An American supercomputer just broke the exaflop barrier and became the fastest in the world

(ORDO NEWS) — The US has succeeded in developing the world’s first “true” exascale supercomputer, fulfilling a promise made by President Obama nearly seven years ago and ushering in a new era of computing power.

For now, the fastest supercomputers in the world were still running at petascale, doing a quadrillion calculations per second. Exaflops takes this to a whole new level, reaching quintillion operations per second.

The Frontier supercomputer, built at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, was the world’s first known supercomputer to demonstrate a processor speed of 1.1 exaflops (1.1 quintillion floating-point operations per second, or flops).

The result was confirmed in a comparative test called High-Performance Linpack (HPL). As impressive as it sounds, Frontier’s extreme capabilities are even more staggering: the supercomputer is theoretically capable of peak performance of 2 quintillion calculations per second, according to the Oak Ridge lab.

But all theory aside, this is a standardized HPL test that is of paramount importance in the TOP500, a bi-annual ranking of the world’s most powerful supercomputers; The debut result of the Frontier means that it is now considered the fastest system in the world among elite cars.

“With an accurate HPL of 1,102 exaflops, the Frontier is not only the most powerful supercomputer ever, but also the first true exaflop machine,” the TOP500 announcement of the new ranking explains.

Technically, the exaflops barrier was first broken in 2020 by the [email protected] distributed computing project, which is working on various medical problems. But the Frontier is the first true exascale machine, because the computation wasn’t spread across multiple home computers like [email protected] does.

Computer scientists have been heading towards the exascale milestone for years, with the threshold representing a new level of computational ability to compute solutions to very complex problems involving huge amounts of data, such as modeling climate systems, developing new types of materials and drugs, and peering into the deepest mysteries. physics.

Progress in this area has been almost as fast as supercomputers themselves. For the past two years, the number one machine has been the Japanese supercomputer Fugaku, which hit 415.5 quadrillion flops (415.5 petaflops) in 2020.

At the time, it was nearly three times better than the machine it had ousted from the top spot, IBM’s Summit supercomputer, also at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

In the new 2022 rankings, Summit dropped to fourth place on the TOP500 list (with a new score of 148.8 petaflops), well behind the performance of Frontier, Fugaku (in second place with 442 petaflops) and newcomer LUMI from Finland, which scored 151.9 petaflops.

Among all these extremely powerful supercomputers, only the Frontier has achieved true exascale performance, at least where it counts, according to the TOP500.

“Given the fact that the Fugaku theoretical peak exceeds the 1 exaflop barrier, there is reason to also call this system an exaflop machine. ”, the TOP500 announcement reads.

“However, Frontier is the only system capable of demonstrating this in the HPL performance test.”

Some point out that there is an elephant in the room: the absence of new Chinese TOP500 supercomputers that have not been officially submitted for consideration in the competition.

This means we don’t know for sure how they can compare to this year’s rating systems, although Chinese supercomputers have certainly performed well in past years’ ratings, and some commentators believe that China may have some inevitable exascale systems under development.

None of which detracts from Frontier’s mammoth achievement. At the moment, this incredible machine is considered the most advanced computer on the planet – a $600 million power plant that is ready to tell us many amazing and important things.

“Frontier is ushering in a new era of exascale computing to solve the world’s biggest scientific problems,” says ORNL director Thomas Zachariah.

“This milestone is just a preview of the unrivaled capabilities of Frontier as a tool for scientific discovery.”

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