Oil giant Total builds “world’s largest commercial supercomputer”

French oil giant Total has unveiled what is said to be the most powerful commercial supercomputer in the world. 

Pangea, built by SGI, has a computing capacity of 2.3 petaflops (2,300 trillion fluid operations per second). This places it ninth on the most recent global supercomputing rankings, and makes it the number one business-owned system. 

Pangea has 110,000 processor cores based on Intel's Xeon E5-2670 chip, 442 terabytes of memory, and 7 petabytes of storage. 

Total's exploration division will use Pangea to visualise geo-physical imaging data.

“We are proud of this leap forward in our performance which positions us in the vanguard of high technology at international level, said Yves-Louis Darricarrère, president of the division. "This supercomputer – 15 times more powerful than its predecessor – has been specifically designed to meet the main technical challenges facing our industry." 

The system is built on SGI's ICE X high performance computing platform, which the company says delivers low power performance. 

“The efficiency of the SGI ICE X system, which represents high computational power using a minimal amount of energy, gives Total the smallest footprint and lowest TCO possible," said Philippe Malzac, CIO Exploration and Production for Total. "This was a key factor in our selection of SGI ICE X for the Pangea system.”

A promotional video for Pangea can be seen here

In December last year, rival oil company BP announced plans for what it claimed would be the "largest commercial research supercomputer in the world". 

BP's planned system has a planned compute capacity of 2 petaflops, lower than Pangea's reported capacity, but will boast 536 terabytes of memory and 23.5 petabytes of storage. 

"High-performance computing has been vital to advances BP has made in seismic imaging over the past two decades, including the development of wide azimuth towed streamer (WATS) seismic technology for subsalt imaging, which has transformed the way data in the Gulf of Mexico and other major offshore basins is acquired and processed," the company said at the time. 

Last week, market watcher IDC reported that global spending on supercomputers grew 30% to $5.6 billion during 2012. This was driven mainly by governments and universities, however, who have recognised that supercomputing capabilities are a requirement for economic growth.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

Related Topics