Homegrown Chinese supercomputer claims world number one ranking

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The Sunway TaihuLight is equipped with 10,649,600 computing cores and is capable of carrying out some 93 quadrillion calculations per second(Credit: Xinhua)

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A supercomputer equipped with 10,649,600 computing cores and capable of carrying out some 93 quadrillion calculations per second has just been crowned the world's most powerful supercomputer. Dubbed Sunway TaihuLight, this computing behemoth from China outperforms its nearest rival – another Chinese supercomputer – by being twice as fast and three times as efficient.

Wiping the floor with its rival supercomputer, Tianhe-2, which can "only" perform 33.86 quadrillion calculations per second, the new machine was designed and created by the Chinese National Research Center of Parallel Computer Engineering & Technology and brought on line at the National Supercomputing Center, Wuxi, in east China's Jiangsu province.

Using a Chinese-developed computer core chip just 25 cm2 (3.8 in2) in size, the new computer achieved a Rmax rating on the LPACK (Linear PACKage of algebra routines – the benchmark against which supercomputers are measured) of 93,014,594 megaflops. That is, around 93 petaflops or 93 quadrillion floating-point operations per second. By comparison, the commercially-available Nvidia DGX-1 "Supercomputer in a box" has a rated performance of 170 teraflops or just 0.17 of a petaflop.

Whilst the Sunway TaihuLight may need some 15.37 MW to calculate at its top speed, this power usage is said to be very low for a supercomputer and is, in fact, one of the most energy-efficient gigaflop per Watt ratings of any of its many rivals. And there are a good many of those that use a lot more power than the Sunway, but can't even approach it for processing speed. The Riken K-computer, for example, uses about 12.6 MW to produce just over a tenth of the processing speed of the Chinese machine, at some 10.5 petaflops.

Topping the list of 500 of the world's fastest supercomputers announced at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt, Germany, the Sunway TaihuLight is just one of 167 other supercomputers in China (one more than the US possesses), which has quickly become a world-leader in supercomputer processing speeds. An American computer does come in third place, however, with the DCOE/SC/Oak Ridge Laboratory XK7 Kray, at 17.5 petaflops.

The Top 500 inventory of supercomputers also lists 170 supercomputers across the Americas, where there are four in Brazil, and one in Canada. Meanwhile, Europe has 105 machines across a range of countries, and Asia has 218 (including the 167 already mentioned in China), there are only six supercomputers in Oceania and a lone high-performance machine in the whole of Africa.

And, if you were wondering who came last, it was also another Chinese machine; an Inspur TS10000, with a relatively meager 0.286 petaflops.

Sources: TOP500, Xinhua

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