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The Exascale thresholds has been broken!

The Frontier supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee performed more than a quintillion calculations per second, officially reaching the milestone of exascale computing. Image credit: Carlos Jones, ORNL

1,000,000,000,000,000,000: This is the number of computer instructions that have been carried out in 1 second by the Frontier Supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee US, making it the first computer to operate in the Exascale dimension.

As every year the Top 500 (supercomputer) ranking has been published and for the first time a supercomputer goes beyond the Exascale ceiling, with a reported speed of 1,102 Exaflops (floating point instructions per second).

It has been a hard race, and it did not meet the expectations circulating 10 years ago when exascale computing was foreseen by 2019. We are 3 years late. Still, consider that in 2012 the fastest supercomputer was the Fujitsu K, operating a 10.51 Petaflops (a hundred times slower than current best in class). That is still “faster” than what foreseen by Moore, a hundred fold gain versus a predicted 64 fold increase.

The most recent M2 Apple chip may be approaching 100 Tflops (although it makes little sense comparing the two…), that is over 10,000 times slower than the best in class supercomputer. Notice that the Frontier Supercomputer is using 8, 730,112 cores versus the 8+10 cores of the M2, hence you could say that the M2 cores are almost 50 times faster than the cores in the Frontier Supercomputer (but again, it is an apple and orange comparison…).

The Frontier Supercomputer will start normal operation by the end of this year and among other things it will be used to help research towards fusion energy.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.