What is a Supercomputer?
A supercomputer may be defined as “a very powerful mainframe computer” according to the dictionary. As the number of processes per second increases, so does a supercomputer’s “power.”
Personal computers nowadays are capable of speeds equivalent to those of supercomputers from decades past when it comes to processing tasks. That’s the speed at which technology is advancing these days. When we talk about supercomputers, what precisely do we mean? To find out more, take a closer look at today’s supercomputers.
The World’s Most Powerful Supercomputer
There was a long-running competition between the United States, China, and Japan for control of the world’s fastest supercomputer. Petaflops is the unit of computer system speed. To put it another way, one petaflop is one quadrillion floating-point operations per second or a thousand teraflops of processing power.
By 2021, the two most powerful supercomputers in existence were:
- The Japanese Fugaku, developed by Riken and Fujitsu boasting a processing capability of 415 petaflops.
- The Summit, built by IBM at Oak Ridge National Laboratory at Tennessee, pushing 148.8 petaflops.
Following are the other 8 top supercomputers in the world
Sierra, a Californian system, has an HPL of 94.6 petaflops. Its 4,320 nodes include two Power9 CPUs and four NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPUs, comparable to Summit’s.
Sierra ranked 15th among the world’s most energy-efficient supercomputers on the Green500 List.
Sunway TaihuLight, based in Wuxi, China, was formerly ranked #1 for two years (2016-2017). Its status has since slipped. It was third last year but is now fourth.
The NRCPC’s HPL benchmark reached 93 petaflops. It only uses Sunway SW26010 CPUs.
Installed in-house at NVIDIA Corp, Selene moved from seventh to sixth in June. Selene just hit 63.4 petaflops on HPL, nearly tripling its previous score of 27.6 petaflops.
A month after building and running Selene, NVIDIA announced its AI supercomputer in June. It is used for system development, testing, and internal AI tasks.
Tianhe-2A (called MilkyWay-2A) moved up to the sixth place with 61.4 petaflops. It is placed in the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzhou by the China’s National University of Defense Technology.
Intel Xeon CPUs and NUDT Matrix-2000 DSP accelerators power Tianhe-2A It will be utilised for simulation, analysis, and security. From June 2013 through November 2015, it was #1.
JUWELS Booster Module
The Atos-built JUWELS Booster Module joins the list. BullSequana, the most powerful system in Europe, was recently deployed at the Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ) in Germany.
JUWELS, like Selene, is a modular system powered by AMD CPUs and NVIDIA GPUs.
HPC5 is a Dell PowerEdge system deployed by Eni S.p.A. in Eni’s Green Data Center in Italy. The world’s most powerful and sustainable computer machine, HPC5 is utilised to study new energy sources.
It is the most powerful machine utilised for commercial reasons at a client location, with 35.5 petaflops. NVIDIA Tesla V100 graphics cards power it.
Frontera is an Intel-powered Dell C6420 system installed in the Advanced Computing Center at UT Austin in September. It reaches 23.5 petaflops with 448,448 Intel Platinum Xeon processors.
Frontera supports research in quantum mechanics, medication creation, viral eradication, and the physics of black holes.
Dammam-7 is the second newcomer. The HPE Cray CS-Storm systems at Saudi Aramco feature Intel Gold Xeon CPUs and NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPUs. Second commercial supercomputer in the top 10 with 22.4 petaflops.
Looking Deeper Into a Supercomputer
Now that you know the state of the current supercomputer race let’s take a closer look at the inner workings of these impressive marvels of technology. Let’s examine the Japanese Fugaku.
The world’s fastest supercomputer is the Japanese Fugaku. As a result of Fujitsu’s design and construction, this computer is 1,000 times faster than a standard desktop computer. This supercomputer’s peak performance is 10 petaflops thanks to its 864 servers (1 quadrillion floating-point operations per second)
The supercomputer has a processing speed of one quadrillion computations per second (that’s 1 followed by 15 zeros). Even the fastest supercomputers only a few years ago were 10 times slower. A number-per-second count would take you roughly 10 million years to get to one quadrillion!
What Are Supercomputers Used For?
For what use would someone require a computer system capable of doing quadrillions of floating-point calculations each second? The truth is that huge amounts of processing power are required across a wide range of sectors. In the business world, governments, and the military, supercomputers are put to good use.
- The supercomputers at Lawrence Livermore National Labs were utilised by scientists to create a novel subsurface data collection technology. Identifying new offshore oil and gas deposits in the Gulf of Mexico has made it easier for the US oil and gas sector to lessen the country’s reliance on imported energy.
- Oak Ridge National Laboratory and General Electric worked together to develop cutting-edge jet engine models. GE is a significant aerospace company. Through the use of computer simulations, GE was able to pinpoint an engine phenomena that resulted in greater fuel economy.
- In order to build better aerodynamic designs, Boeing engineers used supercomputers to conduct aeroplane simulations. This allowed them to produce more fuel-efficient and safer aircraft.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Cornell University collaborated to create a highly detailed model of the hepatitis C virus. Using a supercomputer at Cornell University, researchers were able to develop new therapies that eventually assisted the medical community in reducing or curing liver disease in patients.
- The US Department of Defense used a supercomputer to develop new weather models that would help meteorologists predict potentially dangerous hurricanes and cyclones. The more advanced computer models of these storms provided the ability to predict the dangers up to five days before the impact.
- The US Army uses supercomputers at the Army Research Laboratory to run advanced simulations that help researchers conduct “destructive live experiments and prototype demonstrations.” These would otherwise be cost-prohibitive to perform with real equipment.
- One of the most unusual supercomputers used by the US military was called the “Condor Cluster,” created by the US Air Force in 2010. Engineers there connected 1,760 Sony PlayStation 3 consoles together to create the supercomputer core. It was capable of 500 TFlops and used for tasks like pattern recognition, processing satellite imagery, and conducting artificial intelligence research.
As you can see, there are many demands from all across every industry, government agency, and the military for advanced computing power.
Are Quantum Computers Next?
Every advancement in supercomputer speed is a direct result of a higher number of transistors packed into microprocessors on a smaller and smaller scale. As these microcircuits continue to shrink toward an atomic scale, many futurists predict that the next stage in supercomputers will be in the realm of quantum computers.
What Is a Quantum Computer?
Quantum computing is a unique take on computer technology. Instead of the traditional transistor-based microprocessor, scientists hope to capitalise on manipulating the state of subatomic particles.
Subatomic particles adhere to very strange laws of physics—much of which researchers have only discovered in the very recent past. By experimenting with various techniques to control the subatomic states of these particles, scientists hope to replace the 1s and 0s of a classic transistor with an equivalent 1 or 0 state of these quantum particles.
Another word for these two-state particles is quantum bits (or “qubits”).
The mind-bending aspect of quantum computing is the fact that the many available states of these particles may allow these computers to store more than just a 1 or 0.
Are There Any Quantum Supercomputers?
The reason you haven’t heard about a better quantum supercomputer making the Top500 is that none exists yet. IBM does let researchers utilise a 20 qubit device online. Quantum computers are used for particular computations and analyses, such as chemical simulations. Quantum computer designers employ words that were once mainly theoretical. Entanglement is presently the term used by scientists to describe very real interactions between “qubits.” They call some qubit states “coherent.” So it’s difficult to compare these systems to computers.
Quantum computers hold great promise for the future, but right now they offer little competition for traditional, silicone-based supercomputers.