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When the US Department of Energy unveiled its newest supercomputer, Summit, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory it once again gave the country the world’s fastest computer, taking that honor back from China.

Jack Dongarra
Jack Dongarra

As a sign of how quickly the field changes, Titan, Summit’s predecessor at ORNL, was the world’s fastest at the time of its debut just six years ago.

In that short span, Summit has been designed to be faster—much faster.

“It is roughly eight times faster than Titan,” said Jack Dongarra, Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who compiles the Top 500 list of the world’s fastest computers. “It will be the new number one system on our next list.”

Dongarra recently wrote an editorial for the Washington Post on the advances being made in supercomputing.

He said it would take every man, woman, and child on earth doing one calculation per second, every second, for 305 days just to match what Summit can do in one second.

Dongarra said Summit has 27,648 Nvidia Volta processing units, each of which is capable of performing seven teraflops per second. That equates to seven million million operations per second.

Its performance in artificial intelligence algorithms is even more impressive.

Dongarra explained that the Nvidia units all have tensor cores, which allow them to perform 33.1 exaflops—or 33 billion billion—operations per second.

This is the first time since a Chinese computer passed Titan in 2013 that the US has had the fastest machine.

That back-and-forth between the two nations has been referred to as a new arms race by some. Dongarra noted that just a generation ago China didn’t have a single supercomputer but now dominates the list.

Media coverage citing Dongarra:

Wired: Why the US and China’s Brutal Supercomputer War Matters

New York Times: China Extends Lead as Most Prolific Supercomputer Maker

CNBC: China Extends Lead as Most Prolific Supercomputer Maker

AIthority: New Tensor Core GPUs Fuse HPC and AI to Speed Scientific Discovery

HPC Wire: GPUs Power Five of World’s Top Seven Supercomputers

Electronic Engineering Times: US, China Spar in Supercomputers

InsideHPC: NVIDIA Tensor Core GPUs Accelerate World’s Fastest Supercomputers


David Goddard (865-974-0683,