AMD-powered Frontier supercomputer is now the world's first 'true exascale machine'

The Frontier Supercomputer with AMD logo on the side.
(Image credit: OLCF)

Our friends over at AMD have been making big strides in the field of supercomputing for some time. Just now the Frontier supercomputer—one of several machines powered by the red team's custom-built components—has gained the top spot in not only the Top500, and  Green500 lists, but also the HPL-AI performance list. That's an immense feat for the company, and speaks to the raw power of the silicon AMD is producing nowadays.

In the process, the Frontier supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) has become "the first true exascale machine," according to the Top500 announcements.

The supercomputer is powered by AMD's 3rd Gen, AI Optimized, 64-core, 7A53s EPYC processors, and four purpose built Radeon Instinct MI250x Accelerator GPUs.

Just to get a handle on the kind of power we're talking here, AMD's silicon provides 1.1 exaflops of compute power, which at peak performance equals 1.1 quintillion calculations per second. For comparison, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090-powered machine only offers around 35 (and a bit) teraflops.

All that makes the Frontier supercomputer the the world’s fastest right now, and officially the first to break the exascale barrier. 

"The simple way to think about it, is that Frontier will give us a boost of acceleration by a factor of eight," an official video explains. In other words we'll be able to "tackle problems that are eight times more complex" in the same timeframe it takes to do those calculations now.

Aside from this incredible achievement, Frontier has also claimed silver as the second-most efficient supercomputer in the Green 500 list. In fact, this thing can deliver 52.23 gigaflops per watt of power-efficiency from a single cabinet, which is a good 11.33 gigaflops per watt over the only non-AMD machine in the top 5.

Your next machine

(Image credit: Future)

Best gaming PC: The top pre-built machines from the pros
Best gaming laptop: Perfect notebooks for mobile gaming

In the top spot is the Frontier TDS, also powered by AMD optimized 3rd gen EPYC processors, and AMD Instinct MI250X GPUs.

The red team's notes that the next steps for Frontier involve "continued testing and validation of the system, which remains on track for final acceptance and early science access later in 2022." The machine will then be open for "full science" at the beginning of 2023.

Just imagine all the good we can do in the fields of science and medicine with computing power (and efficiency) like that behind us.

Katie Wickens
Hardware Writer

Screw sports, Katie would rather watch Intel, AMD and Nvidia go at it. Having been obsessed with computers and graphics for three long decades, she took Game Art and Design up to Masters level at uni, and has been demystifying tech and science—rather sarcastically—for three years since. She can be found admiring AI advancements, scrambling for scintillating Raspberry Pi projects, preaching cybersecurity awareness, sighing over semiconductors, and gawping at the latest GPU upgrades. She's been heading the PCG Steam Deck content hike, while waiting patiently for her chance to upload her consciousness into the cloud.