A supercomputer is any mechanism whose performance capability, either by design or by default, enables it to compete — effectively or otherwise — in the market for functionality and information. There have been times throughout history where handfuls of spare processors, cobbled together with homemade substrates, produced supercomputers. And because they were super, they qualified.Today, supercomputing performance cannot be achieved accidentally. It must be designed willfully, intentionally, and with a modicum of tolerance for both corporate and international politics.The state of the supercomputing marketTo be a supercomputer in today’s market is to be something other than cobbled together from off-the-shelf parts. A modern system is intentionally architected for a single purpose: parallel processing. This is not the same as multitasking, where a scheduling mechanism juggles multiple applications, adhering to some manner of concurrency.Ordinary multicore processors, intended for use in personal computers and data center servers, may be incorporated in even the fastest supercomputers. Indeed, at the turn of the century, most machines that qualified at the time as supercomputers were composed of commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) components. But a number of factors — some related, some coincidental — conflated in recent years to re-inspire purpose-built supercomputer architecture: Moore’s Law collided head-on… Read full this story
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