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Key Points

  • A64FX was specifically designed for the Fugaku supercomputer at the Riken Center for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan.
  • The architecture of Power9 chips, RISC, is proprietary to IBM and built off the ISA architecture.
  • The Sunway SW26010 is another proprietary chip that you aren’t likely to find outside of a supercomputer setting.

The most powerful supercomputer chips are reserved for the most intense computational processes used by engineers, scientists, and analysts.

They are commonly used for things like quantum mechanics, simulations, nuclear fusion research, and anything that needs to handle massive databases. The chips found in these computational behemoths are some of the most powerful in the world.

Supercomputers don’t just use the central processor. In fact, no processor could handle the workload of these machines. There are hundreds, sometimes thousands of chips linked together and working in tandem to crunch through the data required for the processes named above.

So, while it may take many chips working in harmony, only the most powerful supercomputer chips are up to the task. Of those select few, these five are at the top of computational power.

AMD’s 3rd Gen Epyc 7A53

The Top 500 is a project that ranks the most powerful computers not found on the marketplace. This year a new supercomputer shot to the top of the most powerful supercomputers on earth, Frontier.

Frontier is the world’s first Exascale computer. This supercomputer opened a “new era” of computational power which is marked in exaflops, it clocked an astonishing 1.102 exaflops in a LINPACK benchmark test blowing away the next fastest supercomputer. Frontier is powered by the AMD 3rd Generation of Epyc chips, specifically the 7A53.

These chips have 64 cores and 2 GHz of processing power. Frontier is not the only supercomputer where you can find these chips either. The AMD Epyc chips power fully half of the Top 500’s top 10 rankings. They can be found in the LUMI in Finland, the Adastra in France, and the Perlmutter and Selene in addition to the Frontier in the US.

Fujitzu A64FX

Fugako supercomputer on display
100 times more powerful than the K Computer, the Fugaku was used in Covid-19 research.

©Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Scalable Grid Engine, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons – License

A64FX was specifically designed for the Fugaku supercomputer at the Riken Center for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan. This processor has 48 + 2 assistant cores and an Armv8.2-A SVE 512bit architecture. Fujitzu has said that it will offer these processors in smaller machines for data centers, but for now, Fugaku is the only place you can find it.

Before Frontier dethroned it, Fugaku was the fastest supercomputer in the world. It was built of 158,976 nodes, each node is one CPU. Over 100k A64FX processors run in tandem, tackling some astronomically intense processes. The Fugaku was used to combat Covid-19 by visualizing how droplets could spread the virus. This offered scientists a method to safely analyze the virus and develop treatment.

IBM Power9 Processor

At one time, IBM was one of the biggest names in tech. While its tech industry mystique has largely waned and given way to fresher faces like Apple, Google, and Facebook, IBM is still pushing the limits of computing power. This is on full display with the IBM Power9 Processor.

The architecture of Power9 chips, RISC, is proprietary to IBM and built off the ISA architecture. There are two models, 24 core and 12 core. Each model is also optimized for either scale-out or scale-up applications. Depending on the chip in use, you can expand the amount of memory to share the workload or upgrade the chip to be bigger and faster to handle the workload.

The Power9 is found in Summit, and Sierra, two of the Top 500’s top 10 rankings. It is used in 2/node increments in Summit and Sierra. Chiefly used for data systems and crunching through difficult engineering problems, both Summit and Sierra typically rank in the middle of the top 10. In June 2022 made it to number four and five in the Top 500 rankings.

IBM
IBM offered $1.4 billion and bought the Cleversafe acquisition.

©Nick N A/Shutterstock.com

Sunway SW26010

The Sunway SW26010 is another proprietary chip that you aren’t likely to find outside of a supercomputer setting. If this list depended on cores only, this chip would take the cake. The Sunway Taihulight supercomputer in Wuxi, China, has over 10 million cores.

To put it in perspective, a typical consumer-grade PC probably has 4 cores. Even an elite gaming machine will probably have 8 or 12 cores. Over 10 million is an incredible amount of computing power.

At the heart of this supercomputer is the SW26010 chip, which is Sunway’s proprietary chip. It is a manycore chip, a special type of chip designed for highly parallel processing. The SW26010 is a whopping 260-cores which is how they can reach such a high core count.

The Sunway supercomputer was number one on the Top 500 in 2018 but has fallen to number six in the June 2022 ranking.

Intel Xeon E5-2692v2

Tianhe-2 in the national supercomputer center in Guangzhou
Developed by 1300 scientists and engineers, Tianhe-2 is used for simulation, analysis and security purposes.

©O01326, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons – License

The final chip on this list is from Intel, which might be a major player in the consumer chip market, but has been steadily falling down the Top 500 list for years. The Tianhe-2A is the only supercomputer in the top 10 to use an intel processor. In 2015 it was number 1 in the rankings. But as of June 2022, it has fallen to 9th place.

The chip powering this supercomputer is the Xeon E5-2692v2. It has 12 cores and 24 threads with a clock speed of 2.2GHz. To take on the computational workload demanded by the Tianhe-2A supercomputer, 32,000 Xeon E52692v2 chips are working in tandem. This is over 4 million cores. Not as many as the last entry, granted but a staggering amount nonetheless.

The Chinese government uses the Tianhe-2A supercomputer in its defense programs and simulations. This chip also has some IT applications but mainly focuses on analysis and security.

The Takeaways

Supercomputers are employed to solve some of the biggest problems, from helping scientists understand and combat pandemics to visualizing climate models and outcomes. At the core of these machines are the most powerful supercomputer chips with immense computational power.

That said, supercomputers take an extraordinary amount of energy and processing power. Finding ways to make this technology greener and more sustainable is key. This is what gives us hope, as the Frontier Supercomputer is near the top of the Green 500 as well.

Next Up…

Want to learn more about chips? We think you will love these articles.

The 5 Most Powerful Supercomputer Chips Ever Created FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the most powerful computer Chip on earth?

Right now it is the AMD 3rd Gen Epyc Processors. They are hands down the beefiest chips in use today. But tech moves fast, and there are some other chips on the horizon looking to dethrone AMD’s latest effort.

Are AMD chips more powerful than Intel?

In this case, yes, by a pretty clear margin. Once upon a time the Intel Xeon chips were at the cutting edge but they have been surpassed several times now. AMD is just the latest. Before that, it was the Sunway SW26010, then the Fujitzu A64FX, not to mention IBM cutting into Intel’s lucrative data management business. It is true that Intel is still an industry leader but it seems to be slipping in the computational department.

What is the most powerful supercomputer ever built?

Frontier, the AMD-powered supercomputer in Tennessee, is now the most powerful supercomputer in existence. It blew past the Fugaku, the 2nd most powerful supercomputer, in a benchmark test. It is actually the first SP to achieve exascale or exaflops of computational power. Putting it in a whole new category.

What are supercomputers used for?

Supercomputers are reserved for heavy, data-intensive computations. Mostly used by scientists, engineers, and analysts to run programs and solve problems that need to crunch through massive amounts of data. Commonly, they are used for visual simulations, weather forecasting, and scientific analysis. Most notably, researchers can use these machines to create visualizations of medical conditions in order to study and treat them. Supercomputers helped doctors better understand the Covid-19 pandemic for instance.

Are the most powerful chips avaialble to consumers?

Sometimes, the AMD Epyc can be purchased but it is very expensive and very impractical for a normal setup. Others like the Power9 chips are packaged specifically for data centers and supercomputers. These are available for businesses to purchase but not consumers. There are also chips like the Fujitzu A64FX that are made solely for the Fugaku supercomputer.

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More from History-Computer

  • Top 500 Available here: https://www.top500.org/lists/top500/2022/06/
  • Fugaku About Page Available here: https://www.r-ccs.riken.jp/en/fugaku/about/
  • Tom's Hardware Available here: https://www.tomshardware.com/news/amd-powered-frontier-supercomputer-breaks-the-exascale-barrier-now-fastest-in-the-world
  • Fujitzu A64FX Wikipedia Page Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fujitsu_A64FX
  • Sunway SW26010 Wikipedia Page Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunway_SW26010