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World's first exascale supercomputer revealed

Installation at the US Department of Energy is the first 'exascale' system to be officially recognised as the world's fastest

The Frontier supercomputer

The AMD-powered Frontier supercomputer has been officially recognised as the world's fastest, ranking number one on the Top500 list.

Frontier, the first exascale supercomputer to appear on the list, topped 1.102 ExaFlop/s during a sustained Linpack benchmark. Not only was that enough to overtake the previous leader, Japan's Fugaku, but it is also faster than the next seven computers on the list, combined. 

The installation is based at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Tennessee. It features 9,408 compute nodes, each housing one 64-core AMD Trento CPU with 512GB of memory. It has been built to "speed up discoveries, make breakthroughs, and address the world's toughest challenges", according to AMD. Specifically, the installation will allow scientists to model and simulate at an exascale level - which is the ability to calculate at least 10¹⁸ floating-point operations per second - to solve problems that are eight times more complex and up to 10 times faster.

As the most powerful supercomputer in the world, Frontier is also expected to reach even higher levels of speed with a theoretical peak performance of 2 exaflops. It is thought that the supercomputer will have a significant impact in critical areas like cancer and disease diagnosis and prognosis, drug discovery, renewable energy, and also the manufacture of new materials to create safer and sustainable products.

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In addition to modelling and simulating complex scientific research, across biological, physical and chemical sciences, Frontier will also enable dramatic breakthroughs in artificial intelligence. The exascale speed will allow Frontier users to develop AI models that are almost five times faster and eight times larger. As such, they will be able to train more data that can increase predictability and speed time-to-discovery.

While Frontier has been officially recognised as the first exascale supercomputer, there are reports of two installations in China that have also broken the barrier. However, those systems have not been submitted to the Top500 committee, supposedly due to political tensions between the US and China. 

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