John Kelly & Thomas Zacharia: June 8, 2018


U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and IBM announce Summit 


John Kelly

IBM SVP of Cognitive Solutions & IBM Research

Thomas Zacharia

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Lab Director 

Capable of an estimated 200,000 trillion calculations per second — or 200 petaflops — Summit, which is housed at ORNL in Oak Ridge, TN, boasts nearly eight times the performance of Summit’s predecessor, the Titan supercomputer. Summit represents a substantial step toward the world’s first exascale machine, a system capable of a billion billion calculations per second. Those numbers are so wild to consider, I’ve included, below, some reference points for Summit.

The U.S. supercomputing program is a major asset to maintain competitiveness and economic growth and this next leap in scientific computing will provide unprecedented computing power to help scientists tackle the world’s most pressing challenges, from revealing hidden relationships between cancer, genetics and the environment, to modeling the complex physics behind the design of next generation batteries to understanding the origins of the universe. ORNL has 13 projects lined up for Summit covering fields such as astrophysics, biophysics, chemistry, climate science, combustion, fusion energy, and nuclear physics.

IBM was Summit’s general contractor, building a system that relied on components which literally had not been invented yet. Summit boasts a new computing architecture, developed by IBM, combining the world’s most powerful CPU’s, with AI-optimized GPU’s and lightning-fast networking.  That means it can handle any type of workload from traditional modelling and simulation, to data analytics and deep learning, and at unprecedented scale and speed, making it the first supercomputer optimized from the ground up for AI.

The announcement on June 8th that Summit is now the world’s most powerful and smartest supercomputer is years in the making.  The DOE has been a partner to IBM for decades and back in November 2014, when AI was still in its infancy, the DOE selected IBM to build two of their next-generation supercomputers, Summit at ORNL and Sierra at LLNL.

Summit By The Numbers

  • 305 days:  If every person on Earth completed one calculation per second, that’s how long it would take to do what Summit can do in 1 second.
  • 340 tons: Summit’s cabinets, file system, and overhead infrastructure weigh more than a large commercial aircraft.
  • 5,600 sq. ft.: Summit takes up the space of two tennis courts.
  • 185 miles: Summit is connected by enough high-speed fiber optic cable to stretch from Knoxville to Nashville.
  • 74 years: Summit’s file system can store 250 petabytes of data, or the equivalent of 74 years of high definition video.
  • 4,000 gallons: That’s how much waters pumps through Summit’s cooling system every minute, carrying away about 13 megawatts of heat.

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