The Computing Power in Supercomputers

4 Mins read


A supercomputer is a type of computer that performs at a higher level than a general-purpose computer. Instead of million instructions per second, a supercomputer’s performance is typically in floating-point operations per second (FLOPS). The term ‘supercomputer’ applies to far slower but still impressively fast computers.

Supercomputers have been developed from a grid to a massively parallel computing cluster system. Supercomputers are enormous in terms of size. The largest supercomputer can range from a few feet to hundreds of feet. The cost of a supercomputer might range from $200k to more than $100m.

Supercomputers play an important role in computational science. They are used for computationally intensive tasks in various fields, including quantum mechanics, weather forecasting, climate research, oil and gas exploration etc.

This article will discuss supercomputers’ nature, evolving process and operational structure. We will understand the fundamental difference between general computers and supercomputers and the large-scale use of supercomputers in different industries.



History of Supercomputers

The first two supercomputers, IBM’s 7030 Stretch and Sperry Rand’s UNIVAC LARC, intended to be more powerful than the fastest commercial machines at the time, introduced the word ‘supercomputer’ in the early 1960s. The development of cutting-edge, high-performance computer technology for military purposes first received traditional financing from the US government in the late 1950s, which sparked a series of events that influenced the development of supercomputing.

Although the government initially purchased a small number of supercomputers, the technology would eventually enter the industrial and commercial mainstreams. For instance, from the middle of the 1960s through the late 1970s, two US businesses—Control Data Corporation (CDC) and Cray Research—led the commercial supercomputer market.

How does a Supercomputer Work?

In contrast to conventional computers, Supercomputers use many central processing units (CPU) simultaneously. These CPUs array into compute nodes, each consisting of a memory block and a processor or group of processors. A supercomputer at scale may have tens of thousands of nodes. These nodes can work together to solve a particular problem because of their interconnect communication capabilities.

Modern supercomputers typically operate much faster because of a technique known as parallel processing, which divides issues into manageable chunks and works on several of them simultaneously. It’s comparable to bringing a large cart to the checkout counter and dividing your purchases among numerous individuals. Each friend can use a different checkout with a couple of the things and make their payments. Once everyone has paid, you can reunite, load the cart, and depart. Theoretically, the way our brains work is more like parallel processing.

Difference between General-Computers and Supercomputers

Supercomputers are all-purpose computers operating at the maximum possible or their maximum capacity. The primary distinction between supercomputers and general-purpose computer systems is processing power. 100 PFLOPS can be accomplished using a supercomputer. A general-purpose computer can typically process only a few hundred gigaFLOPS to tens of teraFLOPS.

Supercomputers use a lot of electricity. They produce so much heat that it must be stored in cooling systems. But, quantum computers, which function according to the laws of quantum physics, are distinct from supercomputers and general-purpose computers.

How Fast is a Supercomputer?

Japan’s Fugaku, which has a speed of 442 petaflops as of June 2021, is the country’s fastest supercomputer, according to the TOP500 list. The Summit and Sierra supercomputers from IBM, which have processing speeds of 148.8 and 94.6 petaflops, respectively, take the second and third places. The US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee is where Summit is situated. Sierra is situated at the California-based Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

When Cray-1 was installed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1976, it was capable of speeds of about 160 megaFLOPS, comparable to today’s capabilities. One million FLOPS can be performed via a megaFLOP.

Supercomputers are super fast

Supercomputers are super fast.

Uses of Supercomputers in Different Sectors

General-purpose computers are unable to handle the resource-intensive calculations that supercomputers can. They frequently run software for engineering and computational sciences, including:

Forecasting the weather to foresee the effects of severe storms and flooding

Oil and Gas Exploration: Massive amounts of geophysical seismic data are collected during oil and gas exploration to help locate and develop oil reserves

Molecular Modelling: using molecular Modelling to compute and examine the compositions and characteristics of crystals and chemical compounds

Physical Simulations, such as those that represent supernovae and the universe’s creation

Aerodynamics, such as creating an automobile with the least amount of air drag

Nuclear Fusion: Building a nuclear fusion reactor that gets its energy from plasma processes through nuclear fusion research

Medical Field: Medical study to create novel cancer medications, comprehend the genetic elements that contribute to opioid addiction, and discover COVID-19 therapies

Recognizing Earthquakes:

Supercomputer simulations have an immediate impact on the poles of the Earth. Researchers can forecast how earthquake waves will move locally and globally by simulating the three-dimensional structure of the Earth.

Bitcoin Exchange

Computer nerds have found supercomputing techniques to be ideal for Bitcoin mining. They employ specialized mining equipment explicitly created to address Bitcoin hash rate issues. Supercomputers are also increasingly becoming crucial for real financial success in the developing world of online currencies.

News Sources

The major news organizations have recently started adopting software tools that use algorithms to find facts and basic data mining patterns and narratively depict them. These algorithms can search past data for unusual occurrences, choose the most acceptable words from a large thesaurus, and apply them to a situation.

Supercomputers in Newsmedia

Supercomputers in Newsmedia

Entertainment Industry

Any summer blockbuster or series on Netflix in the entertainment industry, and likely any film in general, owes a great deal of high-performance computing (HPC). Without the assistance of supercomputers, it is not easy to produce the visual effects and voice quality we are observing today.

List of Top Super Computers

  • Frontier 2022
  • LUMI 2022
  • Sunway Oceanlite 2021
  • Fujitsu Fugaku 2021
  • IBM Summit 2018
  • IBM Sierra 2018
  • Sunway TaihuLight 2016

Supercomputers and Artificial Intelligence

Since AI algorithms often require performance and processing power comparable to supercomputers, they are frequently run on supercomputers. The massive volumes of data that are used in the development of AI and machine learning applications may be handled by supercomputers.

Some supercomputers were designed with artificial intelligence (AI) in mind. For instance, Microsoft created a supercomputer from scratch to train sizable AI models compatible with its Azure cloud platform. Azure’s AI services offer supercomputing resources to developers, data scientists, and business customers. Microsoft’s Turing Natural Language Generation, a model for natural language processing, is one example of such a technology.


Although supercomputers are not the ultimate reality of present-day technology, they are doing more than expected. The pursuit of exascale processing power is the current emphasis of the supercomputer industry. Exascale computing may open up new opportunities that go beyond those offered by even the most advanced supercomputers. Exascale supercomputers might be able to produce a precise model of the human brain, complete with synapses and neurons. This would significantly impact the field of neuromorphic computing.

Check out the future of 5G technology.

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