Chinese System Takes No. 1 Spot In Worldwide Supercomputer Ranking

A supercomputer running in China's National Supercomputer Center has taken over the top spot in a closely watched ranking of the world's most powerful supercomputers.

China now operates 42 of the Top 500 supercomputers in the world, confirming the rise of China in the supercomputing realm and putting them second only to the U.S., according to the ranking. Another Chinese system, which had been ranked No. 2, is the third most powerful supercomputer in the world.

The supercomputer that previously held the No. 1 position, a Cray XT5 "Jaguar" system running at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility in Tennessee, is now No. 2.

The ranking of the Top 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world is compiled by Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim in Germany, Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of NERSC/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. The most recent list, the 36th edition, was released late last week.

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The Chinese Tianhe-1A system running in China's National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin has achieved a peak performance of 2.57 petaflops per second, according to the ranking. (A petaflop is one quadrillion calculations per second.) The report said there had been rumors the Tianhe-1A could take over the top spot and the system was the subject of a New York Times story last month.

A Chinese system called Nebulae, located at the National Supercomputing Centre in Shenzen, is the third most powerful supercomputer in the world with a performance of 1.27 petaflops per second.

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A Japanese computer, the Tsubame 2.0 at the Tokyo Institute of Technology; and "Hopper," a Cray XE6 system at the DOE's National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center in California, round out the top five most powerful supercomputers with performances of 1.19 and 1.05 petaflops, respectively.

The U.S. remains the overall supercomputing leader with 275 of the world's 500 fastest supercomputers, note the authors of the ranking. But that's down from 282 in the last ranking in June. The 42 supercomputers China has on the list is enough to give that country the overall No. 2 position, putting it ahead of Japan, France, Germany and the U.K.

Five of the top 10 supercomputers are in the U.S. with the other five in China, Japan France and Germany. The most power supercomputer in Europe is a Bull system at the French CEA (Atomic and Alternative Energies Commission).

Altogether the U.K. has 24 systems on the Top 500 list, down from 38 earlier this year, while Germany and France have 26 and 25 systems on the list, respectively. The 42 systems China has on the list represents a significant gain from the 24 it had earlier this year. Twenty-six systems in Japan made the list, up from 18, while India had four systems in the top 500.

The two Chinese supercomputers and the Japanese system in the top five all use Nvidia graphics processing units (GPUs) to accelerate computation, the report said. Altogether 17 systems on the Top 500 use GPUs as accelerators.