A supercomputer is commonly used in high-performance systems because it can operate at the fastest possible rate. It comprises thousands of connected processors to accommodate users’ heavy computational needs.
A supercomputer is used in most scientific studies and engineering applications since these industries often work with high volumes of data and high-speed computational activities. It is an integral part of computation science, including weather forecasting, quantum mechanics, climate research, molecular modeling, and brain simulation projects.
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How Does a Supercomputer Work?
Supercomputers are more than just fast or massive computers. Their functionality is far more advanced than general computers. Instead of serial-processing tasks and activities, supercomputers do parallel processing that allows them to do many things at once. Supercomputers perform parallel processing to address large task volumes.
Imagine you are a scientist who uses a general computer to process results and run tests. Upgrading your computer with a faster processing chip improves its performance. But its functionality remains limited, and so it’s still slower than you want it to be because a processor, no matter how advanced, can still only accomplish one task at a time. The best approach to lessen the load and speed things up is to use parallel processing. You can add more processors and divide tasks, so each is dedicated to working on a particular job.
Since the 1990s, significant advancements in supercomputers have been made. Most supercomputers now employ massive parallel processing, which uses thousands of processors for each task or project.
What Are the Notable Supercomputers of Today?
The first supercomputer, CDC 6600, was released in 1964. It used one processor that performed 3 million calculations per second. At that time, it was considered impressive. Today, however, it is considered much slower than a regular iPhone.
Over the years, significant improvements paved the way for creating supercomputers that can process thousands of complex activities at once. Here are some of the fastest supercomputers in the world, according to the brain trust at TOP500:
Summit | U.S.
Summit is a product of IBM. It comprises Power 9 central processing units (CPUs) and NVIDIA Tesla V100 graphics processing units (GPUs). The Oak Ridge National Laboratory currently uses Summit to manage 148.6 thousand million million (1015) floating-point operations per second (petaFLOPS) of computer performance. It has been used in energy, artificial intelligence (AI), human health, and other research.
Sierra | U.S.
Another IBM-developed system is Sierra. It was built for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s use. It ensures that the country’s nuclear weapons are safe for use.
Sunway TaihuLight | China
Sunway TaihuLight was developed by the National Research Center of Parallel Computer Engineering and Technology (NRCPC). It is presently stationed at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, Jiangsu, China.
Tianhe-2A | China
Another Chinese supercomputer, Tianhe-2A or Milky Way-2A, was developed by the National University of Defense Technology and now sits at the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzhou, China. It’s seen as a means to achieve economic, commercial, and military advantages.
Frontera | U.S.
Frontera is located at the Texas Advanced Computing Center of the University of Texas. It is considered the eighth most powerful supercomputer in the world. It’s set to open new possibilities in science and engineering, as it provides the computational capability to tackle much larger and more complex research challenges across domains.
Now that you know the answer to “What is a supercomputer?” you better understand where computing will take us next. Supercomputers will continue to evolve and surprise us with their immense capacity.