US supercomputer is set to leapfrog Chinese competition

An IBM-designed US supercomputer unveiled yesterday is set to leapfrog Chinese competition to become the world’s most powerful for the first time in more than five years. The machine, built by IBM for the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has more than double the capacity of the current world leader, China’s Sunway TaihuLight. But the real significance may lie in something other than its raw processing power: it uses a new computer architecture to handle huge amounts of data for artificial intelligence, rather than being limited to the kind of large-scale modelling and simulations that such systems are normally used for. Known as Summit, the supercomputer boasts 200 petaflops, or quadrillion floating point operations per second — the main measure for supercomputer capacity… The Summit machine was designed with big data in mind, though on an even larger scale than the specialised systems used by companies such as Google and Microsoft to handle the data needed to train AI algorithms… It comprises more than 4,600 servers, each with direct access to a slice of memory and consisting of two of IBM’s Power processors and 6 GPUs from Nvidia, all linked together with lightning-fast interconnects… For IBM and Nvidia, the tech companies behind  Summit, that also makes the machine a shop window for the latest AI technology.
Richard Waters