The Exascale Moment Finally Arrives

Top500[1] is a ranking of the most powerful supercomputers published since 1993 and updated two times a year. It compares state-of-the-art supercomputers regarding the number of floating-point operations performed per second (FLOPS, flops, or flop/s). The latest 59th edition, released on June 1, brought big news. The Frontier supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the first computer in the world that reached more than one exaflop and hence took the leadership position. In other words, Frontier can perform more than 10^18 operations per second. To better understand the scale of this achievement, imagine that if each person on earth completed one calculation per second, it would take more than four years to do what an exascale computer can do in just one second.

The race towards exascale computing began in June 2008, when Roadrunner became the first supercomputer ever to achieve one petaflop corresponding to one-thousandth of an exaflop. After fourteen years, we reached the next milestone that the entire HPC community eagerly waited for. By scoring 1.102 exaflops, Frontier beat the Fugaku supercomputer, which has been at the top of the ranking for the last two years with a score of 442 petaflops.

The current leader of the TOP 500 ranking consists of 74 cabinets, each weighing more than 3500 kg which is equivalent to a full-size pickup truck. While a typical personal computer usually has few cores, the Frontier system contains 8,730,112 cores. This number follows from using 9,400 AMD’s 3rd Generation EPYC 7A53s 64-core CPUs along with 37,000 AMD’s Instinct 250X GPU accelerators. At peak, Frontier consumes 40MW of power and generates so much heat that it requires four high-powered pumps to push more than 25,000 liters of water around the machine each minute.

In the MARVEL project, we use supercomputers provided by PSNC during the development of the E2F2C framework. These let us efficiently perform the most computation-intensive tasks, such as AI model training. PSNC offers two HPC systems: Eagle and Altair, classified in the top hundred of the TOP500 list. Eagle made its debut in November 2015, taking the 80th position. Altair was launched five years later and took 85th place in November 2020 ranking.

The race towards zettascale computing has just started! How long do you think we will have to wait to reach this milestone?


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Blog signed by: the PSNC team

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Key Facts

  • Project Coordinator: Dr. Sotiris Ioannidis
  • Institution: Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas (FORTH)
  • E-mail: 
  • Start: 01.01.2021
  • Duration: 36 months
  • Participating Organisations: 17
  • Number of countries: 12

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program under grant agreement No 957337. The website reflects only the view of the author(s) and the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.