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Monday, September 26, 2022

The United States of America Has Regained the Lead in the Supercomputer Race

A powerful new supercomputer located in Tennessee has allowed the United States to reclaim the coveted speed crown in computing. This achievement marks a significant milestone for the technology, which plays an important part in a variety of sectors like research, medicine, and others.

In a series of standard tests that researchers use to rank supercomputers, the massive machine at Oak Ridge National Laboratory known as Frontier was announced on Monday as the first to demonstrate performance of one quintillion operations per second, which is equivalent to one billion billion calculations. This achievement was announced on Monday. The United States Department of Energy (DOE) made a commitment of $1.8 billion some years ago in order to construct three systems with what scientists refer to as “exascale” capabilities.

However, there is a catch to the crown. Some industry professionals are of the opinion that two computer systems located in China have beaten Frontier in the race to the exascale. The operators of such systems have not provided test results to the scientists that monitor the so-called Top500 rating in order to be evaluated by them. According to the experts, they have a hunch that the tensions that exist between the United States and China might be the reason why the Chinese have not provided the test findings.

Since their inception, supercomputers have been a contentious issue in international competitiveness. The room-size computers were first constructed for the purpose of breaking codes and constructing weapons; nevertheless, they now play significant roles in the creation of vaccinations, the testing of automotive designs, and the modelling of climate change.

For many decades, American technology had a commanding position in the area; nevertheless, in recent years, China has emerged as a formidable competitor. Between the years of 2016 and 2018, a network there known as Sunway TaihuLight was recognised as the quickest in the world. China was responsible for 173 of the systems on the most recent Top500 list, whilst the United States was only responsible for 126 of the computers.

Japan has been a more distant but yet formidable competitor. In June of 2020, a computer system known as Fugaku located in Kobe, Japan, surpassed an IBM computer located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to claim the top rank.

The lab regains its place at the top of the list thanks to Frontier. In the benchmarks used by the Top500 organisation, the system that was developed by Hewlett Packard Enterprise and comprised of two distinct types of processors manufactured by Advanced Micro Devices was more than twice as quick as Fugaku.

Mr. Zacharia said that the pandemic as well as difficulty procuring components due to the crisis in the supply chain made it more difficult to construct the system. The system is comprised of 74 cabinets, each of which weighs 8,000 pounds. However, he expected that Frontier will quickly have a significant influence in a variety of areas, including the research of the effects of Covid and the facilitation of the shift to sources of cleaner energy, for example.

The ranking procedure formerly included contributions from Chinese scholars. The United States has taken a series of steps to slow China’s technological advances, including making it more difficult for some Chinese companies to acquire foreign chips that can be used to make supercomputers. As a result, China has adopted a lower profile in promoting its supercomputer progress. However, this is despite the fact that the United States has taken these steps.

However, China has been making substantial headway in the creation of its own microprocessors, which is a critical step in advancing the state of the art in supercomputers. David Kahaner, an expert in the industry who is the leader of the Asian Technology Information Program, revealed information on two exascale-class supercomputers that he alleged employ Chinese chip technology in a paper that was published the previous year.

According to a presentation that Mr. Kahaner delivered at a technical conference, one of the machines is a successor to an older version of the Sunway machine named OceanLight. The other computer, which goes by the name Tianhe-3, is the successor of a system that went by the name Tianhe-1A and became the first Chinese machine to ever reach the top rank on the Top500 list in 2010.

According to Mr. Conway and many other specialists, they think that the chips in the newly developed Chinese computers were created in Taiwan. This is consistent with the fact that the essential chips in Frontier were produced in Taiwan. According to him, China is still a long way behind in the capacity to make sophisticated chips.

In addition to assisting scientists, the machine in Oak Ridge might also assist vendors in bringing some novel items to market. According to Mr. Zacharia, the networking technology known as SlingShot that was donated by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which in 2019 acquired the pioneering supercomputer company Cray, had a substantial influence on Frontier’s overall performance.

And AMD supplied not just microprocessors but also a kind of graphics processing chip that has mostly been marketed for supercomputers by AMD’s competitor, Nvidia. Nvidia’s major market for these chips has been supercomputers. The same two AMD CPUs will be used in the exascale system known as El Capitan, which will be placed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California in the year 2023.

It was previously anticipated that a third exascale computer would be delivered to Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois in the year 2021. This machine would use three different types of processors manufactured by Intel. However, production issues at Intel caused a delay in the release of that system, which is now slated to take place later this year.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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