“What is a supercomputer ?
What is a supercomputer you may ask… To understand this question you need to get familiar with what a “computer” is in this context.
When it comes to high performance machines these days the most common tactic is to create an environment that combines the power of multiple CPU’s and Memory so that complex calculations can be “spread” and workload shared between all these entities.
At this moment in the huge data centers can be found what we consider a “supercomputer” but that can also be looked at as multiple mini-supercomputers put together to create a “processing power pool” .
We can start by speaking about the world’s most powerful supercomputers by listing them (in no particular order).
Location: RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS)
Memory: 1,410,048 GB
Processor: SPARC64 VIIIfx 8C 2GHz
Speed: 10.51 petaflops (Rmax)
Location: National Supercomputer Center, Guangzhou, China
Memory: 1,375 TiB
Processor: 32,000 Intel Xeon E5-2692 12C with 2.200 GHz 48,000 Xeon Phi 31S1P
OS: Kylin Linux
Speed: 33.86 PFLOPS
Location: Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Memory: 693.5 TiB
Processor: 18,688 AMD Opteron 6274 16-core CPUs 18,688 Nvidia Tesla K20X GPUs
OS: Cray Linux Environment
Speed: 17.59 petaFLOPS (LINPACK)
Location: Livermore, California, United States
Memory: 1.5 PiB
Processor: Power BQC 16C 1.6GHz
OS: CNK operating system and Red Hat Enterprise Linux
Speed: 16.32 PFLOPS
With the above examples lets ask our self: What are the supercomputers actually used for?
“Recreate the Big Bang” is basically simulating the recreation of the galaxies and create universe expansion models which help scientists test possibilities.
Tracking earthquakes by generating 3D simulations of the ground and anticipating how it will affect the ground movements.
Protein folding and blood-stream are as well taking the benefits of our highest performance supercomputers.
“Nuclear bombs” testing in the lab is a well known use of intense calculations which only the best of the best give a result in time.
Normal desktop computer can achieve this in multiple lifetimes , what these “monsters” can do in one hour.
Climate change predictions are based entirely on forecasting calculations and trends created by a supercomputer or grid computing. There exist software that gather the external factors (signals) from meteorological stations, analyze it and create a report with the forecast. All this actions are automated and powered by super fast computers.
Trading stock is taking huge advantage by millisecond trades calculated and delivered by supercomputers.
Numerous other uses come to mind but the above are the most important.
So with this I hope I answered the initial question about: What is a supercomputer. 🙂
See you next time,