What is a Supercomputers and its uses with examples (Types, Characteristics)

What is a Supercomputer? 

Supercomputers are computers with higher performance than general-purpose computers. FLOPS (floating-point operations per second) are typically used to measure the performance of supercomputers. In scientific computations, FLOPS is a measure of computer performance required to perform floating-point calculations, i.e. calculations with very small and very large real numbers that require fast processing speeds. Compared to million instructions per second (MIPS), it is more accurate. 

We now have supercomputers capable of performing more than a hundred quadrillion FLOPS, referred to as petaFLOPS. In addition, Linux is the operating system of choice for the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers today. 

Characteristics of Supercomputer

They are capable of supporting more than 100 users at once. Machines can handle massive amounts of calculations that are beyond the capabilities of humans, i.e., humans cannot handle such extensive calculations. Supercomputers are the most expensive computers ever built. They can be accessed by many individuals at once.

Features of Supercomputer

There are more than one CPU (Central Processing Unit) in these systems, which interpret and execute instructions. There is no limit to how fast CPUs can run on the supercomputer. Instead of working on pairs of numbers, they can work on pairs of lists of numbers. Initially, they were used in national security, nuclear weapons design, and cryptography applications. Additionally, they work in the aerospace, automotive, and petroleum industries today.

Types of Supercomputers

General purpose supercomputers and special purpose supercomputers are the two broad categories of supercomputers. 

Vector processing supercomputers, cluster computers that are tightly connected, and commodity computers can be further divided into three categories. Array or vector processors are the heart of vector processing supercomputers. Processors such as these are basically processors that can perform mathematical operations on lots of data elements simultaneously; they differ from scalar processors, which are able to work on single elements. A common part of supercomputers in the 1980s and early 1990s, vector processors are not as popular today as they were in the 1980s and early 1990s. It should be noted, however, that some vector processing instructions are incorporated into the CPUs of today’s supercomputers. 

Computer clusters are grouped together and work as a unit. A cluster could consist of a director, a two-node cluster, a multinode cluster, or a massively parallel cluster. Linux-based clusters with free software for implementing parallelism are a popular example. Clusters offering single-system image functionality include Sun Microsystems’ SSI and Grid Engine. 

Two-node clusters are often used for fault tolerance, while director-based clusters are used for high performance. Massive parallel clusters are supercomputers that can solve problems with enormous numbers of processors simultaneously, essentially performing coordinated computations in parallel. First massively parallel computer was ILLIAC IV, which had 64 processors and had a throughput of over 200 million floating point operations per second. 

Alternatively, commodity clusters use high-bandwidth low-latency local area networks to connect a large number of commodity computers (standard-issue PCs). 

A special purpose computer, on the other hand, is a supercomputer designed to achieve a specific goal/task. The ASICs used in these devices provide better performance because they are designed for specific purposes. A few notable examples of special-purpose supercomputers are Belle, Deep Blue, and Hydra, all built to play chess, as well as Gravity Pipe for astrophysics and MDGRAPE-3 for protein structure computations and molecular dynamics. 

Uses of Supercomputer

The superiority of supercomputers prevents them from being used for everyday tasks. Those applications that require real-time processing are handled by supercomputers. In addition to their use for complex animated graphics, they are widely used for scientific simulations and research, including weather forecasting, meteorology, nuclear energy research, physics, and chemistry. The tools are also employed in interpreting new diseases and predicting illness behavior and treatment. Aircraft, tanks, and weapons are tested using supercomputers by the military. In addition, they use them to understand how they affect soldiers and wars. Data is also encrypted using these machines.

Detonations of nuclear weapons are tested with them by scientists. The creation of animations in Hollywood is made possible by supercomputers. Gaming online is one of the uses of supercomputers in entertainment. When there are many users playing the game, supercomputers help stabilize the performance.

Examples of supercomputer

We have listed 10+ examples of supercomputers around the world below:

  1. Summit Supercomputer
  2. Sierra Supercomputer
  3. Sunway TaihuLight Supercomputer
  4. Tianhe-2 Supercomputer
  5. Frontera Supercomputer
  6. Cray-1
  7. Fugaku
  8. PARAM-Siddhi
  9. ETA10
  10. CRAY X-MP
  11. Hydra supercomputer

These all are examples of supercomputers.

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