This supercomputer can also use light instead of electric current

The French supercomputer Jean Zay, one of the most powerful computers in the world and part of the Top500, is now the first HPC to have a photonic coprocessor, which means it transmits and processes information using light. The development represents a first for the industry.

The breakthrough was made during a pilot program that saw LightOn collaborate with GENCI and IDRIS. Igor Carron, CEO and co-founder of LightOn said in a statement: “This pilot program integrating new computer technology into one of the world’s Supercomputers would not have been possible without the special commitment of visionary agencies such as GENCI and IDRIS / CNRS. With the emergence of quantum computing, this world first reinforces our view that the next step after exascale supercomputing will be hybrid computing. ”

The technology will now be offered to selected users of the Jean Zay research community over the coming months who will use the device to undertake research on the foundations of machine learning, differential privacy, satellite imagery analysis. and natural language processing (NLP) tasks. LightOn’s technology has already been used successfully by a community of researchers since 2018.

Supercomputers have come a long way in recent years. In June 2018, it was announced that the US Department of Energy had the world’s newest and most powerful supercomputer called the Summit.

Summit operated at 200 petaflops at maximum capacity, performing 200 quadrillion calculations per second. The numbers at the time exceeded the capacity of 93 petaflops of the Chinese Sunway TaihuLight as well as the previous American record holder Titan.

Then in June 2020, it was revealed that Japan’s latest Fugaku supercomputer had the world’s fastest computing speed according to Top500, the same classification in which Jean Zay appeared. The event marked the first time in nine years that a Japanese supercomputer has taken first place.

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