As is often the case, I get a few minutes as the weekend starts to look at all those neat articles I didn’t delete during the week, hoping I would get to all of them on the weekend. Here is this week’s favorite because it not only nicely summarizes a looming impediment to my ability to optimize lenses (after all, what else could be important?), but it also gives some of those really great high-level numbers that give you a perspective on how real the described problem is. The title of this blog entry is inspired by the fire that I lit to enjoy the contrast between the lake effect snow falling 4 feet away to the left and cozy fire 4 feet in front of me (is glass a wonderful thing or what?).
The article, “Future of computers – Part 2: The Power Wall,” is from one of the more reliable places for articles of this type, EDN. It describes what has been creeping into the news more often: that computers are coming to a place where you simply cannot gang any more together for the time being, as the power and heat really does become overwhelming.
Now, I do want you to go to the link, but to help encourage this behavior (it will only extend this experience by 3 minutes) I will give a summary of the some of the highlights. In the opening, the author, Russell Fish, compares the current state of computing speed on the big super computers with steam boat racing in the 1800s – nice touch. Digression: in 1846, Bates (of Bates and Wallace, where Wallace is the nemesis of Darwin by all accounts) is in Manaus, Brazil, many hundreds of miles up the Amazon, when he decides he needs to go to the grocery store. He states this in his book (which is GREAT if you can find a copy). What’s sad is this entry is made in December 1846 (I may be off a bit on the date, too lazy to go look), and the next entry, since he does not write about his trip to the grocery store, is in April 1848. It takes him 15 months to get down the river and back up (the second leg being the tricky one). As he pulls in from his trek, the first steam ship appears in Manaus, accomplishing the same trip in 3 weeks.
Back to super computers. The example in the article is almost as stunning as Bates’ story: “The Swiss National Computer Center pumps water from Lake Lugano at 45 meters depth at a temperature of 6 degrees Celsius.6 The pump is connected by an 80 cm pipe to two 13 ton, six meter high suction baskets. Three pumps push nearly 7,000 gallons per minute to the computer center.” The electric bill for 1 year at $0.10/KwHr is $3.7 million.
I think we have a challenge here, which points to a dramatic change in high-end computing in the next decade. If you have a chance, read some of the comments at the end of the article. There are a couple of good ones, including the person who points out the steamship caption slightly misnames the boat in question (which apparently blew up in its attempt to win).
Now, click the link below. It is worthwhile reading.