According to the Top500 ranking, it is the United States with its Frontier supercomputer. However, some experts have doubts. Continue reading!
In May 2022, the Top500 ranking released its list of the fastest (and most efficient) supercomputers in the world today. While China boasted of having the majority, it was the United States that came out on top with the fastest supercomputer in the world. The American supercomputer Frontier has become the first to demonstrate the performance of a quintillion (i.e. a billion billion calculations) of operations per second in a series of standard tests that researchers use to classify supercomputers.
Frontier, built by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, was revealed to be more than twice as fast as Fugaku, the world’s second fastest supercomputer, and faster than the world’s seven most powerful supercomputers combined.
Here’s a closer look at Frontier and whether its credentials are truly justified.
What is the Frontier?
It is a supercomputer comprising 74 cabinets. Each of these cabinets weighs 8,000 pounds (about 3,629 kg), which is equivalent to the weight of a pickup truck. After all, for supercomputers to be efficient, they have to be big. This US$600 million machine requires 6,000 gallons (about 22,712 liters) of water per minute to cool. Impressive as it may sound, making it was no small feat. Its builders have also felt the wrath of the global supply chain crisis when it comes to acquiring components.
In addition to being crowned the fastest supercomputer in the world, it was also named the most energy efficient on the Green500 list. However, given its high water consumption, it remains to be seen how it will play out in the long run. Supercomputers are notorious for their power consumption, which raises environmental concerns.
Why are supercomputers important?
Supercomputers are slowly becoming part of our daily lexicon, and people from all walks of life are talking about this technology. But what makes it so crucial? Mainly, the possibilities offered by its great data processing power. The creators of Frontier believe the supercomputer will have an important role to play in studying the impact of Covid-19. Plus, it can help with the global transition to cleaner energy sources, cancer research and more.
What else? Some supercomputers have already begun to delve into Covid-19 research. For example, in 2020, in Japan, the Fugaku supercomputer was used to study the Covid-19 spike protein. In particular, the supercomputer has been used to understand how the virus behaves, its transmission, effective drugs against it and how to produce vaccines. According to the director of the Riken Center for Computational Science – the center behind Fugaku – Satoshi Matsuoka, on Fugaku’s predecessor, the K computer, “this calculation would have taken days, weeks, weeks”. Fugaku finished it in three hours.
Ultimately, supercomputers are important because of the role they play in enabling us to solve complex problems. As we enter an era where data becomes increasingly central to how we function as a society, it’s only natural that these machines will become even more integral.
Is America really home to the fastest supercomputer?
Some experts are skeptical. Until last year, Fugaku was the world’s fastest supercomputer. This year, Frontier took the throne. However, some believe that this year’s results are not accurate. Referring to political tensions between the United States and China, some experts believe that the latter has not submitted its machines to be classified. Many believe that China still has supercomputers that could easily defeat Frontier. However, as the country wanted to avoid American intervention, it moved its machines away.
It is difficult to determine whether China is hiding something or deliberately keeping its machines away from filing institutions. Until we have a definitive answer, the real supercomputer world champion will remain a mystery.
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