June 24, 2014
Chinese Supercomputer Tops 500 List For A Third Time
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
China is the land of that "Great Wall," and now it is also the land of the fastest computer on Earth for a third time. The Tianhe-2, which was developed by China's National University of Defense Technology, was declared the world's fastest computer according to Top500 list – the twice yearly compilation of fastest computers.
While officially owned by the Chinese government and operated by a defense technology university, the Tianhe2 supercomputer is reportedly used as a "research and educational" tool according to BBC News.
The Chinese have surged ahead in recent years with supercomputing technology.
The Top500 organizers noted that the top 10 supercomputers were mostly unchanged from the last list, with the exception of the American Cray XC30 computer. That particular machine was reportedly installed at an undisclosed US government site.
While the United States can't claim the fastest computer, it does have by far the most supercomputers out of the top 500 systems – with 233 computers in total. However, this latest list saw US representation fall by 15 percent. China was a distant second but had 20 percent more supercomputers on the list with a total of 76, up from 63 in the previous count. The United Kingdom had 30, France had 27 and Germany had 23.
It has also been five years since IBM's Roadrunner became the first computer to break the 1 petaflop mark. Just as desktops and laptops can quickly become yesterday's technology, so too did the once-speedy Roadrunner, which IBM shut down last year. Built in 2008 it only held the title of fastest computer for a little over a year, and its success was largely due to technology that featured 296 server racks covering 6,000 square feet.
All computers on the Top500 list are measured against the same criteria, and the benchmark was first devised in 1979 but improved as computing power has become more sophisticated. The computational ability of the supercomputers is measured in the aforementioned petaflops.
The entire top 500 list of supercomputers combined reportedly offers the capability of 274 petaflops. However, it is also likely that the machines' capabilities won't continue to increase at super-fast speeds. Mashable's Lance Ulanoff reported, "Performance at the low end of the list typically grew at 90% year-over-year, but has now dropped to a 55% growth rate. Part of this deceleration is attributed to the dearth of new systems at the top. Despite that lack of change, these supercomputers will get more super. Tianhe-2 is projected to reach 100 petaflops by 2018."
Of the top 500 computers, 37 offered performance that exceeded 1 petaflop, and nearly all of those machines used multicore processors. Moreover 85 percent of the machines of those computers utilized Intel processors. While not exactly off-the-shelf systems 36 percent were built by HP and 33 percent by IBM, while Gray built 10 percent.
This year marked the 21st year that organizers in Germany and the United States have combined the Top500 list.