Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge (ORNL)

Oak Ridge debuts world's fastest supercomputer

The Department of Energy is moving one step closer to achieving exascale computing with the debut of a new supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. 

The Summit supercomputer is eight times more powerful than ORNL’s previous top-ranked system, Titan, and it can conduct more than 3 billion billion mixed precision calculations per second, according to a June 8 announcement.  It also returns the title of world's fastest supercomputer to the United States -- a distinction that had belonged to China’s TaihuLight system since 2016.

The IBM-based Summit will help ORNL with complex science projects related to astrophysics, materials research, cancer surveillance and systems biology.  “Summit takes accelerated computing to the next level, with more computing power, more memory, an enormous high-performance file system and fast data paths to tie it all together,” said Jeff Nichols, ORNL associate laboratory director for computing and computational sciences.

Summit also has the ability to handle complex machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms.  Its “AI-optimized” hardware will allow scientists to analyze massive datasets and create intelligence software to speed the pace of innovation, Nichols said.

While ORNL and IBM work through the acceptance process for the machine, Summit's processing power will be focused solely on ORNL projects for the remainder of year.  In 2019, Summit will used primarily for research conducted by DOE’s Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment program.

At a Jan. 10 House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, DOE Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette said reaching exascale computing by 2021 is a high priority for his agency and the 17 National Labs.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at sfriedman@gcn.com or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

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