Wed Jun 27 2018

Summit - the world’s most powerful supercomputer

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Summit IBMs' latest supercomputer

Summit is the latest world-class supercomputer built by IBM and it unveiled this month at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. It'll deliver a speed boost with new processor designs, fast storage and internal communications, and a design that can use artificial intelligence methods to zero in on the right computing calculations to be running in the first place. It'll crunch through something like 200 quadrillion mathematical calculations each second, a speed called 200 petaflops. That as fast as each of the planet's 7.6 billion people doing 26 million calculations per second on a hand calculator.

Infrastructure of Summit

Summit divides work among 4,608 interconnected computer nodes housed in refrigerator-sized cabinets and liquid-cooled by pumping 4,000 gallons of water per minute through the system. It takes up an eighth of an acre, like the size of two tennis courts.

Summit has nearly 28,000 graphics processors made by Nvidia, alongside more than 9,000 conventional processors from IBM. Such heavy use of graphics chips is unusual for a supercomputer, and it should enable breakthroughs in deploying machine learning on tough scientific problems

Which type of power can it deliver?

Its peak energy consumption is about 15 megawatts, enough to power more than 7,000 homes. Each node has two IBM Power9 chips running at 3.1GHz, and each of those has 22 processing cores that run in parallel. Connected to each pair of Power9 chips are six Nvidia Tesla V100 graphics chips. Nvidia rose to power selling graphics chips, but it's capitalized on the fact that those chips can be adapted for supercomputing and AI work too; especially the computationally intense training phase in which AI systems learn to detect patterns from real-world data. Each node has 1.6 terabytes of memory, too, a design that keeps data handy for fast access when needed by a processor. Data produced by calculations can be saved at a whopping 2.2 terabytes per second on a 250-petabyte storage system. That's similar to 100 times the memory of a high-end laptop and about 1,000 times the storage capacity. Summit was designed for 30 different applications.


During early testing, researchers at Oak Ridge used Summit to perform more than a quintillion calculations per second in a project analyzing variation between human genome sequences. They claim that's the first time a scientific calculation has reached that computational scale.

Usability of this supercomputer

  • It might help to analyze the roughly 15 terabytes of imagery expected to arrive each night from the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.

  • It will also be used to apply deep learning to problems in chemistry and biology.

  • It could contribute to an Energy Department project using medical records from 22 million veterans, about a quarter-million of which include full genome sequences.

  • It will crunch through huge volumes of written reports and medical images to try to identify possible relationships between genes and cancer.

  • Researchers will use Summit's power to probe other disease markers, such as for Alzheimer's, heart disease and addiction.

  • It could try to identify genetic traits that could predispose people to opioid addiction and other afflictions.

  • It will also help advance knowledge in areas like climate modeling.


This is not the end, hope Summit will help us reach even more impressive peaks of computing power. You can share your comment regarded this article in the comments. Thank you!

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