US Recaptures Reign As Having World’s Fastest Supercomputer

It has been more than two years since the US lost the number one spot on the TOP500 list of the world´s fastest supercomputers to China, which then lost that spot to Japan´s K Computer. Now, after IBM unveiled its Sequoia BlueGene/Q System which manages a sustained 16.32 petaflops, the title is returning to the US, dropping Japan to second.
The computer, built for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) by IBM, outpaces Japan´s K Computer by more than 5 petaflops (quadrillion floating-point operations per second), which runs at 10.51 petaflops.
Based on the 96-rack BlueGene/Q system, the new supercomputer, housed at the Department of Energy´s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, will be used by NNSA to model nuclear weapons management, including artificial testing, easing the need for underground testing.
“Sequoia will provide a more complete understanding of weapons performance, notably hydrodynamics and properties of materials at extreme pressures and temperatures” Bob Meisner, NNSA director of the ASC program told Chris Davies of SlashGear. ”In particular, the system will enable suites of highly resolved uncertainty quantification calculations to support the effort to extend the life of aging weapons systems; what we call a life extension program (LEP).”
“While Sequoia may be the fastest, the underlying computing capabilities it provides give us increased confidence in the nation´s nuclear deterrent,” NNSA administrator Thomas D´Agostino told BBC News reporter Naveena Kottoor. “Sequoia also represents continued American leadership in high performance computing.”
Sequoia consists of 98,304 computer nodes, into which 1.6 million cores have been packed and 1.6 petabytes of RAM (1GB per core). IBM boasts the system is eight times more power efficient than the BlueGene/Q system, which held the TOP500 reign during the mid-2000s. At 7.9 megawatts, Sequoia also consumes far less power than Japan´s K Computer, which demands more than 20 megawatts.
Although IBM´s efforts have helped the US retake the lead on the TOP500 Supercomputer list, with two others in the top 10, overall it is faring worse than it was six months ago when the last TOP500 list came out; then, the US commanded five supercomputers in the top 10.
Both China and Germany currently have two supercomputers in the top 10, while Japan, France and Italy each have one. IBM has proven that it is by far the leader in producing super-fast supercomputers, as it has built 5 of the machines currently running in the top 10.
David Turek, VP of deep computing at IBM, told BBC News that the company had been preparing to retake the top spot for two years now. “Substantial planning went into this. We knew the day would come.”
The biannual TOP500 list is published by German professor Hans Meuer and US-based professor Jack Dongarra.
Dongarra told Kottoor that it was unlikely that another supercomputer would overtake IBM soon. “Sequoia is very impressive,” he added.
The very first supercomputer to ever take the number one spot on Dongarra´s and Meuer´s list was the CM-5/1024 in 1993, designed by Thinking Machines. Professor Dongarra said Sequoia is 273,930 times faster than that model.
“A calculation that took three full days to compute on the Thinking Machines in 1993 today can be done in less than one second on the Sequoia,” noted Dongarra.
In fact, Sequoia is capable of calculating in one hour what otherwise would take 6.7 billion people using hand calculators 320 years to complete if they worked non-stop.
Of interesting note, is the fact that the number 500 machine on the list, which performs at 60.8 teraflops, was at number 332 just six months ago when the last TOP500 list was published.

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