The US owns the fastest supercomputer – again

The battle over which country owns the world’s fastest supercomputer has been raging for years, and now the US has claimed the title once again. Behold, Summit.

The US owns the fastest supercomputer – again

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Introducing the supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee (ORNL), US scientists – calling it the world’s most powerful and smartest scientific supercomputer – showed off its impressive ability to calculate and analyse 200 quadrillion calculations per second or 200 petaflops. To put that into perspective, Summit almost doubles the peak speed of China’s Taihu Light, which owns the supercomputer title currently. The Taihu Light supercomputer can reach a peak of 93 petaflops.

For other scientific applications, Summit can calculate more than three billion billion mixed precision calculations and has more than 10 petabytes of memory. That precision has allowed US scientists to run the world’s first exascale calculation – not possible until now.

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And it’s pretty beastly in size, too. The supercomputer fills up two tennis courts and weighs more than a commercial aircraft, at 340 tonnes. The IBM AC922 costs $200 million (£150 million) and utilises a whole 4,608 compute servers. These servers hold two 22-core IBM Power9 processors and six NVidia Tesla V100 graphic processing unit accelerators. The system draws 13 megawatts of power, significantly less than the 13 megawatts of power that Taihu Light draws. It’s so power intensive that more than 4,000 gallons of water needs to be continuously pumped through the system to take away some of the heat that it creates.

“Applying machine learning and AI to genetic and biomedical datasets offers the potential to accelerate understanding of human health and disease outcomes,” the ORNL said – highlighting its uses for good. “Using a mix of AI techniques on Summit, researchers will be able to identify patterns in the function, cooperation and evolution of human protein and cellular systems.”

According to the ORNL, these techniques will be able to help researchers observe traits of disease like Alzheimer’s, heart disease or addiction, and help to “inform the drug discovery process.”

It’s unlikely that the US’ supercomputer crown will be stolen by China any time soon, but Summit is going to be superseded by an even more powerful machine in a few years’ time. It’s called Frontier, and if you thought Summit was incredible, Frontier will absolutely blow your mind. Frontier, a new supercomputer expected to be delivered to the ORNL in 2021, is expected to reach an unbelievable peak performance of 1 exaflop, or 1,000 petaflops.

For now, we’re going to wait for Top500’s rankings to be released next month. And when it does, Summit is no doubt going to be on top.

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