IBM and the Department of Energy show off the world’s fastest supercomputer

If every person on Earth did a single calculation per second, it would take 305 days to do what what the world’s fastest supercomputer does in that same second. On Friday, IBM and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory revealed Summit, the world’s “most powerful and smartest scientific supercomputer.” IBM says that its new computer will be capable of processing 200 quadrillion calculations per second (200 petaflops).

It’s going to have a profound impact in energy research, scientific discovery, economic competitiveness and national security,” Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said in Oak Ridge’s release. “I am truly excited by the potential of Summit, as it moves the nation one step closer to the goal of delivering an exascale supercomputing system by 2021. Summit will empower scientists to address a wide range of new challenges, accelerate discovery, spur innovation and above all, benefit the American people.”

Summit has been in the works for several years now and features some truly impressive specs. According to TechCrunch, the computer will feature 4,608 compute servers, each containing two 22-core IBM Power9 chips and six Nvidia Tesla V100 GPUs. In addition, the machine will feature more than 10 petabytes of memory. As the Nvidia GPUs attest, this machine will be primarily used for the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning. In addition to the the work on A.I., Summit will also be used for research into energy and other scientific endeavors at Oak Ridge.

IBM was the Department of Energy’s general contractor for the Summit project, but it also had the help of several other partners within the tech industry. The GPUs were provided by Nvidia, which remains one of the leaders in cutting-edge GPU development, along with Infiniband networking from Mellanox, and a Linux operating system from Red Hat.

While Summit is the most powerful of the Department of Energy’s supercomputers, it is not the only that is being developed. Work is also being done on a less powerful computer known as Sierra. Sierra will be used at the  Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and will be clock in at 125 petaflops. While this makes it less powerful than Summit, it is still more advanced than anything else the DOE currently has access to.

Both Sierra and Summit are scheduled to go online sometime this year and will provide a much-needed boost to the U.S.’s arsenal of supercomputers. In recent years, the top spots were held by other countries, but Summit is the States’ chance to retake the lead.

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