You may never have seen one but supercomputers are very necessary on a day-to-day basis. You may have heard of the expression “supercomputer” but you are not sure what it refers to. These are large computers with high levels of power and performance that are used in genetic, biological, and weapons research. The power has multiplied by more than 100,000 in the last fifteen years and they are capable of working like thousands of computers together to find cures for diseases or to “guess” when a tsunami is going to hit.
But…What Are Supercomputers?
Supercomputers are computers with characteristics far superior to those we have at home that operates at a high speed, usually measured in petaFLOPS, which translates as a thousand billion operations per second. They can process billions of data per second which makes them useful for practically all kinds of tasks: from predicting a tsunami to finding a cure for coronavirus, searching for planets, etc.
In general, although we will see some of its uses later, they are used for special research, be it laboratories, education, industrial design, or drug research. They are all over the world, cost hundreds of millions of euros and it is expected that in Europe there will be many more in the coming years. Even if you are not used to seeing them, their use is essential for investigations of all kinds.
What Are They Used For?
One of its most common applications is meteorology in order to face all kinds of external weather events and “anticipate” what is coming and predict weather conditions. They are capable of predicting the future climate or, for example, anticipating the effects of a tsunami to avoid a catastrophe in a country or involving human losses.
In terms of physics, they can simulate stellar evolutions or also perform other tasks such as the reproduction of aerodynamic models of what would be military aircraft. They can also be useful in other fields such as biology, medicine, physics, astronomy, geology, zoology.
Most common uses.
Extending the life of nuclear weapons.
Sustainability, health, and climate change.
Atmospheric composition and air quality.
Big Data, the interaction of people with computers.
Biomechanics for simulations of respiratory, cardiovascular systems.
Geophysics, earthquake simulation.
Analysis of the properties of the surface of our planet.
Bioinformatics and cynical data volume transmission.
Cloud computing and data center optimization.
Social simulation and study of cultural evolution.
Where Are They Located?
There are more than a thousand supercomputers around the world in a large number of countries. Among them, Spain with its MareNostrum in Barcelona. But most are divided between China, the United States, and Japan, although France, Germany or the Netherlands also have some of the most important.
According to the most recent data, 45.2% of the supercomputers of the 500 best supercomputers in the world. China has 226 devices out of the 500 most powerful devices on the planet.
Marenostrum by Lenovo.
The MareNostrum computer in Barcelona occupies position 37 of the 500 most important and powerful in the world. The first model of this supercomputer was launched in 2004 when IBM (in collaboration with the Lenovo company) signed an agreement with the Government to develop this computer that initially had a power of 42.4 teraflops. But that was more than fifteen years ago.
Currently, work is underway on MareNostrum 5, which is expected to be released at the end of 2020 and will have a price that exceeds 100 million euros. This computer will be 10,000 times higher in power than the 2004 model and up to 17 times higher in power than the current MareNostrum 4. It will reach 300 teraflops and is part of the European Commission’s plans to create a “network of supercomputers” in different territories of the European Union.
These Are The Top Five.
The most powerful computers in the world are continuously updated in the Top500 list compiled by researchers around the world since 1993. It is updated twice a year in case a new supercomputer has ousted another from the list.
Supercomputer Fugaku by Fujitsu.
Japan has become number one on the list of the most powerful computers in the world thanks to Fugaku, a computer tested in June 2020 that has broken all the statistics measured to date. The Japanese supercomputer has reached a Rmax of 415,530 TFlops / s and a Rpeak of 513,584.7 TFlops / s. The beastly Japanese machine has been ranked as the most powerful in the world thanks to these figures and is located at the RIKER Center for Computational Science research institute, in Kobe.
Summit by IBM.
Before the appearance of Fugaku, this American supercomputer held the world leader in its hand. It is located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and is powered by IBM POWER9 and NVIDIA Tesla V100 processors. Its Rmax is 148,600 TFlops / s and its Rpeak is 200,794.9 TFlops / s. Summit has been dedicated to identifying patterns that could anticipate the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as other genetic or meteorological investigations.
Sierra, Also by IBM.
Number three on the list of the most powerful supercomputers in the world is for this machine from IBM, Nvidia, and Mellanox that has achieved a Rmax of 94,640.0 TFlops per second and a Rpeak of 125,712 TFlops per second. It is located at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and has conducted research to ensure the safety of US nuclear weapons, as well as their reliability.
Sunway TaihuLight by NRCPC.
China is left out of the current podium and has to settle for fourth place in this TOP 500 that classifies the most powerful supercomputers in the world. Despite owning most of the machines that make up this TOP 500, the Chinese are left without the first three seats and their first machine is this Sunway TaihuLight which is located in the Wuxi national supercomputing center. Its data says it returns a Rmax of 93,014.6 TFlops per second and a Rpeak of 125,435.9 TFlops per second.
Tianhe-2A by NUDT.
Another Chinese computer that is among the most powerful computers in the world is this Tianhe-2A that has Intel Xeon E5–2692 v2 processors and whose power data is 61,444.5 and 100,678.7 TFlops / s in Rmax and Rpeak respectively. It made it to number 1 on the list and was the fastest computer in the world between June 2013 and June 2016. It is located in Guangzhou.
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