The international race for supercomputing energy

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The strongest supercomputer ever to exist sits on the leafy campus of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a US Department of Energy facility in Tennessee. The $600mn machine, referred to as Frontier, consists of 74 cupboards, every as heavy as a truck, cooled by 6,000 gallons of water a minute and strung along with 90 miles of networking cable.

It can be the primary recorded supercomputer able to an exaflop per second — a billion billion operations. We’ve reached exascale, lengthy a holy grail of computing.

This feat earned Frontier a spot atop this month’s TOP500, a twice yearly checklist of the five hundred quickest supercomputers on the planet. With livid regularity, the machines on the checklist have been accelerating. Note the logarithmic scale essential to deal with this superior development.

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Frontier wrested prime spot from a machine referred to as Fugaku, which belongs to a computing centre in Kobe, Japan. Fugaku wrested it from Summit, additionally at Oak Ridge, which took it from TaihuLight, in Wuxi, China, which took it from Tianhe-2, at China’s National University of Defense Technology, which took it from Titan, again in Tennessee but once more.

And so goes the worldwide jockeying for computing pace. China particularly has exhibited explosive development in supercomputing for the reason that late 2000s, claiming 173 machines of the most recent TOP500 — the US was second with 128, Japan third with 33 and the UK seventh with 12.

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China has additionally begun constructing its machines with homegrown elements. Why all this gear? Supercomputers are, largely, efforts to recreate the complexities of the actual world inside cupboards. The sooner the pc, the finer detailed the mannequin and the larger the constancy of simulations to the actual world.

“Science today is done through simulation; supercomputers enable that simulation,” stated Jack Dongarra, a pc scientist on the University of Tennessee and member of the TOP500 workforce. “It’s often said that the country with the biggest supercomputer can do the best science.”

Frontier, for instance, will probably be set free modelling climate and local weather, oil, high-energy physics, new supplies, engineering designs and different issues. Fugaku tackled Covid-19, drug discovery and tsunami prediction. TaihuLight labored on aerospace, biomedicine and new power.

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While many supercomputers are deployed in analysis, the academy or authorities, almost half the TOP500 is utilized in trade. “Industry gets it,” Dongarra stated. “[Supercomputers] are being used to develop better products.”

But the TOP500 checklist, and my charts, might now be a few machines quick. “There are rumours that China has two exascale computers which use Chinese parts which they haven’t announced,” Dongarra stated. “There’s some speculation as to why they haven’t announced these two supercomputers.” Machines unfolding little worlds at ever larger speeds in water-cooled cupboards might be geopolitical too.

John Burn-Murdoch is away

Source: www.ft.com