WHAT ARE SUPER COMPUTERS
A supercomputer is a computer with a high level of performance compared to a general-purpose computer. Performance of a supercomputer is measured in floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) instead of million instructions per second (MIPS). Supercomputers contain tens of thousands of processors and can perform billions and trillions of calculations or computations per second. Some supercomputers can perform up to a hundred quadrillion FLOPS. Since information moves quickly between processors in a supercomputer (compared to distributed computing systems) they are ideal for real time applications.
Supercomputers are used for data-intensive and computation-heavy scientific and engineering purposes such as quantum mechanics, weather forecasting, oil and gas exploration, molecular modeling, physical simulations, aerodynamics, nuclear fusion research and cryptoanalysis. Early operating systems were custom made for each supercomputer to increase its speed. In recent years, supercomputer architecture has moved away from proprietary, in-house operating systems to linux Although most supercomputers use a Linux-based operating system, each manufacturer optimizes its own Linux derivative for peak hardware performance. In 2017, half of the world’s top 50 supercomputers used SUSE Enterprise linux server
The largest, most powerful supercomputers are actually multiple computers that perform parallel processing. Today, many academic and scientific research firms, engineering companies and large enterprises that require massive processing power are using cloud computing instead of supercomputers. High performance computing (HPC) via the cloud is more affordable, scalable and faster to upgrade than on-premises supercomputers. Cloud-based HPC architectures can expand, adapt and shrink as business needs demand. SUSE linux enterprise high performance computing allows organizations to leverage their existing hardware for HPC computations and data-intensive operations.
History of Supercomputers
The US, China, European Union, Taiwan and Japan are already in the race to create faster, more powerful and technologically superior supercomputers.
The US’s first big strides in the field of supercomputing can perhaps be traced back to 1964 when the CDC 6600 was manufactured by Control Data Corporation (CDC). Designed by American electrical engineer and supercomputer architect Seymour Cray, it is generally considered to be the first successful supercomputer as it clocked a performance of up to three megaFLOPS. Cray used – in place of instead of germanium transistors – silicon ones that could run faster. Moreover, he tackled the overheating problem by incorporating refrigeration in the supercomputer design. The CDC 6600 was followed by the CDC 7600 in 1969.
In 1976, four years after he left CDC, Cray came up with the 80 MHz Cray-1, which went on to become one of the most successful supercomputers ever with its performance clocking at an impressive 160 MFLOPS. Then came the Cray-2 that was delivered in 1985, which performed at 1.9 gigaFLOPS and was back then the world’s second fastest supercomputer after Moscow’s M-13.
TYPES OF SUPER COMPUTERS
Capability over capacity
Supercomputers are typically programmed to pursue capability computing over capacity computing. Capability computing is where the maximum computing power is harnessed to solve a single big problem – say, a very complex weather simulation – in as short a time as possible. Capacity computing is when efficient and cost-effective computing power is used to solve a few rather large problems or several small problems. But such computing architectures that are employed for solving routine everyday tasks are often not considered to be supercomputers, despite their huge capacity. This is because they are not being used to tackle one highly complex problem.
Heat management in supercomputers
A typical supercomputer takes up large amounts of electrical power, almost all of which is converted into heat, thus needing cooling. Much like in our PCs, overheating interferes with the functioning of the supercomputer as it reduces the lifespan of several of its components.
There have been many approaches to heat management, from pumping Fluorinert through the system, to a hybrid liquid-air cooling system or air cooling with normal air conditioning temperatures. Makers have also resorted to steps such as using low power processors and hot water cooling. And since copper wires can transfer energy into a supercomputer with power densities that are higher than the rate at which forced air or circulating refrigerants can remove waste heat, the cooling systems’ ability to remove waste heat continues to be a limiting factor.
Uses/ Applications of Supercomputers
While supercomputers (read Cray-1) were used mainly for weather forecasting and aerodynamic research in the 1970s, the following decade saw them being used for probabilistic analysis and radiation shielding modeling. The 1990s were when supercomputers were used for brute force code breaking even as their uses shifted to 3D nuclear test simulations. In the last decade (starting 2010), supercomputers have been used for molecular dynamics simulation.
The applications of supercomputers today also include climate modelling (weather forecasting) and life science research. For instance, the IBM Blue Gene/P computer has been used for simulating a number of artificial neurons equivalent to around one percent of a human cerebral cortex, containing 1.6 billion neurons with approximately 9 trillion connections. Additionally, supercomputers are being used by governments; the Advanced Simulation and Computing Program – run by the US federal agency National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) – currently relies on supercomputers so as to manage and simulate the United States nuclear stockpile.
Various Supercomputer Features
Given below are the various supercomputer features:
Supercomputers are the fastest in the world that can do any type of computation in a fraction of a second, be it complex problems of space computations or running thousands of iterations to decrypt a security key. However, the space occupied is also huge, and several wired connections are needed for them that ranges up to 300 meters. In addition, the storage capacity is also enormous for this mainframe computer so that it can retrieve any amount of data from its CPU. This is the reason why supercomputers are used in any field of research as it has input or output capability to process the data needed by the user.
With the huge amount of data being processed and with the fastest processing, there is a chance for the computer being providing the wrong output at any stage. Supercomputers are proven to be precise in all their calculation and provide results with great accuracy. With the simulations done faster and with accuracy, researchers are getting the advantage of supercomputers that it can solve problems easily. Different iterations are given to supercomputers which it solves in a second. These iterations can also be generated by supercomputers. Supercomputers can solve any type of numerical or logical problem with accuracy.
3. Weather Forecasting
This is another field where supercomputers are highly useful and intelligent. They can predict the weather change easily, and hence if any earthquakes or landslides happen, it can be known via supercomputers. This makes it to help the lives of normal people directly and within a short time. When a location and time is given, supercomputers can predict the conditions of the atmosphere and this study is done on numeric models. Weather satellites and surface weather stations are controlled by supercomputers that help in recording weather observations in each hour. Supercomputers, with their storage, store all the weather data, which helps forecast the data for the future.
4. Scientific Research
Supercomputers are used to solve large problems of scientific research. Complex problems can be solved easily with supercomputers making scientists to find solutions accurately. Also, space organizations are using supercomputers to study the structure of planets in various forms and to verify the presence of various particles in the planets. Furthermore, various natures of molecules and matters can be iterated and studied to create new elements. This helps in studying the structure of the universe and the presence of different organisms in the universe.
Furthermore, supercomputers help in the study of fossils so that the history of various animals can be known. Understanding the structure of subatomic particles help to know the origin of the universe and the nature with which it is getting into the cycle of evolution on a daily basis. It helps in archeology to know the presence of various elements during the ancient history of the world and helps us know the evolution of humans.
5. Genetic Engineering
Modification and manipulation of genes are important for genetic engineers to know the structure of genes so that various alterations can be done in the system itself to know how they get modified with different combinations. This helps genetic engineers to develop new organisms or improved versions of the same. They are using robots to make mutations of genes, and supercomputers control these robots. This automated genetic engineering robot is making the jobs easy for genetic engineers, and hence several combinations can be found in a short duration. For example, it is used in studying variations of Covid-19 so that it is used to develop vaccines for the same.
Security is a concern either at the national level or personal level. Cameras are placed everywhere so that one can be secure anytime. These cameras should always be operated, and this must be controlled from a central server which runs without any downtime. Supercomputers can be used here to control all the working of the security systems that run daily. Regarding national security, supercomputers are employed in the design of nuclear and any other weapons so that better weapons can be designed and formulated for the nation. Weapons are secured with a cryptographic code, and these codes can be decoded with the help of supercomputers if needed.
7. Online Gaming
This is another aspect where supercomputers are used. Supercomputers are cheap compared to the olden days, so that gamers employ this computer for their gaming. This helps gamers from all over the world play games simultaneously on the same platform. There will be millions of team members to play the same game. Chess is another area where supercomputers formulate different game plans and help the gamer win.
Various levels of life such as nuclear tests, physical simulations, military operations due to which supercomputers were invented, global warming challenges, medical field and aerospace field are researches being carried out by supercomputers. The power of supercomputers cannot be measured or identified in simple words but can be understood if we start learning how all the complex problems are solved in a short span of time.
Supercomputers are specialized devices built to perform extremely difficult calculations extremely quickly. They can be used to play chess, render high-quality computer graphics or accurately simulate weather systems. Supercomputers require special maintenance intended to keep them cool, and they consume prodigious amounts of electricity, but the advantages of a supercomputer are so great that they continue to be developed with ever-increasing capabilities.
The Advantages of Supercomputers
Decreasing Processing Time
The primary advantage that supercomputers offer is decreased processing time. Computer speed is commonly measured in “floating point operations,” or “FLOPS.” Average home computers can perform up to a hundred billion of these operations per second, or 100 “gigaflops.” Supercomputers, however, are tens of thousands of times faster, meaning that calculations that would take your home computer hours or days can be solved by a supercomputer in a matter of seconds.
Solving New Problems
The sheer processing power of supercomputers means that they can be used to do things that ordinary computers simply couldn’t handle. For example, weather forecasting is highly complex and requires extremely sophisticated algorithms. Only supercomputers have the ability to perform these calculations in a timely fashion. Supercomputers have also permitted great strides in filmmaking and special effects. Pixar uses a supercomputer with more than 1,000 individual CPUs; even using this computer, each frame of their movies can take up to 90 hours to render.
By decreasing the amount of time needed to complete processing tasks, supercomputers can lower costs, saving money in the long run through increased efficiency. For this reason, some companies specialize in renting supercomputers to clients who don’t need a full-time computer but do need occasional bursts of processing power. Supercomputers can also lower costs by allowing engineers to create computer simulations that remove the need for expensive, high-precision physical models or testing environments.
Beyond CGI and scientific applications, supercomputers can also help to make the world a safer place. Simulations or tests that would be difficult or extremely dangerous in the real world can be performed on a supercomputer instead. For example, nuclear weapons must be tested to make sure that they function. Without supercomputers, the testing process would have to involve detonating a nuclear bomb; computers allow engineers to obtain the same results without running the risks of an actual nuclear explosion.
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