US regains supercomputer crown from Chinese, for now

America! FLOP yeah!

The US is set to regain the crown for world's fastest computer – for the first time since 2012 – with the unveiling of the Summit supercomputer.

Summit is capable of an extraordinary 200 petaFLOPS (200,000 trillion calculations per second) and will leapfrog the current fastest supercomputer, the Middle Kingdom's Sunway TaihuLight which has been clocked at 125 petaFLOPS.

If Summit performs as its handlers say it can, it should jump straight to the top slot of the Top 500 supercomputer ranking, which is calculated twice a year in June and November. Here's the most recent November 2017 list.

At Friday's unveiling ceremony of Summit Oak Ridge director Thomas Zacharia said that during testing the computer had already broken an extraordinary record: a mind-blowing 1.88 quintillion calculations per second. "This is the first time anyone has broken the exascale barrier," Zacharia told attendees.

The American upstart is based at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), which is in the middle of nowhere in Tennessee. Summit will provide 5-10 times the computational firepower as the current fastest American supercomputer, Titan, which is also based at Oak Ridge and comes fifth in the list.

Like Titan, Summit has a hybrid architecture with each of its 4,600 nodes containing multiple IBM Power9 CPUs and Nvidida Volta GPUs, connected together with Nvidia’s NVLink. Each node will have half a terabyte of memory. In short, it is awesome.

Summit will be used for machine and deep learning, as well as research into clean energy, advanced materials, neutrons and nuclear science. There is a video walking through what will be possible on Oak Ridge's newest supercomputer.


Oak Ridge director Thomas Zacharia unveils Summit


At the official unveiling on Friday, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, Tennesse governor Bill Haslam and Oak Ridge director Thomas Zacharia talked about how both science and society will benefit from the new supercomputer.

"Summit has the ability to calculate 30 years of data saved on a desktop computer in one hour," Secretary Perry summed up. "Summit is going to impact people’s lives."

The list of the world's top supercomputers is both ridiculous and inspiring at the same time. It drives the world's best computer scientists and companies to keep developing new technologies in an effort to built ever-faster computers, and in doing so keeping pushing the envelope of what is possible.


China looks set to pip Uncle Sam at the post in exascale computer race


Despite its long history of cutting edge computing, the US has in recent years been repeatedly surpassed by China: China currently boasts the two fastest supercomputers in the world (Sunway TaihuLight and Tianhe-2). Third is Switzerland's Piz Daint and fourth is Japan's Gyoukou. The United States then has the next four largest supercomputers, and Japan the last two, rounding out the top ten.

As excited as American computer scientists are at regaining the top spot however, it is unlikely to last very long. China is working on Tianhe-3, due in 2020, which should offer exaFLOPS for the first time. The US answer to that effort, the Cray/Intel Aurora A21, is expected in 2021. Zacharia said he was confident US scientists would be able to hit that milestone.

And so the race continues. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022