the application run time. The benchmarks are small and fit easily into cache. The applications tend to have a large memory footprint, and so end up spending a lot of processor time in c

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