What is a Supercomputer? All you need to know

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In this world of growing technology, a supercomputer plays a vital role. But, what actually a supercomputer is? Well, a supercomputer can do all the tasks in no time, which means they are way much faster than general computers. They provide a higher level of performance, as they are developed for special purposes.

What is a supercomputer?

A supercomputer is functional in many industries to secure massive data. And to out heavy and complex operations. They are convenient for scientific or engineering applications. Traditional computers perform general tasks, they cannot work faster than supercomputers do. Supercomputers are exceptional in terms of performance. There are some supercomputers that operate at extremely high speed.

However, the speed of operations here is measured in Floating-point operations per second (FLOPS). Supercomputers are masters in multitasking. They do not slow down when you assign more tasks to them. But, they consume more power and heat up easily. Therefore, they are kept in cooling systems.

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History of supercomputers

Seymour Cray

The Livermore Atomic Research Computer (LARC), designed by UNIVAC, is among the list of the first supercomputers. Seymour Cray designed CDC 6600 in 1964. It is the first commercially successful supercomputer. There are so many industries that require high computational equipment including scientific space exploration. Thus, the supercomputer is a much-needed contribution to tech and a few other industries as well.

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How do they work?

A traditional PC has a single CPU, while supercomputers possess multiple CPUs. CPUs in supercomputers possess compute nodes and memory. These computers contain thousands of nodes, and these nodes communicate with each other to solve the problem. They use parallel processing for finding the solution to the problems.

The multiple parallel computers are the fastest and most powerful of all. They perform parallel processing. Parallel processing is, dividing the problem into parts and working on each part. In supercomputers, the problem breaks into pieces and divide among multiple CPUs. Hence, the overall task completes in lesser time.

However, parallel processing has two approaches: symmetric and massively parallel processing. A supercomputer’s operational speed is measured in floating-point operations per second (FLOPS).

How they are different from general computers?

  • The main difference between a general-purpose computer and a supercomputer is processing power. General-purpose computers can perform hundreds of gigaflops to tens of teraflops. But, supercomputers can perform a hundred petaflops.
  • General computers or microcomputers can perform day-to-day work. They can perform all arithmetic and logical operations. While performing more complex and larger computations, many industries need supercomputers.
  • Microcomputers have a single processor, while supercomputers have multiple processors.
  • General-purpose computers are cheap, while supercomputers are extremely expensive.
  • The team of Bill Pentz invented the microcomputer. Whereas, Seymour Cray invented the supercomputer.
  • Microcomputers are present in offices, education systems, data management, word processing, etc. While, supercomputers are more helpful in scientific research, weather forecasting, robot designing, etc.

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Uses of Supercomputer

Supercomputers are quite useful when there are complex and larger operations to perform. There are so many industries and fields that run on supercomputers. Such industries require high processing power, more data storage, and efficiency, for work. Some most common uses of supercomputers are:

  • Weather Forecasting: The weather forecasting department predicts weather with the help of these powerful supercomputers. These computers make use of data that comes from satellites, radar, buoys, weather balloons, and so on. With this data, supercomputers help in predicting the weather, earthquakes, tornadoes, and even space weather.
  • Oil and gas exploration: They collect geophysical seismic data to help in finding out oil reserves.
  • Universe simulations: These computers can build simulations with a thousand trillion calculations per second and create realistic models. They help in unfolding the mysteries of the universe, like how the Universe is formed, and what stars are made of.
  • Testing nuclear weapons: Computer simulations are used for testing nuclear weapons. In 2012, IBM introduced–Sequoia, a new supercomputer specially designed for nuclear simulations. It was developed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. And it can perform twenty thousand trillion calculations per second.
  • Scientific Research: Like the weather, scientists analyze the collected data from satellites, radio telescopes, and probes. And this data helps in exploring the solar system.
  • Intelligence Agencies: Government intelligence agencies all over the world use supercomputers. Through supercomputers, they monitor conversations between citizens and suspected terrorist organisations. Thus these computers also contribute to the nation’s security.

Supercomputers simulate reality on a very large scale. The models after trillions of calculations per second indicate how things work. Like, for such a calculation that requires 120 billion people, 120 billion calculators, and 50 years, a sequoia supercomputer will only take a day.

Some remarkable supercomputers

  • IBM Roadrunner, developed in 2008 in Los Alamos, N.M, processes at a maximum speed of 1.105 PFLOPS.
  • Cray Jaguar was developed in 2009 in Oak Ridge, Tenn. It processes at a maximum speed of 1.759 PFLOPS.
  • In 2011, Kobe, Japan developed the Fujitsu K computer. It can run at a maximum speed of 10.51 PFLOPS.
  • IBM Sierra’s maximum speed is 94.6 PFLOPS. It was developed in 2018 in Livermore, Calif.
  • Fujitsu Fugaku by Japan, developed in the year 2021. The maximum speed of processing is 442 PFLOPS.
  • Sunway Oceanlite–introduced by Qingdao, China in 2021, processes at a maximum speed of around 1.05 exaFLOPS.

Indian Supercomputers

As Indian technology is developing rapidly, we are seeing more and more changes over the past few years. The Indian supercomputers are included in the Top500 supercomputers all over the world, as per June 2022’s data.

  • PARAM Siddhi-AI by the Centre for Development of Advance Computing can run at a maximum speed of 4,619.0 TFLOP/s.
  • Pratyush (Cray XC40) by the Indian Institue of Tropical Meteorology can run at a maximum speed of 3,763.9 TFLOP/s
  • Mihir (Cray XC40) by the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting. It can run at a maximum speed of 2,570.4 TFLOP/s.

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The future of supercomputer

The high-performance computing and scope of supercomputers are getting larger. Many companies stepped forward and made their own supercomputers. Vendors like Amazon Web services, Microsoft, and Nvidia have their own supercomputers. As per some research, the HPC market will be worth $46 billion by 2024.

However, the exascale computers can take this market to another level. These exascale computers will be able to perform such operations which even modern supercomputers aren’t capable of. These computers can generate an accurate model of the human brain. Therefore, these computers will have a great impact on the field of neuromorphic computing.

We hope this article was helpful for you. If it was, then let us know in the comments below. Also, if you are interested in similar articles then, here are a few recommendations for you.
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