"Scientists of the ASTRA research group, part of the University
of Antwerp’s Vision Lab, had only limited time allocation on
the university’s CalcUA supercomputer at their disposal, and
using regular PC hardware was no option as processing a dataset
could take several weeks on a standard desktop PC.
"Therefore they had to search for an alternative, and once they
learned about GPGPU computing the researchers build a 4000EUR
desktop supercomputer with four NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GX2 dual-GPU
graphics cards. The results were stunning, for this niche
application the eight NVIDIA GPUs outperformed the
university’s three-year old 256-node supercomputer with AMD
Opteron 250 2.4GHz processors. Besides the higher performance,
other major advantages include the very low cost (4000EUR for
FASTRA vs 3.5 million euro for the real supercomputer) and much
lower power consumption.
"FASTRA was one of the first illustrations of what's possible
with the massive parallel computing power GPGPU computing has to
offer to scientists, and it’s possible that the project
inspired NVIDIA to launch the Tesla Personal Supercomputer a couple
of months later. These GPU-based desktop supercomputers should not
be seen as a replacement for real supercomputers though, graphics
cards are very efficient for applications with highly parallel
workload but they can’t match supercomputers in other areas.
While some people think it’s blasphemy to refer to systems
like FASTRA as supercomputers, it can’t be denied, however,
that GPGPU computing is giving millions of researchers and
individuals the opportunity to get supercomputing-like power on
their desk. GPUs are now being adopted by real supercomputers, and
Bright Side of News recently wrote that as much as nine out of ten
new high-performance computing (HPC) systems will feature at least
one GPU or a whole GPGPU server for evaluation purposes."