Later this month, when a ranking of supercomputers called the TOP500 comes out, the highest spot is expected to go to an American machine called Summit.
If you wanted to put Summit on your desk, you’d need a workstation that’s about the size of two tennis courts. That’s because this particular machine occupies 5,600 square feet of space. Its guts spread across more than 250 cabinets, each about the size of a refrigerator. And within the system is 185 miles of fiber optic cables, about enough to stretch from New York City to Providence, Rhode Island. (The official TOP500 list will be published on June 25, and Jack Dongarra, a professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and one of the list’s authors, says via email that he expects this machine will come in first.)
Summit is already up and running at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, where it doesn’t sit on a desk. It’s on a big concrete slab. Here’s how it works, and what it can do.
Summit will allow researchers to apply machine learning to areas like high-energy physics and human health, according to ORNL. “Summit’s AI-optimized hardware also gives researchers an incredible platform for analyzing massive datasets and creating intelligent software to accelerate the pace of discovery,” Jeff Nichols, ORNL associate laboratory director for computing and computational sciences, said.
The system is connected by 185 miles of fiber-optic cables and can store 250 petabytes of data, which is equal to 74 years of HD video.
To keep Summit from overheating, more than 4,000 gallons of water are pumped through the system every minute, carrying away nearly 13 megawatts of heat from the system.
While Summit may be the fastest supercomputer in the world, for now, it is expected to be passed by Frontier, a new supercomputer slated to be delivered to ORNL in 2021 with an expected peak performance of 1 exaflop, or 1,000 petaflops.