he United States is about to reclaim the top spot on the list of the world’s fastest supercomputers. Summit, a $200 million system designed by International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM) for the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is tailor-made for big data and artificial intelligence (AI) workloads. Capable of 200 quadrillion floating-point operations per second when fully operational, Summit is expected to handily beat out the Chinese system that currently tops the charts.
IBM won the contract to build Summit and a smaller system back in 2014. The deal came in the early days of IBM’s effort to bring new life to its POWER chips. Summit features more than 9,000 of IBM’s POWER9 processors, as well as roughly 28,000 GPUs from NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA). The system can move 25 gigabytes of data per second between nodes.
In the press release announcing the deal nearly four years ago, IBM explained the need for an architecture built around the movement of data: “The current approach to computing presumes a model of data repeatedly moving back and forth from storage to processor in order to analyze and access data insights. However, this approach becomes unsustainable with the onslaught of big data because of the significant amount of time and energy that massive and frequent data movement entails.”
IBM had to design a new system architecture to solve the problem posed by big data. This architecture is already available commercially in IBM’s latest Power AC922 system, which launched late last year. That system uses OpenCAPI and NVIDIA’s NVLink technology to speed the movement of data. IBM claims that POWER9-based systems offer 9.5 times greater input/output bandwidth than systems built around x86 processors… see more