The new Frontier supercomputer will be the fastest in the world

The new Frontier supercomputer will be the fastest in the world thumbnail

A US supercomputer has officially taken the top spot in the world, according to a recent list by TOP500, a project that tracks and ranks 500 of the most powerful machines in the world.

Front, a Tennessee-based system, is ranked number one. It is managed by Hewlett Packard Enterprise and AMD. The US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory , is edging out Fugaku at the RIKEN Center for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan, which previously held the title.

This Frontier System is “the result more than a decade-long collaboration between the national laboratories, academia, and private industry,” Oak Ridge National Laboratory stated in a pressrelease .

What can a supercomputer this large and complex do? A presentation in March stated that some of the early science run on Frontier includes simulating Earth systems to analyze biogeochemical cycles as well as power grid planning. Experts expect these supercomputers to become more specialized in a few specific applications as they grow in size.

Here are the numbers.

1.1 exaflops

The Frontier supercomputer boasts a performance of 1.1 exaflops, which means it can handle approximately a quintillion calculations per seconds, Oak Ridge National Laboratory stated in a press release . That’s 10^18, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000. Frontier can chart 2 exaflops at peak performance, that’s two quintillion calculations per seconds. This is 10 times more powerful than the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s previous IBM Summit system, which had a peak performance of 200 petaflops, or 200,000 trillion calculations per second. Summit was skilled at analysing and comparing genomes as well as using deep-learning to simulate global weather patterns. (Here’s more on what a “flop” and a teraflop are. )

The first true exaflop machine

The Fugaku system in Japan, which held the top position on the list for two years prior, maintains a performance of 442 petaflops per second, according to TOP500. Fugaku may have reached the 1 exaflop threshold at peak performance, but Frontier has been declared the first exascale machine. Intel and Argonne Laboratory’s Aurora was also expected to hit this milestone, but the system has reportedly been delayed due to manufacturing and technology issues. Another important caveat: There’s talk that two systems in China have already moved past this milestone silently, and their operators didn’t submit results for evaluation to the scientists who oversee TOP500, according to The New York Times.

[Related: This supercomputer will perform 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 operations per second]

52. 23 gigaflops performance per watt

Supercomputers require a lot of electricity to operate. However, Frontier and the Frontier Test & Development System (TDS) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are also two of the most energy-efficient supercomputers out of the group that TOP500 ranked, with the Frontier system having a power efficiency of 52. 23 gigaflops per watt. The Frontier TDS system–a smaller version of the supercomputer used for running early tests–which only has 120,832 cores and a performance of 19. 20 petaflops per second, is the most power efficient system, with a rating of 62. 68 gigaflops per watt.

8,730,112 cores

Speaking of cores, Frontier has about 8,730,112 of them capable of processing parallel tasks. Frontier is built from the HPE Cray EX supercomputers, which contain AMD’s processors. All that processing power can be used to solve complex problems and perform calculations, including those required for artificial intelligence systems. “In addition to modeling and simulating complex scientific research, across biological, physical and chemical sciences, with higher resolution, Frontier will also enable dramatic breakthroughs in AI,” Hewlett Packard said in a press release. “At an exascale speed, Frontier’s users can develop AI models that are 4.5X faster and 8X larger.” Here are all the programming languages, libraries, and tools available on Frontier.

700 petabytes of storage

In addition to having read speeds of up to 75 terabytes per second, write speeds of up to 35 terabytes per second, and being able to do around 15 billion random-read input/output operations per second, Frontier’s storage component, called Orion, can hold about 700 petabytes of data. To put it in perspective, Oak Ridge National Laboratory said that represents 35 times more than the data held by The Library of Congress.

74 cabinets

Supercomputers must divide up their huge hardware into different compartments. Frontier is made up of 74 supercomputer cabinets, 9,400 AMD-powered nodes, and 90 miles of networking cables. Each cabinet weighs around 8,000 pounds, or as much as a pick-up truck. In total, the system contains around 9,408 CPUs and 37,632 GPUs (GPUs are particularly useful for running artificial intelligence software). It consumes 29 megawatts of power. Researchers will be able to access the “fully operational Frontier” sometime in the next year.

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