back to article Exit the dragon: US govt blows $325m on China-beating 300PFLOPS monster computer

The US government has chosen IBM and Nvidia chips to build the world's fastest supercomputer – a 300 petaFLOPS beast that would trounce today's most powerful super: China's Tianhe-2. The Department of Energy has commissioned two supercomputers, it was revealed on Friday: one is a system codenamed "Summit", which will be …

  1. Anonymous Blowhard

    Well, they had to call it "Summit"

    (Sorry, the "joke" icon may be inappropriate in this case)

  2. Arctic fox

    For some strange reason the expression "arms race"..........

    ..... popped into my head.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: For some strange reason the expression "arms race"..........

      Strategic Computing: DARPA and the Quest for Machine Intelligence, 1983-1993

    2. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: For some strange reason the expression "arms race"..........

      That's not an arm.

  3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    3rd generation computing!

    and scientists will be to use familiar high-level programming languages – C, C++ and Fortran

    The 60s called, and ALGOL wants to have a word!

    1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

      Re: 3rd generation computing!

      And exactly which flavour of Fortran?

  4. Bob Wheeler

    It seems a little OTT just to be able to play network DOOM......

    1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

      We had a stunning multi player version of trek running on an ipsc 32 (and then 64) running in in 1983 - not much of a market then! Written in Fortran (McFarland compiler) and C on the Sun workstations

  5. Sureo

    I hope...

    I hope they put BOINC in it to put the spare cycles to good use.

  6. Dusk


    What's the source for this using Power9, rather than a Power8 rev with NVlink? I don't see any reference to Power9 in relation to this project from either IBM or Nvidia, and none of the other sources reporting about the new machines mention it.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Source?

      It definitely is POWER9 - one of the suppliers told me and the Oak Ridge lab confirmed it.

      You heard it here first. That's why you should read The Register :-)


  7. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

    Not to mention

    Modelling things that go very very bang, and as importantly for their sponsors might fail to go ban at all (or not enough)

    1. cyrus

      Re: Not to mention

      Like whale carcasses?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IBM aligned most of their HPC business (sales, architects, development, services etc.) to system x and they got out-sourced to Lenovo. I wonder who is going to be left in IBM to actually install this monster?

  9. phil dude
    Thumb Up


    Glad to see my buddy Jack in the news ;-)

    I'm currently playing with Titan, which is already a luscious GPU monster...!!

    I can't wait!!


  10. razorfishsl

    Anyone want to mine some crypto currencies?

  11. Miss Config

    FORTRAN Lives

    Actually FORTRAN is the very opposite of your proverbial dead parrot :

    Some examples are atmospheric modeling and weather prediction carried out by the National Center for Atmospheric Research; classified nuclear weapons and laser fusion codes at Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Labs; NASA models of global climate change; and an international consortium of Quantum Chromodynamics researchers, calculating the behavior of quarks, the constituents of protons and neutrons. These projects are just a few random examples from a large computational universe, but all use some version of Fortran as the main language.

  12. Kepler

    One rather significant mistake (plus one or MAYBE two others)

    "The US's fastest publicly known supercomputer is the Cray-built 27 petaFLOPS Titan at Oak Ridge, which is number two in the world rankings. Number three is the 20 teraFLOPS Sequoia at the Lawrence Livermore."

    As the link makes clear, Sequoia turns in just over 20 petaFLOPS, not 20 teraFLOPS; measured in teraFLOPS, its score is just over twenty-thousand ("20,132.7 TFlop/s"), not twenty.

    The article also employs curious rounding when ascribing only 54 petaFLOPS to China's Tianhe-2, instead of 55:

    "It is designed to peak at 150 to 300 petaFLOPS – that's 300 quadrillion calculations per second, or about five times faster than the 54 PFLOPS Tianhe-2."

    The Top 500 site quite clearly reports Tianhe-2's theoretical peak performance as just over 54.9 petaFLOPS ("54,902.4 TFlop/s"), which almost any of us would round up to 55.

    On the other hand, this is the first instance I can think of in which someone who wrote something like "about five times faster than" may actually have meant it, for 300 is closer to 6 times as fast as 54 than it is to 5 times as fast (= 4 times faster), which is what people who say "five times faster than" usually mean.

    Of course, if we use the more accurate 55 instead of 54, then 300 is slightly closer to 5 times as fast, or 4 times faster, than it is to 6 times as fast, or 5 times faster. The problem with the "__ times faster" usage is that the reader or listener can never tell for sure whether the writer or speaker truly meant it or not. More than 9 times out of 10, the writer or speaker actually only means N times as fast, which is actually N-1 times faster.

    (One time faster = 100% faster = twice as fast = two times as fast. Etc.)

    1. Kepler

      Re: One rather significant mistake (plus one or MAYBE two others)

      "for 300 is closer to 6 times as fast as 54 than it is to 5 times as fast (= 4 times faster)"

      Especially if one mentally treats 54 as roughly 50, and does the entire mental calculation using rounded numbers, since 300 is exactly 6 times as much as 50, and exactly 5 times more than 50.

  13. Kepler


    "US govt blows $325m on China-beating 300PFLOPS monster computer"

    Blows? Why "blows"?

    When we say that someone "blew" $X on something, we assert that the expenditure was a complete waste of money, yet there is no discussion in the article at all that suggests that the US government overpaid for the computers, or that expenditures on supercomputers are intrinsically a waste of taxpayer money.

    So where is the evidence of wastefulness to back up the claim made in the headline?

    1. Kepler
      Black Helicopters

      Re: "Blows"???

      Cf. "US blows $174m on new Cray to simulate nukes":

      Evidently El Reg has been proclaiming such expenditures intrinsically wasteful for a while. Has the editorial staff finally seen the light of libertarianism? Or at least of public choice theory (a branch of economics that explains, among other things, why bureaucracies and legislatures always tend to overspend)? Is it ready at last to call the scientists at Oak Ridge and Los Alamos "welfare queens in lab coats"?

      1. Kepler

        Re: "Blows"???

        Well, either that or else El Reg just mis-uses "blows" as a synonym for "spends" or "pays" (or "lays out"). A quick search of El Reg for articles with "blows" in the title suggests this is actually the case:


        Restless PC biz Lenovo blows $100m to gobble 2,500 mobe tech patents


        Crown Castle blows $4.85 BEEELLION for rights to AT&T's cell towers


        Chinese search giant Baidu blows $1.9 BEELION on app store


        Big Blue blows big green in SoftLayer public cloud gobble



        On the other hand, here is an example — the only one I could find* — where it appears that "blows" was actually called for, and the content of the article fully supports its use:


        Carmack blows 'crazy money' on hibernating Armadillo


        Carmack himself calls the expenditure he made "crazy" and acknowledges that it was wasted. Which is why he cut it off.



        * Excepting cases in which "blows" was used in some different sense unrelated to the expenditure of money, as where someone blew a deadline, or something was blown across a border.

        And my apologies for the ugly, space-wasting kludge I had to use to make this last post readable. An inevitable consequence of El Reg's present policy of inserting an extra line break where none is wanted, yet removing extra lines where the composer has inserted them on purpose.

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