US one-ups China in supercomputing race with IBM-made machine

Node containing chips for the Summit supercomputer.		
	Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Supercomputers are to ordinary servers as race cars are to street vehicles.

The U.S. Department of Energy on June 8 showed off the new IBM-built Summit supercomputer, boasting 200 petaflops of computational power. The speedy performance of the machine, called Summit, was announced Friday. Consolation prize: China still boasted way more entries than the U.S. in a list of the fastest 500 supercomputers published past year.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry hailed the unveiling of the IBM-built Summit supercomputer today during a ceremony at the Oak Ridge lab in Tennessee. If a person did one calculation a second, she would have to live for more than 63 billion years to match what the machine can do in a second.

A team of scientists led by Oak Ridge's Dan Jacobson and Wayne Joubert has leveraged the intelligence of the machine to run a 1.88-exaop comparative genomics calculation that's relevant to research in bioenergy and human health.

The U.S. Department of Energy will have the final say over who gets to use the system with scientific projects chosen from open submissions. "That's where the future lies".

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Although the United States is touting Summit as the world's fastest supercomputer, the official rankings won't be out until later this month, when the organizers behind the Top500 list update the index. IBM claims that Summit is now the world's "most powerful and smartest scientific supercomputer" with a peak performance of a whopping 200,000 trillion calculations per second. Lessons from Summit will also inform the push to create "exascale" computers capable of handling a billion billion calculations a second.

"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", Perry added.

"Summit will empower scientists to address a wide range of new challenges, accelerate discovery, spur innovation, and above all, benefit the American people", he said.

Summit is also optimized for AI in a data-intense world.

The machine will also work on simulating new materials for superconductors that will allow computers to run more efficiently and at lower temperatures, as well as looking at mitochondria in cells to develop early-warning tests for genetic diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, said Ian Buck, Nvidia's vice president and general manager of accelerated computing.

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