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Supercomputing systems employ a large number of interdependent processors, which are the core unit of a computer that gathers instructions and data. These processors are mounted onto a computer chip, which is the portion of the system that carries out the instructions of a computer program. These computer chips are inserted onto a computer card, which also holds memory for the computer chips to use. A number of computer cards are attached to a node card, which have one or more processors with a common memory and are connected by high-speed interconnection networks. Each node card is inserted into a single cabinet, and that configuration is repeated many times to build a single supercomputing system.

Each supercomputing system has a peak performance, which is the maximum rate of floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) that the system can sustain.

Figure 1 shows the common components of a supercomputing system.