If you are a technology enthusiast, then you already know supercomputers are an amazing combination of mind-blowing technology. Are you daydreaming about your Intel core i9-13900K, Nvidia RTX 4090, and 64 GB DDR5 RAM, gaming computer? Yes, we can imagine the proud smile getting drawn on your face. But not this time! Contrary to your beliefs, your gaming computer is not one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. This time we are referring to machines thousands of times more powerful!
Features of a supercomputer
Let’s have a common ground to begin this tour through the most powerful supercomputers in the world. In general terms, these are the standard features that make supercomputers so special.
Use of parallel processing
Parallel processing is a computing method in which multiple processors (CPUs) work on different segments of a specific task or computation simultaneously. Each processor is in charge of a computation’s portion to solve it much more quicker.
Use of Linux operating systems
Many supercomputers run with Linux-based operating systems (OS) because they have proven to execute instructions more efficiently and they are available for everybody (open-source software).
Supercomputers perform billions of computations each second. Their performance is measured in FLOPS or Floating-Point Operations per second and even exaFLOPS for the fastest supercomputers.
A lot of RAM memory
These supersystems have multiple nodes and each of them has its memory addresses; altogether they can reach several petabytes of RAM.
High accuracy level in the resolution of problems
Supercomputers have the technical capabilities to process big volumes of data and make calculations with speed and accuracy. They can solve any logic or numerical issue, execute several repetitions of a problem and answer in a fraction of a second.
Most powerful supercomputers in the world*
Right, now we’ve covered that, we are ready to jump right into the top 10 most powerful supercomputers in the world!
10. Tianhe-2A, China
The tenth place goes for the Chinese Tianhe-2A or Milky Way-2A. Are you ready for its technical description?
Processor: Intel Xeon E5-2692v2 12C 2.2GHz
OS: Kylin Linux
Number of cores: 4,981,760
Linpack performance: 61.44 Pflop/s
Power: 18,482.00 kW (submitted)
This is a lot of power contained in a machine. Installed in 2018, that year it was the 4th fastest supercomputer in the world. It’s housed in the National Super Computer Center located in Guangzhou. It is the update of the Tianhe-2. And based on the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT), the power of this supercomputer has been used for tasks like analysis, simulation, and government security applications. It oversees very sensitive matters but with such capabilities, it is the right supercomputer for the job!
9. Selene, United States
This supercomputer, based on the Nvidia DGX system, was installed in 2020. It was born in a critical pandemic context and was assembled in record time, only taking around three and a half weeks to get up and running., Check this impressive technical description –
Processor: AMD EPYC 7742 64C 2.25GHz
OS: Ubuntu 20.04.1 LTS
Number of cores: 555,520
Linpack performance: 63.46 Pflop/s
Power: 2,646.00 kW (submitted)
It also features the topmost energy-efficient supercomputing systems. Selene is a teammate of the Argonne National Laboratory, an American scientific and engineering research entity. They have been busy researching alternatives to combat the Coronavirus. We hope Selene’s research on this giant assignment goes well!
Selene has been also working on the improvement of artificial intelligence (AI) in fields like healthcare, natural language processing, cloud computing, the automotive industry, and the training of Nvidia’s GauGAN2. It is an AI model (software) to produce art through AI. The training involved 10 million landscape images.
8. Perlmutter, United States
Perlmutter is an American supercomputer of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) and it lives at the Berkeley Laboratory. Installed in 2021, this supercomputer’s name honors Saul Perlmutter, an astrophysicist and Nobel Laureate.
Processor: AMD EPYC 7763 64C 2.45GHz
OS: HPE Cray
Number of cores: 761,856
Linpack performance: 70.87 PFlop/s
Power: 2,589.00 kW (submitted)
Perlmutter represents supercomputing capability (data analytics, AI, simulation) available to more than eight thousand scientists researching different matters for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.
Science is a highly demanding field and Perlmutter has the necessary features to satisfy its demands; bio-energy, cosmology, fusion energy, particle physics, materials discovery for energy applications, climate change, environmental remediation, you name it!
Perlmutter is, and will be, supporting extreme-scale science!
7. Sunway TaihuLight, China
Another great position for China! This supercomputer was designed by the National Research Center of Parallel Computer Engineering & Technology (NRCPC). It is housed by the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi.
This was the fastest supercomputer worldwide for two years in a row, from June 2016 (its installation year) to June 2018.
Processor: Sunway SW26010 260C 1.45GHz
OS: Sunway Raise 2.0.5
Number of cores: 10,649,600
Linpack performance: 93.01 PFlop/s
Power: 15,371.00 kW (submitted)
It undertakes 93 million-billion calculations per second! Due to its great capabilities and accuracy, Sunway TaihuLight has been used for tasks like nuclear weapons design, oil field analysis, earth surface, climate and ocean surface modelling, atomic simulations, and weather forecasting. This perfectly explains why Sunway TaihuLight ranks high in these supercomputers’ elite group!
6. Sierra, United States
The next most powerful supercomputer is the American Sierra. Just check these credentials –
Processor: IBM POWER9 22C 3.1 GHz
OS: Red Hat Enterprise Linux
Number of cores: 1,572,480
Linpack performance: 94.64 PFlop/s
Power: 7,438.28 kW (submitted)
Sierra was installed in 2018 for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). The superpower of this system (advanced simulation and computing) has been used by nuclear weapon scientists to make complex engineering calculations, check the performance of nuclear weapon systems, support the development of science in this field, and accomplish the stockpile stewardship mission of the National Nuclear Security Administration through Sierra’s simulations and avoiding underground testing.
Early in 2022, Sierra was working on a cancer research model that could lead to treatments, cures, and solutions.
5. Summit, United States
Summit was launched in 2018. It is located at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and works on civilian scientific research. This is the power of the Summit supercomputer –
Processor: IBM POWER9 22C 3.07GHz
OS: RHEL 7.4
Number of cores: 2,414,592
Linpack performance: 148.60 PFlop/s
Power: 10,096.00 kW (submitted)
Since its creation, Summit has been very busy solving complex tasks related to human health, AI, energy, and more. It has used its computing power to create extreme weather simulation through AI and earthquake simulation, working on Material science, Genomics, and making predictions in Physics, like the lifetime of Neutrinos (close to zero mass neutral subatomic particles mostly born on gamma-ray bursts and star explosions).
4. Leonardo, Italy
Leonardo lives at the premises of the Interuniversity Consortium High-Performance Systems. CINECA, its initials in the Italian language. It was created by the Ministry of University and Research (MUR) and the European High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC JU). Leonardo was introduced to the world on November 24th, 2022.
Processor: Xeon Platinum 8358 32C 2.6GHz
Number of cores: 1,463,616
Linpack performance: 174.70 PFlop/s
Power: 5,610.00 kW (optimized)
If you want to get a picture of Leonardo, just imagine this. This powerful and sophisticated supercomputer weighs the equivalent as 4,700 people, and to keep it cool, it requires 10 km of pipes with a total flow of 500m3 of water!
Leonardo is taking part in different areas of research whose results are expected to contribute to the discovery of new materials, cyber security and AI improvement, weather forecasting, predictive medicine, and management of risks linked to pandemics and natural disasters. Leonardo knows from its birthday that with great power, come great responsibilities!
3. LUMI, Finland
LUMI is another project of the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC JU) and the Large Unified Modern Infrastructure (LUMI) consortium. It is hosted by the IT Center for Science (CSC) located in Kajaani, Finland. Now, be ready for its technical details. Numbers in this list are getting mind-bogglingly massive!
Processor: AMD Optimized 3rd Generation EPYC 64C 2GHz
OS: HPE Cray
Number of cores: 2,220,288
Linpack performance: 309.10 PFlop/s
Power: 6,015.77 kW (submitted)
LUMI is one of the most powerful supercomputers and is also one of the greenest! Supercomputers consume lots of electricity, but LUMI’s energy is completely generated via hydroelectricity. The heat waste and CO2 footprint have been reduced substantially.
LUMI was installed in 2022 and it has been working on fusion energy research, climate and extreme events, translation and language models, cancer research, dark matter, and the development of a digital pathology workflow to diagnose and grade cancer more accurately.
Let’s hope we have many answers and perhaps good news from LUMI in the next few years!
2. Supercomputer Fugaku, Japan
The second position belongs to a massive Japanese beast! Amazing speed and power are Fugaku’s features! It was created in 2020 (June), in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic. It is hosted by the RIKEN Center for Computational Science in Wako, Japan. This supercomputer is already at an astonishing level –
Processor: A64FX 48C 2.2GHz
OS: Red Hat Enterprise Linux
Number of cores: 7,630,848
Linpack performance: 442.01 PFlop/s
Power: 29,899.23 kW
Fugaku has been intensely working on topics to tackle the current COVID-19 pandemic. Simulation analysis of pandemic phenomena, analysis of new drug candidates for COVID-19, prediction, and countermeasure for virus droplet infection (indoor environment), host genetic analysis for severe COVID-19, etc.
In 2022, it incorporated new projects like designing a new kind of particle accelerator through the use of plasma, large-scale electromagnetic wave simulations for different uses, space, urban transportation, etc.
Our future is in your hands, Fugaku!
1. Frontier, United States
And finally, at the mind-blowing top of the most powerful supercomputers’ ranking, the American Frontier! Installed in 2021, it started operations officially in 2022. Frontier is meant to be a booster of innovation, speed, and accuracy in technology and science. This powerful jewel lives at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF) in Tennessee. Take a deep breath and read its details –
Processor: AMD Optimized 3rd Generation EPYC 64C 2GHz
OS: HPE Cray
Number of cores: 8,730,112
Linpack performance: 1,102.00 PFlops/s
Power: 21,100.00 kW (submitted)
Plans for Frontier’s use are big and ambitious; by executing more than a – wait for it – quintillion (!), or 1018 calculations per second, this supercomputer will be at the scientists’ service to research and develop new technologies for medicine, materials, and energy. Combining Frontier’s simulation, modelling, and data analytics, with AI, the supercomputer will be the best ally for large-scale science. Frontier has all the potential to drive big changes for the planet and humans!
This tour through the top ten most powerful supercomputers in the world brings interesting and powerful facts to the forefront.
The competition between China and the United States is clear and it won’t stop. Based on data from the website “Top 500. The List” (https://www.top500.org), these two countries own 60% of the total number of most powerful supercomputers that exist.
Unfortunately, it is possible that soon, access to regular updates about advances of China in this field gets more restricted due to the tensions with the United States. Historically, issues exist between both countries and their relationship has been getting fraught over time. Recently, it was said that China would no longer submit updates of their supercomputers to the “Top 500” **. We will see, but what is for sure is that China won’t stop building competitive supercomputers so it’s safe to say the country will hold its strong position in this field.
In any case, the results that these ten supercomputers are bringing to light could be the keystones in which human life can be reshaped in the future. Can life on this planet be better or worse? Well, supercomputers’ current research could give important leads to a greener, more efficient, and competitive industry, more accurate forecasting, more reliable decision-making, and direct advantages for our health. But the decisions on how to use such valuable data will be taken by today’s humans.
What do you think?
Could we expect a dramatic transformation? Or will global decision-makers leave everything as it is now? Furthermore, will these amazing scientific breakthroughs benefit only the rich or the masses too?
* Source: https://www.top500.org/lists/top500/list/2022/11/ (last updated November 2022).
** Source: https://www.scmp.com/tech/big-tech/article/3180037/chinas-supercomputer-sunway-taihulight-falls-sixth-place-amid
At Neterra, whilst we don’t own and operate supercomputers, we do have space where you can host your own equipment for your own processing needs. Check out.