Skip to main content

US Dethrones China With IBM Summit Supercomputer

Summit, the United States’ latest supercomputer, has ended China’s two-year reign as the world’s fastest supercomputer. Built by none other than global computer giant IBM, the Summit skyrocketed itself to the peak of the TOP500 ranking with a Linpack score of 122.3 PetaFLOPS to beat previous Chinese record-holder Sunway TaihuLight’s result of 93 PetaFLOPS.

The $200 million Summit supercomputer, stationed at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, was conceived to research the fields of human diseases such as Alzheimer and cancer, astrophysics, fusion energy, and climate change. Summit occupies 5,600 square feet of space and weighs over 340 tons. To put those dimensions into perspective, the gargantuan supercomputer is equivalent to the size of two tennis courts with a weight that effectively surpasses that of a large commercial airliner. Summit is connected by 185 miles of fiber-optic cables, which is the distance that separates Knoxville from Nashville, Tennessee.

The Summit is based on IBM’s AC922 Power System that’s comprised of 4608 computer nodes, interconnected to each other through dual-rail Mellanox EDR 100 Gbps InfiniBand adapters. We've taken a deeper look at the inside of each node in our recent Regaining America's Supercomputing Supremacy With The Summit Supercomputer article.

Image 1 of 3

Image 2 of 3

Image 3 of 3

Each node in the ecosystem is good for 42 TeraFLOPS of performance and comes equipped with two 22-core IBM Power9 processors with a maximum clock rate of 4.0 GHz, 512GB of DDR4 memory, 96GB of HBM memory, 1.6TB of NVMe storage, and six Nvidia Volta-based Tesla V100 graphics processing unit accelerators. Communication between the Power9 processors and Volta GPUs is made possible by NVLink 2.0, Nvidia’s energy-efficient and high-bandwidth interconnect technology. In total, the Summit supercomputer has at is disposal 9,216 Power9 processors, over 10PB of DDR4, HBM, and non-volatile memory, 250PB of storage, and 27,648 Tesla V100 accelerators — which was certainly not a bad way to spend $200 million dollars.  

Although the Summit only needed to pump out a modest 122.3 PetaFLOPS to catapult its way past China’s Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer, the American supercomputer’s actual peak performance is much higher. The Summit is designed to deliver up to 200 petaFLOPs of computing power. It draws 13 megawatts of power and relies on a liquid-cooling system that pumps 4,000 gallons of water through the system every minute to prevent it from melting down.

RankingSystemCountryRmax (TFlop/s)
1SummitUnited States122,300.0
2Sunway TaihuLightChina93,014.6
3SierraUnited States71,610.0
4Tianhe-2AChina61,444.5
5AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI)Japan19,880.0