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.
A supercomputer consists of the following components:
Control computer (master)
The control computer controls the whole system and executes the parallel program in real-time. Its task is to ensure that all other components are working properly and also the correct communication among them takes place.
Data storage (database)
The database is a large collection of data. The data is distributed over the entire computer. In this case, the access to the database is quite fast because only the control computer requires the exact position of a database record.
The communication network connects the processor nodes and transfers data to the database. It is also used to transfer information between the control computer and the processor nodes. The more nodes the network contains, the more information can be transmitted per unit of time. The communication network should provide the necessary bandwidth, which is defined as the amount of data that can be transferred in the time available. The available bandwidth must be sufficient to handle the requirements of the parallel program.
The communication network consists of a series of wires that are connected to a number of communication nodes. The communication nodes send and receive information via these wires. Each node can send or receive data only to the next communication node in the series.
The communication node is called a link. An arbitrary network link is the only communication component between two communication nodes. A complete communication network contains a number of links. The communication network can be used to transfer data and information to and from all communication nodes.
Shared vs Distributed Supercomputers
There are two types of supercomputers: shared and distributed. The shared supercomputer is more compact and cheaper than the distributed supercomputer, which is better adapted for large-scale distributed applications. The distributed system consists of several control computers, a number of databases and a number of communication links, and a large number of processor nodes, each with its own CPU, graphics processor or storage unit.
In the distributed supercomputer, the tasks of the control computer, the databases and the communication links are performed at each processor node. The control computer is the main control component and manages the entire supercomputer. The control computer runs a supercomputer program in order to find solutions to mathematical problems or perform some kind of simulation. The program’s execution time can vary depending on the number of processor nodes and their activity and how much time is spent on communication and data transfer.
The World’s Most Powerful Supercomputer
There was a long-running competition between the United States, China, and Japan to control 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, boasts a processing capability of 415 petaflops.
- The Summit, built by IBM at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, pushed 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 was 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 sixth place with 61.4 petaflops. It is placed in the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzhou by 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 European system, 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?
Supercomputers get data-intensive applications—they are designed to take heavy computational loads that would overwhelm an individual machine. This means lots of parallel processes and lots of data.
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 many sectors. Supercomputers are put to good use in the business world, governments, and the military.
- Scientists utilised the supercomputers at Lawrence Livermore National Labs 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 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.