Difference Between Supercomputers and Mainframe Computers

Computers are an integral part of our society, and they come with different processing power and capabilities. There are two vital classes of powerful computers.

They are mainly supercomputers and mainframe computers. They can process a large amount of data at extremely high speed, and they perform scientific calculations for specialized purposes at an intense pace.

Supercomputer vs Mainframe Computers

The main difference between supercomputers and mainframe computers is that supercomputers are the fastest computers specialized for intense scientific calculations. They are known for their speed and accuracy and get utilized for scientific research. Mainframe computers are large scalable systems designed to support a vast volume of data. Mainframe computers are not as quick as supercomputers but an enormous input, output, and storage and utilized for simple calculations and computations handling massive data.

Supercomputer vs Mainframe Computers

Supercomputers are the fastest computers performing the most complex mathematical computations. They are the largest and the expensive computers with Linux as the operating system.

They execute billions of floating-point operations in a second and get utilized for research purposes. Their execution rates are relatively high and have a vast memory capacity.

Mainframe computers are scalable, general-purpose computers. It gets designed to handle incredible volumes of data.

The mainframe computers are served as central receiving and switching computer, which operates all the terminals connected to them.

Mainframe computers get used by banks or financial institutions that constantly maneuver repetitive operations and transactions.

Comparison Table Between Supercomputer and Mainframe Computer

Parameters of ComparisonSupercomputerMainframe Computer
SpeedThe speed is 200 MIPS.The speed is 3-4 MIPS to 100 MIPS.
ProblemIt is limited to calculation speed.It is limited to input and output.
UtilityIt is used for scientific research.Used in financial institutions and banks.
ReasonIt is used for specific tasks.Handle a variety of activities.
PurposeComplicated calculations.Amount of input and output data.

What is a Supercomputer?

Supercomputers are the largest, quickest, and most expensive computers. The first company which introduced the supercomputer was Cray Inc.

Seymour Clay designed and developed the first supercomputer in 1976. The supercomputer speed matches the speed of the home computer of today. 

The supercomputer weighed around 5.5 tonnes and was 6 feet high and 8 feet in dimensions. Approximately 200,000 computer chips and 60 miles of wiring got required in assembling the supercomputer.

Over the years, the size of the supercomputer has reduced, and the speed has doubled. The supercomputer of the world is in Sunway TaihuLight in Mainland China

Most supercomputers have Linux operating system. The supercomputer focuses on complex mathematical computation and executes billions of floating points to accurate answers.

The supercomputer helps in weather forecasting, nuclear energy and neurological research, and other complex operations. 

It even gets utilized for scientific and engineering work that requires accurate high-speed computation involving millions of instructions every second.

Supercomputer utilizes 1.4 Million GB of RAM to amount a split of the function of the human brain capacity. The accuracy of the supercomputer is beyond doubt.

Supercomputers get distinguished by their high execution rates, enormous memory capacity, high input, and output speed.

They consume a lot of power and remain in a controlled environment, and these computers have a specific cooling system and security system. 

What is a Mainframe computer?

The mainframe computers are large, fast, and expensive. But when compared to a supercomputer, they are smaller, slower, and reasonable. The first mainframe was ‘the Harward Mark 1’, designed in the 1930s but not functional till 1943.

Several computers started manufacturing mainframe computers during the years 1950-1970. But the most successful is the IBM (International Business Machine)Corporation.

The mainframe computer handles the central processing unit that controls larger I/O (input and output) hardware. The mainframe computer supports an enormous database, extensive input and output devices, and multiple programming simultaneously. 

The mainframe computer is a server controlling multiple users all at the same time. The mainframe computer is expandable in terms of both hardware and software. The mainframe computer can operate for years without any interruption.

Due to cost-effectiveness, it gets utilized in large organizations like banks, airlines, financial companies as they handle millions of transactions. 

A mainframe computer could be as small as a filing cabinet or a medium-sized room. These get seen in traditional data centers with exceptional data-solving capabilities, and the memory capacity gets measured in gigabytes and more.

They get stored in specialized wired and air-conditioned rooms for uninterrupted service, as they produce a lot of heat.

The sizeable mainframe computer gets to process about 100 MIPS, and the operating system handles multiple applications. It manipulates a large amount of data with unbelievable output and accomplishes programs in parallel, minimizing idle time.

The mainframe computer could cost thousands of dollars or millions of dollars.

Main Differences Between Supercomputers and Mainframe Computers

  1. Supercomputers get utilized for complicated computations which require large memory. Mainframe computers handle a massive amount of input, output storage.
  2. Supercomputers get built for specific institutional tasks. Mainframe computers handle a variety of projects.
  3. Supercomputer focuses on problems related to calculation and speed. Mainframe computers focus on input/output and reliability.
  4. The processing speed of the supercomputer gets as high as 200 MIPS. The processing speed of mainframe computers can be between the range of 3-4MIPS up to 100MIPS.
  5. Supercomputer plays a pivotal role in scientific research, aircraft industry. Mainframes computers are part of the bank or financial institution.
Difference Between Supercomputers and Mainframe Computers


Both supercomputers and mainframe computers are considered the most powerful computer system.

Supercomputer focuses on complex mathematical calculations which require immediate results, and the mainframe computer is primarily concerned with the input, output, and reliability. 

Supercomputers are specialized for intense scientific computation practically impossible by any other computer. Mainframe computers are the oldest category of computers, and they handle a large variety of activities like data processing, warehousing.

These computer systems are stored in specialized air-conditioned rooms as they produce a large amount of heat.

Supercomputers are the largest, fastest, and expensive computers utilized for various research purposes. Mainframe computers are less dynamic than supercomputers, and they play a crucial role in financial organizations.


  1. https://www.osti.gov/biblio/5503324
  2. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/163954/
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