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University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer

Posted on Thursday, May 29 2008 @ 18:21:34 CEST by


Researchers at the University of Antwerp in Belgium have created a new supercomputer with standard gaming hardware. The system uses four NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GX2 graphics cards, it costs less than 4000EUR to build and thanks to NVIDIA's CUDA technology it delivers roughly the same performance as a supercomputer cluster consisting of hundreds of PCs!

This new system is used by the ASTRA research group, part of the Vision Lab of the University of Antwerp, to develop new computational methods for tomography. The guys explain the eight NVIDIA GPUs deliver the same performance for their work as more than 300 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz processors. On a normal desktop PC their tomography tasks would take several weeks but on this NVIDIA-based "supercomputer" it only takes a couple of hours. The NVIDIA graphics cards do the job very efficiently and consume a lot less power than a real supercomputer cluster.
The research group ASTRA, part of the Vision Lab of the University of Antwerp, focuses on the development of new computational methods for tomography. Tomography is a technique used in medical scanners to create three-dimensional images of the internal organs of patients, based on a large number of X-ray photos that are acquired over a range of angles. ASTRA develops new reconstruction techniques that lead to better reconstruction quality than classical methods.

Although our reconstruction techniques are very powerful, they have an important drawback: they are quite slow. As the 3D images that we normally deal with can be rather large (typically 1024x1024x1024 volume elements, or more), advanced reconstruction methods can sometimes take weeks of computation time on a normal PC.


Here's a look at the specifications of the FASTRA desktop superPC. The main reason why they configured an AMD system is because they couldn't find a motherboard for the Intel platform that could fit four GeForce 9800 GX2 graphics cards. Another interesting note is that this system doesn't need SLI, their application uses the NVIDIA CUDA programming model which makes all eight GPUs work in parallel. The researchers say they don't need SLI during a reconstruction as every graphics card communicates directly with the CPU, no inter-GPU communication is needed.
  • AMD Phenom 9850 processor + Scythe Infinity CPU cooler
  • 4x MSI 9800GX2 graphics card
  • 4x 2GB Corsair Twinx DDR2 PC6400 memory
  • MSI K9A2 Platinum motherboard
  • Samsung Spinpoint F1 750GB HDD
  • ThermalTake Toughpower 1500W Modular PSU
  • Lian-Li PC-P80 Armorsuit case
  • Windows XP 64-bit
  • A quick note for our American readers, a system with similar specifications would cost you around $3,900 at Newegg. Most computer hardware costs a lot more in Europe than in the U.S.

    The biggest problem of the system is that these four dual-GPU graphics cards are cramped together and generate quite a lot of heat. The FASTRA uses aircooling and with the sidepanel removed the GPUs run at 55 degrees Celsius in idle, 86 degrees Celsius under full load and 100 degrees Celsius under full load with the shaders 20% overclocked. They have to run the system with the left side panel removed as the graphics cards would otherwise overheat but they're looking for a solution for their heat problem.



    The medical researchers ran some benchmarks and found that in some cases their 4000EUR desktop superPC outperforms CalcUA, a 256-node supercomputer with dual AMD Opteron 250 2.4GHz chips that cost the University of Antwerp 3.5 million euro in March 2005:



    You can read more about the FASTRA GPU SuperPC project over here. The site contains lots of background information, info on the hardware they used, more photos and benchmarks. More videos that explain what the project is all about can be found at YouTube.

    In the video below Dr. Joost Batenburg takes you to the ASTRA-lab where he shows what tomographical reconstructions are and what the role of FASTRA is:



    Basically the ASTRA researchers have created a very affordable computer system that can perform their tomography work very efficiently. For specific applications that can be massively parallelized GPUs are much faster than CPUs, for the tomography work the NVIDIA-based FASTRA system outperforms a real supercomputer that's much more expensive, takes up more room and uses a lot more power. The Vision Lab is now planning to build a cluster of such systems, which will allow for real-time reconstruction of large 3D volumes.

    In the future we'll see many more applications that take advantage of the computational power of GPUs to significantly speed up specific tasks. Later this summer NVIDIA will unveil new software that will make HD video transcoding much faster and the firm will also roll out a software update that will add AGEIA PhysX support to all GeForce 8/9 and GeForce GTX 200 series graphics cards. Another application that benefits greatly from GPUs is Folding@Home, ATI GPUs are already supported for quite a while and NVIDIA GPUs will follow soon. Adobe is also playing with GPU acceleration for Photoshop but the firm says this is just an experimental feature that may not be present in the next version of Photoshop.


     






    Use Disqus to post new comments, the old comments are listed below.


    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Friday, May 30 2008 @ 00:19:11 CEST
    I believe GPGPU is going to revolutionize a lot of things. Supercomputers used to be way to expensive for many companies or research teams like the ASTRA guys but thanks to NVIDIA CUDA you can now make your own supercomputer rig for just a couple of thousand dollars!



    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Friday, May 30 2008 @ 15:30:39 CEST
    Dude, eat. Do a study on that.



    • Reply by Anonymous on Sunday, October 31 2010 @ 20:41:00 CET

      He has a doctorate - he can eat when he dies....


    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Friday, May 30 2008 @ 16:05:27 CEST
    That's pretty smart! You took something that was valued to over 3,5 mil euro 3 years ago, and overdone it for 4000 euro. I read the article and was very amazed! Good job! :D
    If you can just find a way to remove all that heat, it would be perfect.. perhaps place some sort of heat absorbing material between the cards?



    • Reply by Anonymous on Friday, May 30 2008 @ 19:15:41 CEST

      a water cooled system would fit the bill no problem.

      get 4 gpu kits and a radiator like in a motor cycle and a fan, bam done.

      now if you guys could get a solar system by solarcity or the likes to power the entire thing , now that would be the shit. I live in south florida in the united states and my home is powered by solar and i have a electric car that is also charged by my solar array. I pay zero for my home electricity and i pay zero for gasoline. bam I save 500 to 700 a month and i get money back from sending some back to the grid, not to mention i get get big write offs come tax time. down side it cost me 20,000 dollars up front, but i allready paid it off due to the massive savings it has done for me.

      all in all a 20,000 dollar loan is realy small compaird to what you spend on electricity and gas yearly, and just think . elec and gas is a never ending bill and I just shut it completely down forever. So some time in the future I'm going to get one of those electric sports cars, now talk about zoom zoom. lol

      keep up the kick ass work guys.


    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Friday, May 30 2008 @ 17:10:38 CEST
    I love his hand and arm movements during his commentary. And did you see his arms? That dude probably gets laid all the time! GO SUPER COMPUTERS! I bet he knows where I am right now, and is going to super compute me into Bolivia.



    • Reply by Anonymous on Saturday, May 31 2008 @ 06:51:53 CEST

      He is wearing a ring... Who knows...


    • Reply by Anonymous on Thursday, January 29 2009 @ 08:47:34 CET

      Actually, he's married to a smoking hot Vlaams babe


    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Friday, May 30 2008 @ 18:49:56 CEST
    Great job guys. Now, if you can write a CUDA code that does single particle reconstruction from EM images (3D reconstruction of protein particles from 2D electron microscopy images) in FASTRA, you'll make a lot of scientists happy :)



    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Saturday, May 31 2008 @ 03:14:55 CEST
    Take a few of those millions of dollars saved and get some decent cooling for the GPUs and you will pick up ~15% additional clockspeed easily.Save the money and dont use Lian-Li cases, as sexy as they may be. Function over form for science. Distributed Computing should also be considered as many gamers run multi GPU systems that sit idle for long periods of time. I myself have several multi-GPU systems so it would be nice to have something to crunch while Im at work and comps sit idle. ( not a big F@H fan so far ).



    • Reply by Anonymous on Saturday, May 31 2008 @ 20:02:48 CEST

      I imagine they picked that Lian-Li case because it comes with 5 120mm fans.

      Little did they know how useless those fans would be against the combined output of 4 graphics cards.


      • Reply by Anonymous on Saturday, May 31 2008 @ 20:07:13 CEST

        They used the Lian-Li PC-P80 Armorsuit case for two reasons:

        - It's one of the few cases with at least eight expansion slots
        - Availability


    • Reply by Anonymous on Tuesday, June 03 2008 @ 22:00:26 CEST

      www.freerainbowtables.com

      We can use as much computer power as possible.


    • Reply by Anonymous on Friday, April 24 2009 @ 11:50:32 CEST

      we have a perfect case for this. we built it and designed for a biotech genomic applications, but looks like we can offer it as value for GPU applications as well.

      We solve the heat problem... no problem!

      Its actually a NAS.. we 2x6 1Gbit ports switches built right inside the case.

      .. and its very very COOL (opposite of heat)

      website under development, but feel free to visit.

      the case is designed to be portable and transportable.

      Comments welcomed!

      www.store-apps.com


    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Saturday, May 31 2008 @ 23:34:58 CEST
    Try watercooling. Thermaltake Bigwater + Some Danger Den waterblocks should solve your heating problem.



    • Reply by Anonymous on Monday, June 02 2008 @ 08:02:31 CEST

      Ummm....nice try.

      Get a couple of 360mm rads, a res, 4 EK 9800 GX2 waterblocks and a decent pump and you will have that nice and cool


    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Saturday, May 31 2008 @ 23:58:30 CEST
    Each communicates directly with the CPU? Wouldn't that make the computation slower than if they were communicating only amongst each other? Although I suppose SLI for that many cards is hard to do...



    • Reply by Anonymous on Sunday, June 01 2008 @ 00:18:36 CEST

      At this rate, we're gonna need stronger cryptography soon!


    University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Sunday, June 01 2008 @ 01:44:43 CEST
    That's great for the medical imagine world, but how does it run Quake III?



    • Reply by Anonymous on Sunday, June 01 2008 @ 02:12:56 CEST

      GPU's perform floating-point math in parallel, which makes them very good for linear algebra.


    • Reply by Anonymous on Sunday, June 01 2008 @ 03:18:30 CEST

      Meh, for $1000 they could add some really well thought out water cooling and remove the heat issue entirely.


    • Reply by Anonymous on Wednesday, September 17 2008 @ 21:55:00 CEST

      Yeah...I'm pretty sure it'd run DOOM.


    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Sunday, June 01 2008 @ 03:42:15 CEST
    I'd love to transcode multiple 4K H.264 strems on that at once!



    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Sunday, June 01 2008 @ 04:59:48 CEST
    Could GPU's be used to speed up lightwave rendering? wmv/flash video encoding?

    http://view3d.tv



    • Reply by Anonymous on Sunday, June 01 2008 @ 08:09:31 CEST

      Yes, it could speed up transcoding, if the software is written to use CUDA. The next version of Photoshop is going to take advantage of it, if the machine has it.


    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Sunday, June 01 2008 @ 13:15:07 CEST
    Please call 1-800-NO-CLUE
    A supercomputer is a FAST MEMORY SYSTEM with attached processors. Please think before calling this toy a supercomputer



    • Reply by Anonymous on Sunday, June 01 2008 @ 16:28:54 CEST

      "..
      A supercomputer is a FAST MEMORY SYSTEM with attached processors. Please think before calling this toy a supercomputer "

      Always one nutjob purist about isn't there. So, smarty pants, what does this not do that you fanboy Cray wetdream can't. Oh, yeah, be bought and purchased by real people in the real world for sensible money (and, as an aside, put a heap of fan boy hard metal engineers out of a job, which is a good thing in my book).


      Here is a definition, you may have others: "

      The fastest type of computer. Supercomputers are very expensive and are employed for specialized applications that require immense amounts of mathematical calculations. For example, weather forecasting requires a supercomputer. Other uses of supercomputers include animated graphics, fluid dynamic calculations, nuclear energy research, and petroleum exploration.
      The chief difference between a supercomputer and a mainframe is that a supercomputer channels all its power into executing a few programs as fast as possible, whereas a mainframe uses its power to execute many programs concurrently"

      the only part this SuperComputer fails is "expensive", and I, for one, APPLAUD that change.

      Roll on desktop supercomputing, down with white coat purists. Computing wants to be FREE!



    • Reply by Anonymous on Sunday, June 01 2008 @ 18:17:41 CEST

      Well... If this TOY computer of 4.000 euros outperforms a typical SUPER computer of 3.500.000 euros, them, maybe, just maybe, they should spend the next 3.500.000 euros on 875 of these fun TOY's instead of SUPER expensive FAST MEMORY SYSTEMS with attached personal interests.

      If people could just loose the definitions and evolve...


      • Reply by Anonymous on Tuesday, June 24 2008 @ 14:32:33 CEST

        In my opinion this computer fits the definition of a super computer as much as a Thinking Machine's Connection Machine. It was designed with state of the art hardware to solve problems faster or that couldn’t be solved with conventional hardware. You could argue what conventional is but there aren’t many motherboards out there that can handle four graphics cards and how many people are going to try to build a system with four graphics cards. Just because they used off the self parts and graphics cards that originally intended for gamers don’t discredit the ingenuity and creativity of the system designers.


    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Sunday, June 01 2008 @ 13:31:45 CEST
    They probably borrow one of these cards in the weekends for some rounds of crys.. uh experimental CUDA work.



    I am the smartest and bestest at knowing the good computer.
    by Anonymous on Monday, June 02 2008 @ 03:30:28 CEST
    I am fat and I believe I'm the best person to judge this nekoism; this is gay because it's euro.



    • Reply by Anonymous on Wednesday, June 04 2008 @ 19:15:25 CEST

      Oh well done, Private Pyle ... :-/


    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Monday, June 02 2008 @ 07:05:37 CEST
    This is not a supercomputer - what a misuse of the word, in order to mislead. It's just that they need to do 3D calculations for this tomography, so GPUs are going to be the best thing to use. It's just a niche application, using appropriate tools.



    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Monday, June 02 2008 @ 15:18:29 CEST
    From google define: supercomputer

    a supercomputer:

    Refers to those computing systems (hardware, systems software, and applications software) that provide close to the best currently achievable sustained performance on demanding computational problems.


    Computer with enormous processing capacity and built with several multiprocessors.


    a large, expensive and fast computer, usually arranged so that it can perform the same operation on all the items in a vector at once; useful for intensive number-crunching programs such as weather forecasting or high-quality graphics, but not usually effective for general parallel programs.


    "Conventional" supercomputers serve a nice of problems just as well. Admittedly, this niche is broader than for GPU computing, but even GPU's are capable of dealing with an increasingly broad range of problems (check out gpgpu.org). The boundary is at least getting more and more vague.



    • Reply by Anonymous on Tuesday, June 03 2008 @ 00:55:28 CEST

      Hmm, they don't say what calculations they are doing and why they are better than our existing 3D workstations.
      We don't wait days to do our existing 3D mapping, it is done in minutes.
      In addition to that, there is already a company selling a 3D product that uses the GPU to do 3D calculations on CT data. That company is called 3mensio, in the Netherlands. It uses one GFX card though.


      • Reply by Anonymous on Tuesday, June 03 2008 @ 10:37:49 CEST

        Yes they do. Check the longer version of the movie on the website. They develop algorithms that incorporate prior knowledge in the reconstruction, which is not exploited by traditional algorithms. Although this results in much longer computation times, it dramatically reduces the amount of X-ray images needed to compute a reconstruction.


    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Thursday, June 05 2008 @ 18:02:58 CEST
    I'm building a similar system...

    the changes I've made are:

    Ultra x3 1600w psu
    2- 74gb 15k rpm fujitsu sas drives
    Lian-Li 1200 aluminum case
    have one 3870x2 Gpu now waiting for
    4- rv770x2 in q3

    Will run 4 liquid cooling blocks and an external fan/radiator setup (like a window fan in my setup)

    I run Linux and driver development is not as far along...:/



    16 or 8 displays
    by Anonymous on Wednesday, June 11 2008 @ 10:17:40 CEST
    What about hooking this thing up to 16 displays that surround the gamer, so the gamer doesn't need to use any controller to see what's happening around him at any angle ?

    But what I really wanted to know is how many gigaflops can you get out of those cards ?

    And maybe you guys can talk to the people of flight gear, which is an open source flight simulator. Try to simulate a flight at the speed of sound, or maybe even the speed of light ? (http://www.flightgear.org/)

    Hmm try to get linux to run on this thing...



    • Reply by Anonymous on Thursday, January 29 2009 @ 19:34:58 CET

      /******* GFLOPS
      AMD runs stream I porting some open CFD software.... I use double floats so I will let you know... I am going to GIT the project open source so if interested funding may be available... Cuda may be smarter but ATI seems easier to work with and they need more development work. The numbers are*****/

      AMD FireStream™ 9270
      (Available Q1 of 2009
      * Over 1 TFLOPS raw single precision performance
      * 240 GFLOPS raw double precision performance



    ATI 4870/50
    by Anonymous on Friday, June 20 2008 @ 07:23:23 CEST
    the ATI 4870/50 around soon
    its got 800 SP in that thing and it gives the 9800 an run for its money

    the nvidia 280 would allso be intresting to see if it could prove to be better

    but its like can 4 of them above cards do more work then 4 (8) of the 9800 GX2 cards do be intresting as i have had no folding results yet



    • Reply by Anonymous on Wednesday, June 25 2008 @ 17:39:21 CEST

      you got to get the folding@home GPU2 clint running on that beast

      cant wait for them to bring out official support to do 8 GPU folding


    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Monday, July 28 2008 @ 09:56:17 CEST
    I cant read the article because of your annoying BS classmate ad blocking the text with no option to close.



    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Tuesday, July 29 2008 @ 01:17:00 CEST
    I sure hope you've upgraded to GT200 gpus by now. 4x GTX280 will give you twice the power you got with your GX2's.
    Other then that, ignore the ignorance of others. The world needs people like yourself to push the demands on manufactures, or they wouldn't be any advancements. I'm sure your contribution to CUDA will benefit more the just your own research in the long run. People just don't realize that without these type of projects, there wouldn't be need for advancements as no developer would bother creating software that can't be benefited from.



    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Tuesday, January 06 2009 @ 04:55:11 CET
    this is impressive indeed but the future of computing is in cloud computing: the next supercomputer will be in all of our computers, using our spare cpu cycles to perform calculations, just like Folding@home is doing



    Re: University of Antwerp makes 4000EUR NVIDIA supercomputer
    by Anonymous on Friday, April 24 2009 @ 11:55:41 CEST
    we have a perfect case for this. we built it and designed for a biotech genomic applications, but looks like we can offer it as value for GPU applications as well.

    We solve the heat problem... no problem!

    Its actually a NAS.. we 2x6 1Gbit ports switches built right inside the case.

    .. and its very very COOL (opposite of heat)

    website under development, but feel free to visit.

    the case is designed to be portable and transportable.

    we can build it with 8 expansion slots and have a factory cranking these guys out for the next 4-5 years for one of our clients!

    Comments welcomed!

    www.store-apps.com



    • Reply by Anonymous on Friday, April 01 2011 @ 19:47:23 CEST

      Sorry, all you over-spending Euro's out there in cyber-land (though the case is "sexy" as all get out,) us Yanks are much more comfortable spending far less (around $600,) to build a "supercomputer". E.g.: http://www.stanford.edu/~hydrobay/lookat/gpumeister.html



     

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