Supercomputer vs. Mainframe Computer

By Jaxson

Main Difference

The main difference between Supercomputer and Mainframe Computer is that the Supercomputer is a extremely powerful computer for its era and Mainframe Computer is a computers used primarily by large organizations for critical applications

  • Supercomputer

    A supercomputer is a computer with a high level of performance as compared to a general-purpose computer. The performance of a supercomputer is commonly measured in floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) instead of million instructions per second (MIPS). Since 2017, there are supercomputers which can perform over 1017 FLOPS (a hundred quadrillion FLOPS, 100 petaFLOPS or 100 PFLOPS). Since November 2017, all the world’s fastest 500 supercomputers run Linux-based operating systems. Additional research is being conducted in the United States, the European Union, Taiwan, Japan, and China to build faster, more powerful and technologically superior exascale supercomputers.Supercomputers play an important role in the field of computational science, and are used for a wide range of computationally intensive tasks in various fields, including quantum mechanics, weather forecasting, climate research, oil and gas exploration, molecular modeling (computing the structures and properties of chemical compounds, biological macromolecules, polymers, and crystals), and physical simulations (such as simulations of the early moments of the universe, airplane and spacecraft aerodynamics, the detonation of nuclear weapons, and nuclear fusion). They have been essential in the field of cryptanalysis.Supercomputers were introduced in the 1960s, and for several decades the fastest were made by Seymour Cray at Control Data Corporation (CDC), Cray Research and subsequent companies bearing his name or monogram. The first such machines were highly tuned conventional designs that ran faster than their more general-purpose contemporaries. Through the decade, increasing amounts of parallelism were added, with one to four processors being typical. In the 1970s, vector processors operating on large arrays of data came to dominate. A notable example is the highly successful Cray-1 of 1976. Vector computers remained the dominant design into the 1990s. From then until today, massively parallel supercomputers with tens of thousands of off-the-shelf processors became the norm.The US has long been the leader in the supercomputer field, first through Cray’s almost uninterrupted dominance of the field, and later through a variety of technology companies. Japan made major strides in the field in the 1980s and 90s, with China becoming increasingly active in the field. As of June 2020, the fastest supercomputer on the TOP500 supercomputer list is Fugaku, in Japan, with a LINPACK benchmark score of 415 PFLOPS, followed by Summit, by around 266.7 PFLOPS. The US has four of the top 10; China and Italy have two each, Switzerland has one. In June 2018, all combined supercomputers on the list broke the 1 exaFLOPS mark.

  • Mainframe Computer

    A mainframe computer, informally called a mainframe or big iron, is a computer used primarily by large organizations for critical applications, bulk data processing (such as the census and industry and consumer statistics, enterprise resource planning, and large-scale transaction processing). A mainframe computer is larger and has more processing power than some other classes of computers, such as minicomputers, servers, workstations, and personal computers. Most large-scale computer-system architectures were established in the 1960s, but they continue to evolve. Mainframe computers are often used as servers.

    The term mainframe derived from the large cabinet, called a main frame, that houses the central processing unit and main memory of early computers. Later, the term mainframe was used to distinguish high-end commercial computers from less powerful machines.

  • Supercomputer (noun)

    Any computer that has a far greater processing power than others of its day; typically they use more than one core and are housed in large clean rooms with high air flow to permit cooling. Typical uses are weather forecasting, nuclear simulations and animations.


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