Last updated: 9 December 2014
Some types of data processing require no less than the most powerful machines in the world to be handled. In this article we will portray the most advanced HPC installations in Brazil.
Weather simulations, nuclear weapon management, deep offshore oil image rendering, for example, are comprised of an incredible number of mathematical operations that would be slowed to a crawl on a common personal computer. So enter the world of High Performance Computers, or Supercomputers if you will: the machines with the capacity to deal with the unbelievable computational challenges in the world today. These systems are comprised of thousands, and even hundreds of thousands, of high performance processing units all working in conjunction to deliver results from extremely taxing computer applications.
While the most powerful HPC’s in the world today are located in China and the United States and used for country security and scientific development, Brazil has a few of these machines devoted to specific research highly valuable for oil extraction operations and weather data processing.
That said, the country could undoubtedly benefit from more of these machines delivered to its universities for scientific research, as some fellow Latin American countries like Argentina, Chile and Mexico show more investment directed to this area.
The current most powerful HPC’s in Brazil are:
The most powerful computer cluster in Brazil belongs to Petrobras and started operating in 2011 to assist in digital rendering of seismic activities in pre-salt terrain with high potential for oil and gas extraction. The system is capable of handling more than 250 trillions of operations per second and is comprised of 544 hexa-core Intel CPU’s, 16TB of RAM+GRAM, over 1 PB of storage and 1088 high-performance NVIDIA GPU’s to accelerate data processing.
Located within the Rio de Janeiro Federal University area and inside Petrobras Integrated Data Processing Center The Grifo 4 is part of a series of computer clusters optimized for dealing with demanding terrain rendering required for the company’s challenging pre-salt oil extraction operations. Most of these systems do not fare well in benchmarks due to their specialized nature, with the exception of the Grifo 4.
Data processing in the cluster is launched by open-licensed Linux CentOS adapted internally at Petrobras and developed to make efficient use of the GPU resources. Grifo 4’s design was also created by Petrobras’ own development team and built by national manufacturer Itautec. The energy efficient nature of the system allows for taxing calculation scenarios to draw around 365 KW/h, a relatively small footprint for a machine of this calibre.
Named after the deity of thunder from native Brazilian folklore, Tupã is a Cray XE6 HPC capable of 214 teraflops of processing used by the Brazilian National Space Research Center for complex weather analysis and forecast with up to 5km precision for South American territory and predictions of extreme events, such as torrential rain in critical regions in the country with 2 days in advance.
The HPC contains 31 thousand AMD Opteron cores with over 45 TB of combined RAM, all interconnected by high capacity Cray Gemini Modules, all running on proprietary CrayLinux OS. The system is located at the Weather Forecast and Climatic Studies Center in Southeastern Brazilian town of Cachoeira Paulista and started operating on December 2010 after a BRL 50 million investment by the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology and the São Paulo Research Support Foundation, or FAPESP.
Another HPC operated by Petrobras, Galileu was delivered in 2009 to assist in terrain and water simulation for offshore extraction of oil in Brazilian Territory. The machine is capable of processing at 160 teraflops, powered by Sun Blade servers with more than 6.4 thousand Intel Xeon cores.
The computer is currently placed in the Rio de Janeiro Federal University and is also available for scientific research. The project was the result of a BRL 25 million investment by Petrobras together with 5 Brazilian universities.
Future HPC projects
Brazil has plans for the implementation of new powerful HPC’s in the near future. The first of which is an agreement with France for the importation of a HPC built by French company Bull for the Brazilian federal government. The purpose of this machine is yet unclear, as announcements suggest it is being ordered for “strategic reasons”.
Secondly, the construction of the future most powerful computer in Latin America will take place in Northeast Brazilian estate Bahia. The powerful system should be delivered by BG Group to the Brazilian National Industrial Training Service, or Senai, to assist in oil and gas models processing. When completed, the system should be able to reach 300 teraflops.