Supercomputer crosses the exascale barrier

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In the great race for computing power that continues between different countries of the world, exaflop represents a major frontier. It is the latter that has just crossed a supercomputer developed by a laboratory in the United States, called the Frontier.

Gateway to Frontiers in a New Era of Exascale Computing to Solve the World’s Biggest Scientific Challenges This was stated by Thomas Zakaria, director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), where this supercomputer was developed. To put it simply, a “supercomputer” is nothing but a computer specifically designed to achieve very high computing power.

The computer in question, nicknamed “Frontier”, became famous for crossing the highly coveted “exaflop” bar. This result was announced duringInternational Supercomputing Conference 2022Hamburg, Germany. An xaflop is a unit of measure used to express the computing power of a processor. Very concretely, the fact that 1 exaflop has crossed means that Frontier can perform over a trillion (“quintillion” in English) operations per second (10).18). Each failure represents an arithmetic operation, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division.

By far, they were the most powerful computers on the petaflop scale, that is, they were most capable of performing within 1015th Arithmetic operations per second. To better put ourselves on this somewhat unimaginable scale, ORNL has given the following point of comparison: If every human on Earth performed one calculation per second, it would take all of us more than four years to perform the same calculation that a Frontier computer does in a second. one.

With a capacity of 1.1 exaflop of computing power per second, the computer has officially taken first place in the list of the top 500 supercomputers, published since 1993. This is based on a particular performance test which is the LINPACK Benchmark. ” With an exact HPL score of 1,102 exaFLOPS, the Frontier is not only the most powerful supercomputer ever, but also the first true exascale machine. ‘, can we read on the ranking site. If this 1.1 performance is really that held, the tester asserts that the theoretical power limit of the computer would preferably be close to 2 exaflops, or 2 trillion calculations per second.

9400 Processors Running

Technically, this is the exascale barrier, as the media remember Sciencewas crossed over by another project in 2020, named [email protected]. However, computing power has spread to many, many desktop computers. So it wasn’t a single “supercomputer” in the strict sense of the word. The site recalls that the Japanese supercomputer Fugaku is also technically up and running: “ Given the fact that the theoretical Fugaku peak is higher than the exaFLOP barrier, there is reason to call this system also an exascale machine. “.

However, its average performance still ranks first above all of its competitors. To achieve this computing feat, no less than 9,400 processors and 37,000 graphics processors were used. All the elements are connected together by approximately 56 kilometers of network cable to form a single computer. This supercomputer also has a storage capacity of 700 petabytes. To give an item for comparison, it should be understood that a petabit is equal to a thousand terabytes, and one terabyte is for normal humans a good big external SSD. Therefore, we can say that we are in the presence of 700,000 external disks. The cost of this entire device is not less than 600 million dollars.

All this for what, one might ask? For its creators, this new threshold in computing power could make possible unprecedented computations, finding solutions to increasingly complex problems. These supercomputers could make it possible to create realistic models of climate systems, design new types of materials, support research in astrophysics and astronomy or even develop nuclear fusion reactors…

The Frontier supercomputer has yet to pass tests for final validation, but the lab hopes to make its first access to the scientific community as early as 2022, with full commissioning at the start of 2023.

Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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