Last week, the US Department of Energy and IBM unveiled Summit, America’s latest supercomputer, which is expected to bring the title of the world’s most powerful computer back to America from China, which currently holds the mantle with its Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer.

With a peak performance of 200 petaflops, or 200,000 trillion calculations per second, Summit more than doubles the top speeds of TaihuLight, which can reach 93 petaflops. Summit is also capable of over 3 billion billion mixed precision calculations per second, or 3.3 exaops, and more than 10 petabytes of memory, which has allowed researchers to run the world’s first exascale scientific calculation.

The $200 million supercomputer is an IBM AC922 system utilizing 4,608 compute servers containing two 22-core IBM Power9 processors and six Nvidia Tesla V100 graphics processing unit accelerators each. Summit is also (relatively) energy-efficient, drawing just 13 megawatts of power, compared to the 15 megawatts TaihuLight pulls in.

Top500, the organization that ranks supercomputers around the world, is expected to place Summit atop its list when it releases its new rankings later this month. Once it does — with these specs — Summit should remain the king of supercomputers for the immediate future.

The Verge went to Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to check out Summit in person.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory — the birthplace of the Manhattan Project — is also home to Titan, another supercomputer that was once the fastest in the world and now holds the title for fifth fastest (soon to be sixth after Summit is officially recognized as the fastest in the world by Top500) supercomputer in the world.

Taking up 5,600 square-feet of floor space and weighing in at over 340 tons — which is more than a commercial aircraft — Summit is a truly massive system that would easily fill two tennis courts.

Summit will allow researchers to apply machine learning to areas like high-energy physics and human health, according to ORNL. “Summit’s AI-optimized hardware also gives researchers an incredible platform for analyzing massive datasets and creating intelligent software to accelerate the pace of discovery,” Jeff Nichols, ORNL associate laboratory director for computing and computational sciences, said.

The system is connected by 185 miles of fiber-optic cables and can store 250 petabytes of data, which is equal to 74 years of HD video.

To keep Summit from overheating, more than 4,000 gallons of water are pumped through the system every minute, carrying away nearly 13 megawatts of heat from the system.

Summit contains 9,216 IBM Power9 CPUs and 27,648 Nvidia Volta GPUs (seen above).

While Summit may be the fastest supercomputer in the world, for now, it is expected to be passed by Frontier, a new supercomputer slated to be delivered to ORNL in 2021 with an expected peak performance of 1 exaflop, or 1,000 petaflops.


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