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The U.S. Department of Energy says the Summit supercomputer, built at Oak Ridge National Laboratory with hardware from IBM and NVIDIA, is capable of doing 200 quadrillion calculations per second. (ORNL Photo)

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory staked its claim to retake the lead from China in the world’s supercomputer race with a machine capable of performing 200 quadrillion calculations a second.

That 200-petaflop speed is roughly eight times as fast as the current top-rated U.S. supercomputer, built by Seattle-based Cray and known as Titan. It’s twice as fast as the record currently held by China’s Sunway TaihuLight, which is listed at 93.01 petaflops on last November’s authoritative TOP500 list.

Chinese supercomputers have held the No. 1 spot on the TOP500 list since 2013. The next edition of the list is due to come out later this month.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry hailed the unveiling of the IBM-built Summit supercomputer today during a ceremony at the Oak Ridge lab in Tennessee.

“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,” Perry said in a news release.

Get ready for some geekspeak here: Oak Ridge says Summit’s IBM AC922 system brings together 4,608 computer servers, each containing two 22-core IBM Power9 processors and six NVIDIA Tesla V100 graphics processing unit accelerators, interconnected with dual-rail Mellanox EDR 100Gb/s InfiniBand.

Summit boasts more than 10 petabytes of memory, paired with fast, high-bandwidth pathways for efficient data movement.

“There are things that this computer does that I can’t explain … but what we can explain is, there’s people’s lives out there. It may be a loved one, with a malady, with a disease,” Perry said. “And because of what we do right here at Oak Ridge, we find the cure for Alzheimer’s, for that cancer, for that medical condition. That’s what we’re really all about. It’s about making people’s lives better.”

For some applications, Summit could reach into the exascale realm — that is, quintillions of computer operations per second, or exaops.

A team of scientists led by Oak Ridge’s Dan Jacobson and Wayne Joubert has leveraged the intelligence of the machine to run a 1.88-exaop comparative genomics calculation that’s relevant to research in bioenergy and human health.

Perry said the Trump administration is intent on keeping the Energy Department’s supercomputer initiative in the lead going forward. “We’ve begun work on appropriations for the next cycle already,” he said. “We are anticipating further funding increases. That’s a good thing.”

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