Saturday, July 6, 2019

IBM's Summit & Sierra - The most powerful computers on the planet

Supercomputing is the Formula One of computing. It’s where companies test bleeding-edge technology at an unprecedented scale. Supercomputers are generally used for research purposes, including tasks such as the virtual testing of nuclear bombs, trying to understand how the universe was formed, forecasting climate change and aerodynamic modeling for aircraft. 

        The U.S. now has two machines atop the world’s supercomputer rankings, with a pair of IBM  built systems holding first and second place. Summit and Sierra, supercomputers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, are now ranked the #1 and #2 fastest computers. They are helping us model supernovas, pioneer new materials and explore cancer, genetics and the environment — using technologies available to all businesses.

Summit is owned by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and is designed for artificial intelligence workloads that pertain to high-energy physics and materials discovery, among other things. The lab claims it can perform more than 3 billion-billion calculations per second in some cases. Summit, an IBM-built supercomputer now running at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), captured the number one spot with a performance of 122.3 petaflops on High Performance Linpack (HPL), the benchmark used to rank the TOP500 list. Summit has 4,356 nodes, each one equipped with two 22-core Power9 CPUs, and six NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPUs. The nodes are linked together with a Mellanox dual-rail EDR InfiniBand network.

Sierra is jointly operated by the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration and the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.Sierra, a new system at the DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory took the number three spot, delivering 71.6 petaflops on HPL. Built by IBM, Sierra’s architecture is quite similar to that of Summit, with each of its 4,320 nodes powered by two Power9 CPUs plus four NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPUs and using the same Mellanox EDR InfiniBand as the system interconnect.

Both machines are powered by a combination of IBM’s Power9 central processing units and Nvidia Corp.’s V100 graphics processing units. They’re enormous too, made up of numerous rows of refrigerator-sized computer cabinets. Summit boasts 2.4 million processor cores in total, while Sierra has 1.6 million.

NOTE:Next, World’s fastest supercomputer will be built by AMD and Cray for US government. Frontier is expected to go online in 2021 with 1.5 exaflops of processing power.

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