US Reclaims Title Of Fastest Supercomputer In The World – And It’s Insane


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer


The US has reclaimed the title of having the fastest supercomputer in the world, with the unveiling of a machine known as Summit.

Revealed last week at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, it is capable of performing 200,000 trillion calculations per second, known as 200 petaflops. This is more than twice the previous record holder, China’s Sunway TaihuLight, capable of 93 petaflops.


In more simple terms, Summit can calculate in one second what it would take a human 6 billion years to do. Or, “everyone on earth would have to do a calculation every second of every day for 305 days to crunch what the new machine can do in the blink of an eye,” says MIT Tech Review.

“Today’s launch of the Summit supercomputer demonstrates the strength of American leadership in scientific innovation and technology development,” Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said in a statement. “It’s going to have a profound impact in energy research, scientific discovery, economic competitiveness and national security.”

It is not a single machine but rather a system of 4,608 computer servers, each containing two 22-core IBM Power9 processors and six NVIDIA Tesla V100 graphics processing unit accelerators. It is eight times more powerful than Titan, ORNL’s previous best supercomputer.

Summit weighs in at 340 tons, needs 4,000 gallons of water to stay cool, and uses the same amount of energy required by 8,000 US homes. It spans about 860 square meters (9,250 square feet), roughly three times the size of a tennis court.

The supercomputer spans about the area of three tennis courts. ORNL

And what will it be used for? Well, a number of things, from science to medicine. It will be able to help scientists simulate supernovae, also give researchers a comprehensive view of the cancer population in the US. It will also help develop materials made of just hundreds of atoms, and identify patterns in the human body that give rise to things like Alzheimer’s.

“Summit takes accelerated computing to the next level, with more computing power, more memory, an enormous high-performance file system and fast data paths to tie it all together,” Jeff Nichols, ORNL associate laboratory director for computing and computational sciences, said in the statement. “That means researchers will be able to get more accurate results faster.”

And it’s no doubt a big boon for the US to reclaim the title of having the world’s most powerful supercomputer. “The new diplomatic frontline is over processing power and computer chips,” WIRED notes – and the US just got a leg up over China.


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