IBM, DOE unveil ‘world’s fastest’ AI supercomputer

IBM, DOE unveil ‘world’s fastest’ AI supercomputer

Technology News |
By Rich Pell

Called Summit, the supercomputer has a peak performance of 200,000 trillion calculations per second (or 200 petaflops), and is eight times more powerful than the lab’s previous top-ranked system, Titan. For some scientific applications, says ORNL, Summit will be capable of more than three billion billion mixed-precision calculations per second, providing unprecedented computing power for research in energy, advanced materials, artificial intelligence (AI), and other domains, enabling scientific discoveries that were previously impractical or impossible.

“Today’s launch of the Summit supercomputer demonstrates the strength of American leadership in scientific innovation and technology development,” said Secretary of Energy Rick Perry on the announcement. “It’s going to have a profound impact in energy research, scientific discovery, economic competitiveness and national security.”

“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.” said Perry. “Summit will empower scientists to address a wide range of new challenges, accelerate discovery, spur innovation, and above all, benefit the American people.”

The IBM AC922 system comprises 4,608 compute servers, each of which contains two 22-core IBM Power9 processors and six Nvidia Tesla V100 graphics processing unit accelerators, interconnected with dual-rail Mellanox EDR 100-Gb/s InfiniBand. The system also features more than 10 petabytes of memory paired with fast, high-bandwidth pathways for efficient data movement.

In addition to scientific modeling and simulation, Summit, says ORNL, offers unparalleled opportunities for the integration of AI and scientific discovery, enabling researchers to apply techniques like machine learning and deep learning to problems in human health, high-energy physics, materials discovery, and other areas. In addition, Summit allows the DOE and ORNL to respond to the White House Artificial Intelligence for America initiative.

“Summit takes accelerated computing to the next level, with more computing power, more memory, an enormous high-performance file system and fast data paths to tie it all together,” says Jeff Nichols, ORNL associate laboratory director for computing and computational sciences. “That means researchers will be able to get more accurate results faster. Summit’s AI-optimized hardware also gives researchers an incredible platform for analyzing massive datasets and creating intelligent software to accelerate the pace of discovery.”

Summit will be open to select projects this year while ORNL and IBM work through the acceptance process for the machine. In 2019, the bulk of access to the IBM system will go to research teams selected through the DOE’s Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment – or INCITE – program.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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