Saudi Shaheen II ranks seventh in global supercomputer rankings

Cray XC40 system marks first Middle East entrance in global top 10

Tags: King Abdullah University of Science and TechnologySaudi Arabia
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Saudi Shaheen II ranks seventh in global supercomputer rankings KAUST spent around $80m on the system, which is more than 25 times more powerful than the supercomputer it replaces
By  Tom Paye Published  July 14, 2015

Saudi Arabia's Shaheen II supercomputer is the first system from the Middle East to feature in the top 10 of the TOP500's list of the world's most powerful supercomputers.

Shaheen II, a Cray XC40 system installed at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), ranked in at number seven. It achieved 5.536 petaflops/s (quadrillions of calculations per second) on the Linpack benchmark, making it the highest-ranked Middle East system in the 22-year history of the TOP500 list.

According to the BBC, KAUST spent around $80m on the system, which is more than 25 times more powerful than the supercomputer it replaces. It uses 20,000 processors, has 790 terabytes of main memory and 17.6 petabytes of storage. Shaheen II was the only new entrant in the top 10 of TOP500's biannual list.

The TOP500 list has served as a consistent measure of the performance growth of supercomputers, since all systems are ranked according to performance running the same Linpack benchmark application.

China's Tiahne-2, developed by the country's National University of Defence Technology, retained the top spot on the list for the fifth consecutive time. It returned performance stats of 33.86 petaflops/s.

At number two was the American Titan, a Cray XK7 system installed at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Titan, the top system in the United States and one of the most energy-efficient systems on the list, achieved 17.59 petaflop/s on the Linpack benchmark.

The other nine systems in the top 10 were all installed in 2011 or 2012. TOP500 said that the low level of turnover among the top supercomputers reflects a slowing trend that began in 2008. The overall list-by-list growth rates of performance continues to be at historically low values for the last two years, TOP500 explained.

"This lag in the overall average performance of all 500 systems is noticeably influenced by the low turnover among very large systems at the top of the list. Recent installations of very large systems - up to June 2013 - have counteracted the reduced growth rate at the bottom of the list, but with few new systems at the top of the past few lists, the overall growth rate is now slowing," said the organisation in a statement.

"This offers an indication that the market for the very largest systems might currently behave differently from the market of mid-sized and smaller supercomputers."

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