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Folding@Home Now More Powerful Than World's Top 7 Supercomputers, Combined

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Propelled by average enthusiasts in their shared quest to defeat COVID-19, the Folding@Home network is now pushing out 470 PetaFLOPS of raw compute power. To put that in perspective, that's twice as fast as Summit, the world's fastest supercomputer, making the network faster than any known supercomputer. It's also faster than the top seven supercomputers in the world, combined. 

It's impressive that the Folding@Home network is now more than twice as powerful as Summit's 149 PetaFLOPS of sustained output: ORNL announced two weeks ago that Summit had also joined the coronavirus fight and has already found 77 different small-molecule drug compounds that might be useful to fight the virus. Summit employs 220,800 CPU cores, 188,416,000 CUDA cores, 9.2PB of memory, and 250PB of mixed NVRAM/storage for the task. 

But Summit is far faster than the other supercomputers further down the Top500 list. That means the Folding@Home network is also now faster than the world's top seven supercomputers, combined. That's equivalent to the horsepower of 27,433,824 CPU/GPU cores that are being used in the most powerful systems in the world. These leading supercomputers are typically only used by nation-states for decidedly more nefarious purposes, such as nuclear research, so seeing this type of compute power unleashed for the common goal of defeating the coronavirus is certainly encouraging. 

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Here is a view of the enemy, stunning in its complexity, and deadly in its intentions. This virus may be sweeping the globe, pushing large portions of the world into isolation at both the national and personal level, but the global community is coming together through the Folding@Home network to fight back by furthering research into possible cures or vaccines. This consists of using your computer to complete small chunks of much larger problems, thus giving researchers access to an unprecedented amount of compute horsepower.

Distributed computing has always been a great hobby because of the detailed stats compilation and the dizzying number of teams involved, but Folding@Home's addition of coronavirus research to its normal pursuits, like cancer, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's research, has led to an overwhelming amount of new users. Folding@Home reports that it has seen a 1,200% increase in contributors, with Bitcoin miners also joining the fight, and over 400,000 new volunteers have joined over the last two weeks. 

Unfortunately, that massive surge in demand has led to a shortage of work units (the small chunks of larger workloads sent to each user), but Folding@Home has expanded its capacity to serve units to speed production. Work units are still being issued and many more are in the pipeline.

You can help, too, by simply installing the Folding@Home application and turning over some of your spare CPU or GPU horsepower to help defeat the virus. It only takes a few minutes to set up the program, and then it's effortless as the program runs in the background. 

We're contributing, too. Tom's Hardware and our arch-enemy/sister-site AnandTech are currently embroiled in a month-long contest for folding supremacy, which you can join by following the simple steps outlined here

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ServeTheHome recent joined the Tom's Hardware team with an impressively-fast Gigabyte G481-S80 server armed with a whopping eight Nvidia Tesla P100-SXM2's running for the cause. 

But you don't need that type of horsepower to make a meaningful contribution – every single bit helps. It's entirely possible that some old-school Pentium somewhere will calculate the bits that serve as the final piece to solving this deadly puzzle. We're issuing a call to arms to our readers: Any additional help to battle the coronavirus, not to mention AnandTech, would be appreciated. You can join the team here.  

Paul Alcorn

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.