China Boasts World's Fastest Supercomputer

While it doesn't hold the No. 1 spot, the U.S. still dominates the latest Top500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers.

Patience Wait, Contributor

June 17, 2013

2 Min Read

10 Breakthrough DARPA Technologies

10 Breakthrough DARPA Technologies

10 Breakthrough DARPA Technologies(click image for larger view and for slideshow)

A Chinese supercomputer brought online two years ahead of schedule has grabbed the top spot on the semi-annual Top500 list of the most powerful supercomputers in the world.

Tianhe-2, or Milky Way-2 in English, will be deployed at the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzho, China, by the end of this year. The supercomputer turned in a performance of 33.86 petaflops per second against the Linpack benchmark, which consists of solving a complex system of linear equations. Tianhe-2 is composed of 16,000 nodes; each node uses two Intel Xeon Ivy Bridge processors and three Xeon Phi processors for a total of 3.12 million computing cores.

"Most of the features of the system were developed in China, and they are only using Intel for the main compute part," Jack Dongarra, Top500 editor, said in the press release announcing the rankings. "That is, the interconnect, operating system, front-end processors and software are mainly Chinese."

The Chinese supercomputer knocked the Department of Energy's Titan, at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, down to the second spot, but DOE continues to lead supercomputing efforts in the U.S., with four of the top 10 and six in the top 25.

[ NSA's Prism data gathering programs have sparked debate about protections versus privacy. See NSA Prism: Readers Speak. ]

Overall, U.S. government supercomputers hold nine of the top 25 spots on the list; in addition to DOE's systems, the list includes one supercomputer each at the Air Force Research Laboratory, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and NASA Ames Research Center.

The Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas comes in at #6 with its Stampede system. IBM, which provides the computing power for many of the systems on the list, itself comes in at #13 with its DARPA Trial Subset.

As a country, the U.S. dominates the Top 500, with 252 of the supercomputers on the list. China, with 66 systems, and Japan, with 30 systems, are second and third.

This is not the first time a Chinese supercomputer has taken the top ranking on the list. Tianhe-1A, this system's predecessor, was ranked the fastest system in the world in November 2010.

About the Author(s)

Patience Wait


Washington-based Patience Wait contributes articles about government IT to InformationWeek.

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