It's official: Oak Ridge National Laboratory has fastest computer

Oak Ridge’s Summit supercomputer, designed to reclaim the title “world’s fastest,” has officially done so.

The designation came at the ISC High Performance conference in Frankfurt, Germany, according to a news release from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Eight times more powerful than its predecessor, Titan, the Summit supercomputer reclaims the title from China’s Sunway TaihuLight.

“With Summit, researchers will be able to simulate and explore complex phenomena and obtain results in disciplines ranging from quantum materials and chemistry, advanced fission and fusion energy, to bioenergy and foundational biosciences, faster and in greater detail,” ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said in the announcement. “In addition to traditional modeling and simulation, Summit will also serve as an artificial intelligence and deep learning behemoth, capable of analyzing massive amounts of data and automating critical steps of the discovery process.”

Summit, built by IBM, is the third computer at Oak Ridge to be ranked number one. In November 2009 and June 2010 the Jaguar system held the title, and Summit’s predecessor Titan Cray X was the world’s fastest at its November 2012 debut.

China and Switzerland quickly caught up, and Titan dropped to fourth place in the world last year.

During a benchmark test Summit reached 122.3 petaflops, or 122,300 trillion calculations per second, according to the news release. It may be capable of 200 petaflops, eight times Titan’s top speed.

Summit has 4,608 servers, each with two 22-core IBM Power9 processors and six NVIDIA Tesla V100 graphics processing unit accelerators, ORNL announced. It runs a standard Linux operating system from Red Hat in Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

It’s seen as a big step toward developing the first exascale computer, capable of a billion billion double precision floating point operations per second. Summit has already done some exascale calculations, making more than 1.8 quintillion calculations in a single second in bioenergy and human health research, Zacharia said at its debut.

"This is the first time anyone has broken the exascale barrier," he said then. "Today's Summit also gives us confidence we can deliver on a fully capable exascale computing resource by the year 2021."

State and federal elected officials hailed Summit at its activation and this announcement, including U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

“Supercomputers cost money, a lot of it,” Alexander said in a news release. “And this also would not have happened unless bipartisan majorities in Congress had for several years appropriated record levels of taxpayer dollars to make our country first in the world in supercomputing. President Trump has signed two of those appropriations bills and should include supercomputing as part of his ‘America First’ agenda. This is one more example of how federal government sponsored research has been a crucial part of making it possible for the United States to produce 24 percent of the world’s wealth for just 5 percent of the world’s people.”

Alexander chairs the Senate subcommittee on Energy and Water appropriations, which funds supercomputing programs.

Summit reportedly cost upward of $200 million. It will be made available to researchers in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment user program in January 2019, the news release said.

Researchers have been preparing to use Summit for three years. According to the news release, future users and projects include:

    Salman Habib of Argonne National Laboratory, whose team is modeling the large-scale structure and distribution of matter over the 13-billion-year lifespan of the universe;

    Dmytro Bykov of ORNL, whose team aims to describe the electronic structure of large molecular systems using quantum chemistry techniques, with targeted applications that include pharmacology and nanotechnology;

    Abhishek Singharoy of Arizona State University, whose team is investigating the mechanics of a biological motor called ATP synthase in all-atom detail, a study which may aid the design of bioinspired clean energy technology;

    Gaute Hagen of ORNL, whose team is calculating the forces within atomic nuclei to study phenomena such as neutrinoless double-beta decay, a hypothesized form of radioactive decay; and

    Joe Oefelein of Georgia Tech, whose team is carrying out combustion simulations that closely match engine operating conditions to inform the design of fuel-efficient, low-emission engines.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Jim Gaines

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Published June 28, 2018