US-built ‘Frontier’ now world’s fastest supercomputer

Frontier features a theoretical peak performance of 2 exaflops, or two quintillion calculations per second, making it 10 times more powerful than ORNL's Summit system.

San Francisco: US-built supercomputer titled ‘Frontier’ on Monday dethroned Japan’s ‘Fugaku’ (developed by the Riken Institute and Fujitsu), as the world’s fastest machine with 1.1 exaflops of performance on the 59th TOP500 list published by an international conference of computer experts.

The Frontier supercomputer at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the first to achieve an unprecedented level of computing performance known as exascale, a threshold of a quintillion calculations per second.

Frontier features a theoretical peak performance of 2 exaflops, or two quintillion calculations per second, making it 10 times more powerful than ORNL’s Summit system.

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“Frontier is ushering in a new era of exascale computing to solve the world’s biggest scientific challenges,” ORNL director Thomas Zacharia said in a statement.

“This milestone offers just a preview of Frontier’s unmatched capability as a tool for scientific discovery,” he added.

Frontier leverages ORNL’s extensive expertise in accelerated computing and will enable scientists to develop critically needed technologies for the country’s energy, economic and national security, helping researchers address problems of national importance that were impossible to solve just five years ago.

Frontier’s speeds surpassed those of any other supercomputer in the world, including ORNL’s Summit, which is also housed at ORNL’s Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility.

Frontier, a HPE Cray EX supercomputer, also claimed the number one spot on the Green500 list, which rates energy use and efficiency by commercially available supercomputing systems, with 62.68 gigaflops performance per watt.

The work to deliver, install and test Frontier began during the Covid-19 pandemic, as shutdowns around the world strained international supply chains.

More than 100 members of a public-private team worked around the clock, from sourcing millions of components to ensuring deliveries of system parts on deadline to carefully installing and testing 74 HPE Cray EX supercomputer cabinets, which include more than 9,400 AMD-powered nodes and 90 miles of networking cables.

“When researchers gain access to the fully operational Frontier system later this year, it will mark the culmination of work that began over three years ago involving hundreds of talented people across the Department of Energy and our industry partners at HPE and AMD,” said Jeff Nichols, ORNL associate lab director for computing and computational sciences.

The Frontier supercomputer’s exascale performance is enabled by some of the world’s most advanced pieces of technology from HPE and AMD.

China has also developed the successors to Tianhe-2 and Sunway TaihuLight supercomputers.

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