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Trio of Prototype AMD-Based El Capitan Supercomputers Already Rank in Top 200

El Capitan
(Image credit: DOE)

The AMD-based El Capitan supercomputer isn't set to go online until 2023. However, in preparation for the new exascale supercomputer, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA, not to be confused with the NSA or NASA) has produced three smaller prototype supercomputers to test out El Captains' hardware systems. Despite not being the real supercomputer deal, these three computing monsters have been found to pack a serious punch, with each landing on the top 200 list of the world's fastest supercomputers.

El Capitan is a brand-new exascale supercomputer behemoth being built for the NNSA that will be responsible for modeling nuclear weapon simulations. Once completed, El Capitan is expected to be, at the very least, the fastest supercomputer owned by the United States government, with an estimated 2 exaflops of computing power.

Powering this monstrosity will be a combination of AMD CPUs and accelerators, including AMD EPYC Genoa CPUs built on AMD's Zen 4 architecture, and next-generation Radeon Instinct GPUs, which will likely be based on an enterprise version of RDNA3. Regardless, El Capitan will be built largely around AMD hardware.

The three prototype precursor systems built in preparation for El Capitan are known as rzVernal, Tioga, and Tenaya. Each is built with HP Enterprise Cray EX235a accelerator blades packing 3rd generation (Zen 3) EPYC 64 core CPUs and AMD Instinct MI250X (CDNA2) accelerators. According to HPCwire, some of the components built into each of these servers will make their way into the final iteration of El Capitan.

Out of the three systems, rzVernal ranks the fastest with and lands at number 123, featuring 4.1 petaflops of performance in High-Performance Linpack. Tioga landed close behind at number 135, with 3.67 petaflops, and Tenaya edges onto the list at number 200, with 2.86 petaflops of performance. But, again, that is position 200 on the list of the fastest supercomputers worldwide, so it's far from a bad result.

This is impressive considering all three are just test systems and not built for full operational use. And these results will still be nothing in comparison to the full-power El Capitan once it goes online. If the projected 2 exaflops of computing power are true, it will be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, supercomputer in the entire world.

Aaron Klotz
Aaron Klotz

Aaron Klotz is a freelance writer for Tom’s Hardware US, covering news topics related to computer hardware such as CPUs, and graphics cards.