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Architecture and Users of Supercomputers

Updated on March 12, 2014

Super / Maxi Computers

The term "Supercomputers" describes the most powerful category of mainframe computers. They are the most powerful, most expensive as well as fastest computers used for high speed, numeric computation, and vast quantity of data manipulation. They have become basic tools in scientific research in the field of energy, space exploration, medicine, industry and other important areas.

There is no supercomputer in Pakistan, because of the restrictions put by the US government due to simulation capability of nuclear weapons in these computer (detail is given in applications). These machines are designed to process complex scientific applications, so the computational speed of the system is very important. Now, evaluate the machine on the classification criteria:

Architecture of Super Computers

These are multi-processor machines, means more than one processor are used for the processing of data. Each address location in supercomputer can hold 64 bits of information, which can be added in 1 machine cycle. The cycle time, the time required to execute a basic operation may he as low as 4 nano seconds. That’s about five times faster than the largest main frame. One of today’s supercomputer has the computing capability of approximately 40,000 IBM PCs, efforts are underway to produce a machine with the power of several millions IBM PCs.
Supercomputer internal circuitry may contain 60 miles of wiring for the main memory alone. As tremendous amount of heat is generated by the circuitry, special cooling devices and separate computer rooms are required. Environmental conditions like humidity, temperature, dust should be monitored. Proper backup power supply arrangements should be made before the installation of the machine. Highly trained data processing staff is required for its operation.
• Processing speed — Speed is measured in BIPS (billions of instruction per second) or iu teraflops (trillions of floating-point operation per second). Normal speed of a supercomputer is 3 BIPS and had gone up to 30 BIPS in CRAY 3. The latest supercomputer working on 15,000 BIPS means 15 TIPS (trillions of instructions per second). In terms of teraflops the speed is hundreds of teraflops.
• Amount of main memory — Large amount of memory is needed in these machines, as thousands of users work at the same time. The memory requirements are higher, because users will be storing their data temporarily in the memory. Main memory normally is in range of several billions bytes (GBs).
• Capacity of external storage devices — Large amount of storage is also needed for the permanent storage of the data of thousands of users. Storage has gone up from GBs (Giga Bytes) to TBs (Tera Bytes).
• Number of users — Thousands of users can access the• machine simultaneously, doing their own jobs. Every user feels that the machine is processing his data, but the machine is processing the data of all the users simultaneously.
• Number of I/O devices — As the machine supports thousands of users so thousands of 110 devices will be required. A süpercomputer supports such a big no. of 110 devices very efficiently and effectively.
• Speed of output devices — Speed of output devices is measured in hundreds of thousands of lines per minute (LPM).
• Price — Prices range from $3m to $50m depending upon the size of the computer, facilities and options purchased with the machine.

Users of Supercomputers

Producers of Supercomputers

Major producers in America are Cray Research, ETA Systems, Good-year Aerospace, Floating Point systems, inc., Thinking Machines, inc., Sun Micro Systems, and IBM. Japanese manufacturers include NEC, Fujitsu, and Hitachi.

The users include; Film makers, National weather forecasting agencies, Geological data processing agencies, Genetics research organizations, Space agencies, Government agencies, Scientific laboratories, Research groups, Military and defense systems, Large time-sharing network, and Large corporations.

Note: Supercomputers’ ability and importance in nuclear / atomic weapon designs, the U.S. government is very cautious about the sale of supercomputer to certain countries.

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