ORNL Summit Reclaims Supercomputing Crown For America With 27,648 NVIDIA Volta GPUs

NVIDIA and IBM have helped the United States lay claim to the fastest supercomputer ever made. Called Summit, the remarkable machine sits at the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) where it is capable of crushing workloads via a staggering 200 petaflops of high-precision computation, making it eight times more powerful than Titan, previously the fastest supercomputer in the US.

"Summit is fast, but what Summit means is even more remarkable," NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang said at Summit’s debut. "Summit is a magnificent scientific instrument that will attract the world’s great scientists...Summit is a milestone in a global race. Not a race to space, but a race to all human knowledge—a race to understand everything. The prize for winning is the science, which is then shared with all humanity."
Jensen is understandably excited about what Summit can do for humankind. It's the most powerful system ever built, and that is in large part thanks to the infusion of 27,648 Volta Tensor Core GPUs that are collectively capable of performing more than three exaops, or three billion-billion (not a typo) mixed precision calculations per second. In that regard, it's actually 100 times faster than Titan, with 95 percent of Summit's computing powered derived from the GPUs.

Summit consists of just 4,600 nodes, compared to Titan's 18,688 nodes. It features a hybrid architecture containing multiple IBM Power9 CPUs and NVIDIA Volta GPUs, all connected together through NVIDIA's high-speed NVLink. Each node has half a  terabyte of coherent memory (high bandwidth memory + DDR4) that is addressable by all CPUs and GPUs, plus 800GB of non-volatile RAM to act as a burst buffer or as extended memory, depending on the application.

NVIDIA Tesla V100

"Today’s launch of the Summit supercomputer demonstrates the strength of American leadership in scientific innovation and technology development. It’s going to have a profound impact in energy research, scientific discovery, economic competitiveness, and national security," said Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. "I am truly excited by the potential of Summit, as it moves the nation one step closer to the goal of delivering an exascale supercomputing system by 2021."

Summit Motherboard
Image Source: Flickr via OLCF at ORNL

The level of computing power Summit will provide is unprecedented. It will be used for research in energy, advanced materials, and artificial intelligence, among other domains, the Department of Energy said. Summit will also lead to scientific discoveries that were previously either impractical or simply impossible. Among the tasks on the table are cancer research, fusion energy, and gaining a better understanding of diseases like Alzheimer's.

"Summit is a new breed of computer," Jensen added. "Summit is the world’s largest AI supercomputer, a machine that learns. Its software will write software—amazing software that no human can write."