3 min read

World’s most powerful and smartest supercomputer, called Summit, has been revealed by IBM and Department of Energy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

It is capable of performing 200 quadrillion calculations each second, a speed called 200 petaflops which is almost as fast as 7.6 billion people on the planet doing 26 million calculations each second on a basic calculator. Summit was funded back in 2014. It was a part of $325 million Department of Energy program called Coral, but it took quite a few years to develop Summit.

Summit is capable of delivering high speed with a new processor, quick storage capacity, internal communications, and a versatile design that can use Artificial Intelligence methods. This makes it quite expensive.

Let’s have a look at the features that the Summit Supercomputer entails.

Supercomputer and AI integration

Dave Turek, vice president of high-performance computing and cognitive systems at IBM said that AI and high-performance computing are not different domains. The two are deeply interconnected to each other which is why Summit will be seen using AI methods for different purposes.

Summit will mainly be used for AI development and machine learning. Apart from AI, Oak Ridge will be using Summit to carry out scientific research in subjects such as chemical formula designing, studying links between cancer and genes on a large scale, fusion energy investigation, universe research using astrophysics and simulation of changing Earth’s climate.

Super Big Supercomputer

Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Summit consists of 4,608 interconnected computer servers, housed in huge refrigerator-sized cabinets.

It takes up an eighth of an acre, which, to put into perspective is the size of two tennis courts. Peak energy consumption of Summit is 15 megawatts which have the capacity to power more than 7,000 homes. Each server has two IBM Power9 chips at 3.1 GHz. Each chip has 22 cores running in parallel and six Nvidia Tesla V100 GPUs each.

Each server consists of 1.6 terabytes of memory and data can be saved at 2.2 terabytes each second on a storage system of 250-petabyte which is 1000 times the storage capacity of a high-end laptop.

Supercomputer performance measure

Supercomputers’ performance is measured in terms of a benchmark called Linpack in the top 500 list and China’s Sunway TaihuLight grabs the highest Linpack score of 93 petaflops. But Turek feels that measuring the value of a machine based on a single figure of merit is not that accurate; rather a machine should be able to scale on real applications.

This is IBM’s attempt to exascale in the future. With Summit, IBM is quite convinced that it can reach its goal to build a system capable of performing a quintillion calculations per second (five times that of Summit). Along with Summit, there is also work being done on a less powerful computer, Sierra. Both are scheduled to go online sometime this year. This will take U.S’s arsenal of supercomputers a step forward in terms of competition.

Lately, the top spots have been held by other countries, but Summit can become the United States’ chance to stay ahead in the game by retaking the lead.

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