China, US Dominate TOP500 Supercomputing List
Kyle Maxey posted on November 16, 2016 |
China’s 93-petaflop Sunway TaihuLight is a true behemoth.
China's Sunway TaihuLight, the world's most powerful supercomputer. (Image courtesy of Xinhua News Agency.)

China's Sunway TaihuLight, the world's most powerful supercomputer. (Image courtesy of Xinhua News Agency.)

Since the advent of the modern computer, scientists and engineers have been advancing computing technology in the hopes that they might help solve ever more complicated problems. Today, supercomputers have evolved into some of the most complex and powerful machines on the planet, requiring massive energy inputs and highly specialized programming and architectures.

As is the case with most things sophisticated, a running list is compiled that charts the state-of-the-art (read: potential value) in supercomputing. That list is called the TOP500.

China’s expanded appetite for supercomputing has been simply staggering, so it’s no surprise that it tops the TOP500 list. As was the case in the last TOP500 survey taken six months ago, first place went to the 93-petaflop (meaning 93 quadrillions calculations per second) Sunway TaihuLight. Following in its footsteps, China’s 34 petaflop Tianhe-2 slides into second place. Oak Ridge National Labs’ Titan supercomputer rounded out the top three.

Thought the medaling positions on the TOP500 list remained static, there was a bit of a shake-up among the top-10 finishers. According to the survey, “The Cori supercomputer, a Cray XC40 system installed at Berkeley Lab’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), slipped into the number 5 slot with a Linpack rating of 14.0 petaflops. Right behind it at number 6 is the new Oakforest-PACS supercomputer, a Fujitsu PRIMERGY CX1640 M1 cluster, which recorded a Linpack mark of 13.6 petaflops.”

While the flashy headlines always focus on the supercomputer that sits atop the list, this edition of the TOP500 contains another tidbit of machine demographics that’s of particular interest.

According the 48th edition of the TOP500 supercomputing list, China and the United States can each claim 171 of the most powerful machines on the planet. When combined, the world’s most dominant high performance computing (HPC) nations account for more than two thirds of the entries in the TOP500 list.

For more on supercomputing, read about big data and simulation applications for extra-super supercomputers.

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