supercomputer
Cables, wiring and cooling pipes run overhead during the installation of the new Summit supercomputer at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee on Tuesday, September 12, 2017. Summit is comprised of hundreds of cabinets of servers and miles of fiberoptic cable.
Calvin Mattheis, Knoxville News Sentinel

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — Oak Ridge National Laboratory and IBM have successfully built and launched the Summit supercomputer, the world's most powerful and smartest supercomputer.

The powerful computer is the next step toward a national goal of developing the world's first fully capable exascale machine by 2021.

An exascale computer is one that is capable of making one billion billion calculations per second.

The Summit supercomputer has a peak performance of 200,000 trillion calculations per second — or 200 petaflops, making it eight times faster than the Titan Cray X supercomputer that came before it.

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Oak Ridge National Laboratory director Thomas Zacharia said Summit has already proved itself capable of making exascale calculations in some scientific areas. During its installation, scientists used it to make more than 1.8 quintillion calculations in a single second in bioenergy and human health research.

"This is the first time anyone has broken the exascale barrier," Zacharia said. "Today's Summit also gives us confidence we can deliver on a fully capable exascale computing resource by the year 2021."

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Infographic depicting supercomputer processing speeds.
Created with Piktochart.

Summit's unprecedented computing power will aid scientists in researching energy, advanced materials, artificial intelligence, astrophysics and medicine in ways that were not previously possible.

The machine's high-performance file system and fast data paths allow researchers to get more accurate results faster than ever before.

Scientists are already training Summit to read documents and abstract information to identify hidden disease factors like genes, biological markers and environment for cancer surveillance.

Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry was among those on hand to celebrate the historic computing milestone .

supercomputer
A worker installs the fiber-optic cable within the cabinets during the installation of the new Summit supercomputer at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee on Tuesday, September 12, 2017. Summit is comprised of hundreds of cabinets of servers and miles of fiber-optic cable.
Calvin Mattheis, Knoxville News Sentinel

"There are things this computer does that I can't explain, but what I can explain is that there are people's lives out there that can be changed, maybe a loved one with a terrible disease," Perry said. “It's what we do right here in Oak Ridge, we find a cure. ... It's about making people's lives better."

Summit replaces Oak Ridge's Titan Cray X supercomputer, which debuted as the world's leading computer in 2012 with 76 quadrillion calculations per second.

It was the world's most powerful computer, but China and Switzerland quickly caught up and Titan dropped to fourth place in the world last year.

Summit puts Oak Ridge in the lead again.

"We know we are in a competition, and we know this competition is real and it matters who gets there first," Perry said.