IBM and the U.S. government unveiled the world’s smartest and most powerful AI supercomputer, capable of performing 200 quadrillion calculations per second, making it the fastest in the world. IBM scientists from the U.S., Germany, Switzerland, France, Ireland, Brazil, Israel and Canada worked together over four years to build a system that is optimized from the ground-up for AI.
But what do 200 quadrillion calculations per second really mean? Think of it this way: If every person on earth completed one calculation per second, it would take 305 days to do what Summit can do in 1 second. The Summit supercomputer is about 200,000 times more powerful than the average laptop. Here is something about Summit:
Summit is designed for AI
Four years ago, when the U.S. Department of Energy brought in IBM to build a supercomputer for use at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, it wasn’t just about building a computer that was fast.
The IBM team had to ensure that the system could quickly sift through all types of data, from multiple sources, to help find answers to the world’s most complex problems—from cancer to the opioid crisis to energy efficiency.
Artificial intelligence (AI) workloads are some of the most complex and challenging computational problems for computers today, and when tasked to do so, they are typically power-hungry, inefficient and unable to make sense of all the different kinds of information.
What the team came up with was new server and processor technology—called POWER9—that was built specifically for compute-intensive AI workloads and is faster and more powerful than existing systems that weren’t designed to handle the new types of data that now flow from a vast range of systems and sensors, in different formats.
This technology is not just for government
With deep learning and AI moving well beyond science fiction into the cutting edge of internet and enterprise computing, the impact of Summit is apparent in a variety of industries:
- The National Cancer Institute will use Summit to find previously hidden relationships between disease factors.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs will use it to combine clinical and genomic data with machine learning to understand the genetic factors contributing to opioid addiction.
- And the DOE will use Summit to develop new materials that can transmit electricity without energy loss.
Businesses can have their own “mini Summit” today
There was a time when it would have taken years for technology built for government labs to be brought into market. But IBM has taken the same technology it used for Summit and put it into its newest commercial offerings—the AC922 and POWER9 systems. This means businesses can buy IBM’s new AI-optimized architecture and apply it to solve their toughest business challenges. In other words, this isn’t just about research. This is about giving organizations the technology they need to work smarter in new ways—from banks identifying fraud in real time to global businesses preventing supply chain breakdowns before they happen. And since IBM Power Systems are based on open-source technology, customers have more choices when it comes to which hardware and software to use, as well as more flexibility on the components used inside systems.
Four of the top six banks in North America are already using these systems for things like real-time fraud identification.
What’s inside the box
The Summit supercomputer consists of about 4600 “nodes”, which are basically rack-mounted servers. Although Summit will be 5-10 times more powerful than its predecessor, it will have only a quarter of the nodes and use substantially less power. It’s what’s inside these nodes that makes them so special. Each node consists of a specialized HPC server designed by IBM. The node contains two IBM Power9 processors and six Nvidia Tesla V100 SXM2 GPU accelerators. And to keep these systems cool, there’s a swimming pool’s worth of water flowing overhead.