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China tops supercomputer list

Chinese system takes top spot in HPC, TOP500 list shows China second only to US in number of systems

The top performing supercomputers increasinly use multi-core processors and GPUs.
The top performing supercomputers increasinly use multi-core processors and GPUs.

China has taken the top slot in high performance computing, with the announcement that a Chinese system has been ranked first on the TOP500 list of most powerful supercomputers.

The latest version of the Top500 list shows that China has not only knocked the US from the lead in supercomputing performance, but it is now ranked second only to the US, with 42 HPC systems on the list.

The Chinese Tianhe-1A system at the National Supercomputer Centre in Tianjin is now rated top on the High Performance Linpack benchmark achieving a performance level of 2.57 petaflop/s (quadrillions of calculations per second). The system, which was built by NUDT, is cluster-based, and uses Intel X5670 2.93Ghz 6C processors and NVIDIA GPUs.

The second ranked HPC system is the US Department of Energy's Cray XT5 Jaguar system, which recorded a peak performance of 1.75 petaflops/s, followed by another Chinese system, the Nebulae of the National Supercomputing Centre in Shenzhen, which recorded 1.27 petaflop/s.

Japan's Tsubame 2.0 at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, which achieved a performance of 1.19 petaflop/s is fourth on the list, while another US Department of Energy system, called Hopper, a Cray XE6 system, is fifth with a benchmark of 1.05 petaflop/s.

For the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is the only country to register systems in the Top 500, with six systems making the list. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology's (KAUST) IBM Blue Gene/ P Solution, which recorded a peak performance of 0.19 petaflops/s, is the top of the list in the region, although it has slipped from 23rd to 34th place overall. KAUST is joined by five systems held by Saudi Aramco, two more than last year, with the addition of Hewlett-Packard cluster and a Dell Power/Edge cluster from ClusterVision and Dell.

This latest edition of the list also marks the rising use of GPUs in supercomputing to provide acceleration to computational power, with the two leading Chinese systems and the Tsubame 2.0 system using Nvidia GPUs. Seventeen systems in total in the TOP500 now use GPUs.

Intel dominates the high-end processor market, with 79.6% of all systems in the TOP500 using Intel processors. AMD Opteron accounts for 11.4% of systems, with IBM Power processors used in 8% of systems on the list. The list is also dominated by multi-core processor systems, with 73% of systems on quad-core processors and 19% on processors with six or more cores.

IBM's prototype of the new BlueGene/Q system set a new record in power efficiency with a value of 1,680 Mflops/watt, more than twice that of the next best system.