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The Swiss supercomputer Piz Daint is released for users today. What can he do? And where does it compare to other high-performance computers in the world?

Ready for use: the Swiss supercomputer Piz Daint in Lugano. (Image: Keystone)

Since the end of last year, Switzerland has had the most powerful supercomputer in Europe, Piz Daint. Today it is officially released for research in Lugano. The President of the ETH Board, Fritz Schiesser, as well as guests from research, politics and business inaugurate Piz Daint.

The new supercomputer (to the factsheet) of the Swiss national high-performance computing center (CSCS) is the flagship of supercomputing in Switzerland. It bears the name of one of the highest mountains in the Grisons Val Müstair.

The supercomputer was installed in April 2013, after which the technicians upgraded it vigorously: The system was expanded from 12 to 28 computer cabinets and with 5000 NVIDIA graphics cards. With this power, the computer passed the petaflop mark in autumn 2013, that is one quadrillion arithmetic operations per second. Today he even achieves a theoretical peak performance of 7.8 petaflops.

In the world ranking of the 500 fastest computers, Piz Daint ranks 6th. The Chinese Tianhe 2 has been leading the list for a long time with a theoretical maximum computing power of 54.9 petaflops.

The Tianhe-2: Chinese supercomputer in Guangzhou.

In addition to Piz Daint, only one Swiss supercomputer made it into the Top 500: Blue Brain 4 from the EPFL in Lausanne was ranked 47th. All the major computers from the Swiss CSCS.


And what can Piz Daint actually do? With it it is possible to create a kind of tomographic model of the earth, to correctly calculate the water bonds in the molecular dynamics or to simulate a high-resolution climate model over Europe.

According to the CSCS, the projects are of direct benefit to society. While the earth model provides helpful information for earthquake-proof urban planning, improved simulation methods for water support drug development or materials research.

The first petaflop supercomputer in Switzerland: Piz Daint. (Image: Keystone)

With around 3.2 billion arithmetic operations per watt, Piz Daint is also the world's most energy-efficient supercomputer in the petaflop performance class. This was achieved, among other things, by using the cold water from Lake Lugano. This made it possible to dispense with an electricity-intensive cooling system.

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