Take a Peek Inside ORNL’s GPU-Powered “Summit” Supercomputer

“We build the most powerful and efficient computer possible and make it available to scientists based on the quality of their proposals,” says Jack Wells, director of science at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing facility in Tennessee.

Sponsored by the US Department of Energy (DOE), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee is a world-class science and technology laboratory supporting scientific research in materials science, particle physics, renewable energy, genomics, and national security.

In June of 2018 ORNL unveiled Summit, world’s most powerful supercomputer, during its early access program enabling computational science that delivers breakthroughs that were once unthinkable.

This massive machine, powered by nearly 28,000 Volta Tensor Core GPUs and NVLink high-speed interconnect technology, can perform more than three multi-precision exaflops, or three billion billion calculations per second, more than 100 times faster than its supercomputer predecessor Titan.

Watch below to peer inside one of the Summit cabinets, whose serried ranks occupy 5,600 square feet of space, and hear Wells describe the intense activity it is powering.

Wells explains that as the growth of data-intensive applications pushed computing off the desktop and into high-performance computing, the Leadership Computing Facility team knew they needed the maximum amount of bandwidth.

Summit has enabled simulations to use the simplified calculations known as half-precision to boost performance to exascale levels, squeezing maximum efficiency out of code and saving energy.

The scientists were asked at the start what they aimed to achieve with Summit, says Wells, and now they are hard at work simulating earthquakes, searching for cleaner alternatives to the combustion engine, examining the molecular causes of disease, and trying to understand how supernovas spread heavy elements through the universe.

“Summit enables people to dream bigger dreams,” Wells says.

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