Microsoft now has one of the world's fastest supercomputers (and no, it doesn't run on Windows)

Microsoft makes it into the top 10 fastest supercomputers in the world.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

A Microsoft Azure supercomputer dubbed 'Voyager-EUS2' has made it into the rankings of the world's 10 fastest machines. 

Microsoft's supercomputer, with a benchmark speed of 30 Petaflops per second (Pflop/s) is still well behind China's Tianhe-2A and the US Department of Energy's IBM-based Summit supercomputer, but it's the only major cloud provider with a supercomputer ranked in the top 10 in the high-performance computing (HPC) Top500 list.

Voyager-EUS2 was the only new entrant in the Top500's top 10 list of the world's fastest supercomputers, which was led by Japan's Fugaku with 7.63 million cores and a Linpack benchmark score of 442 Pflop/s. 

'Flops' refers to floating point operations per second, indicating the performance of supercomputers that are often used in science -- to simulate weather patterns, for example -- that often run on programming languages like Fortran.  

See also: Windows 11 FAQ: Our upgrade guide and everything else you need to know.

Fugaku's benchmark puts it three times ahead of the US Department of Energy-sponsored Summit supercomputer, which is the US's fastest high-performance computer (HPC) with a Linpack score of 148.8 Pflop/s. It's based on IBM's Power9 CPUs and features 4,356 nodes with 22 cores each backed by six Nvidia Tesla V100 GPUs. 

The fourth running is Sierra, a supercomputer at the University of California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It's also powered by Power9 CPUs and Nvidia Tesla V100 GPUs, scoring 94.6 Pflop/s.

While ranked 10th, Microsoft's Azure supercomputer is the standout in this ranking of the world's fastest supercomputers as the only new entrant in the top 10 list and is the only public cloud provider to attain this ranking. 

Microsoft's Voyager-EUS2, which runs from its Azure East US 2 region, is notable for several reasons. First, but not surprisingly, it's running a Linux distribution, namely the Ubuntu 18.04 long term servicing (LTS) edition. It's got 253,440 cores on AMD EPYC CPUs. 

It's not surprising that the Azure supercomputer is running Ubuntu, given Linux already runs most of the VMs in Microsoft's cloud. Also, Linux distributions run on all the world's biggest supercomputers.   

"Voyager-EUS2, a Microsoft Azure system installed at Microsoft in the U.S., is the only new system in the TOP10," says Top500.org

"It achieved 30.05 Pflop/s and is listed at No. 10. This architecture is based on an AMD EPYC processor with 48 cores and 2.45GHz working together with an NVIDIA A100 GPU with 80GB memory and utilizing a Mellanox HDR Infiniband for data transfer." 

See also: Gartner releases its 2021 emerging tech hype cycle: Here's what's in and headed out.

Microsoft boasted this week that its Azure cloud now has five supercomputers in the Top 500 list. Microsoft is using supercomputers for artificial intelligence (AI) and selling its Azure HPCs as a service.      

It also announced general availability of the Azure virtual machine (VM) called the "NDm A100 v4 Series", which features Nvidia A100 Tensor Core 80GB GPUs – double the Nvidia A100 Tensor Core GPUs. 

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