Total cranks up computing power to see more clearly below earth's surface

A performance upgrade could put Total's Pangea supercomputer at the top of the oil industry

Total, the French oil company, has nearly tripled the performance of its Pangea supercomputer. Credit: Creative Commons license

Total, the French oil company, has nearly tripled the performance of its Pangea supercomputer. Credit: Creative Commons license

Oil company Total has almost tripled the performance of Pangea, a supercomputer it uses for analyzing subsurface imaging in search of new oilfields.

Pangea's performance is now 6.7 petaflops (floating-point operations per second), up from 2.3 petaflops, the French company said Tuesday.

That's enough to put it among the 10 fastest supercomputers in the world, according to Total, which based its claim on rankings published last November by Top500.org, the international supercomputer ranking organization.

Total's claim is based on the assumption that no other computer has been similarly upgraded in the meantime, something we won't know for sure until the next edition of the list is published in June.

But there's another wrinkle that might cast doubt on Total's top 10 status, and that's what exactly the 2.3 petaflop figure represents.

In the world of supercomputer drag racing, there are two measures of top speed: maximum performance (Rmax) and peak performance (Rpeak). Rmax is measured under real-world conditions using the Linpack benchmark. Rpeak is a theoretical measure derived from the chip manufacturer's clock rating for the processors with which the computer is built. The difference between the two is an indication of how efficiently a system's designers have exploited the processors' capabilities.

In quoting the value of 2.3 petaflops, Total appears to be talking about theoretical peak performance, Rpeak, as according to last November's Top500, Pangea had an Rmax of 2.098 petaflops and an Rpeak of 2.296 petaflops. Those figures have not changed since Pangea's first entry into the list in June 2013.

That was enough to make Pangea the fastest supercomputer in France, ahead of several supercomputers operated by the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, and to put it in 33rd place in the rankings worldwide.

Top500.org determines the rankings using Rmax, and a performance of 6.7 petaflops would have been enough for seventh place overall. If instead the rankings were determined by Rpeak, however, a performance of 6.7 petaflops would only have been enough for 11th place -- just outside the top 10.

Total officials reached for comment were not immediately able to clear up the mystery.

Either way, barring other unannounced upgrades, 6.7 petaflops is enough to catapult Total's computer to the top of the oil industry -- and indeed to make Pangea more powerful than any other commercially operated computer. The 13 most powerful machines last November all belonged to government laboratories, universities or research institutes.

In 14th place was Abel, a computer operated by oil exploration rival Petroleum Geo-Services. A Cray computer built from Intel Xeon E5-2698v3 16C processors with a total of 145,920 cores, Abel had an Rmax of 4.4 petaflops and an Rpeak of 5.37 petaflops.

In comparison, Pangea was built by SGI using Intel Xeon E5-2670 8C processors running at up to 2.6GHz. Before the upgrade, it had 110,400 cores.

PGS uses Abel for wavefield imaging, processing seismic data captured from its survey fleet to determine the structure of rocks beneath the surface.

Total uses Pangea for much the same thing. It expects the upgrade to improve the accuracy of its subsurface imaging and to cut its costs by making seismic studies shorter.

State-of-the-art, data-intensive computing is a competitive advantage, the company said. The performance boost will allow Total to analyse multiple seismic images of the same area taken at different moments in time in order to build a better picture of what lies hidden below.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Peter Sayer

Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?