IBM and U.S. Department of Energy Launch World’s Fastest Supercomputer


IBM and Nvidia have built a new supercomputer, Summit, for the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) which is eight times more powerful than its predecessor, Titan, which has been the fastest supercomputer in the U.S. until now. Summit, features a unique architecture which combines high performance computing and artificial intelligence. Summit will be housed at DoE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

Summit is powered by Power 9 processors from IBM and Tensor Core GPU’s from Nvidia. At its peak performance, Summit can make 200,000 trillion calculations per second. With such powerful speed, the new scientific supercomputer looks like it will be put comfortably on the new list of top 500 supercomputers – a ranking that will be published later this month. The machine takes up a massive area of about two tennis courts and draws up to 13MW of power when firing on all the cylinders.

Summit has been in the works for the past few years and features 4,608 compute servers, 22-Core Power 9 Chips and six Tesla V100 GPUs by Nvidia. The system has a memory of 10 petabytes and the system will be used for machine learning and deep learning applications. Given its placement at the ORNL, it is also evident that Summit will be used further for the department’s usual high performance computing workloads for research in energy and advanced materials.

The computer will also be used for processing machine learning workloads and is supposed to open up high possibilities in computer-assisted scientific research. The total contract cost for the system is around $280 million including maintenance and other potential options that could be exercised with the computer. ORNL has also built special evaporative cooling towers especially for Summit and the cooling system pumps more than 4,000 gallons of water to dissipate the heat generated by the computer.

With its 200 petaflops performance capacity, Summit has gunned down China’s Sunway TaihuLight system which has until now been the world’s fastest supercomputer. It is placed at National Supercomputing Centre in Wuxi and is capable of 93 petaflops.

ORNL’s associate laboratory director for computing and computational sciences Jeff Nichols said, 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.”

Summit is one of the two supercomputers that IBM is building for DoE. The second one, Sierra, is also scheduled to go online this year and will be housed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.