China con­tin­ues to dom­i­nate race of fastest su­per­com­put­ers

A Chi­nese su­per­com­puter has topped the rank­ings eight times in a row, in­di­cat­ing the rise of China in the high per­for­mance com­put­ing field.


China’s Sun­way Taihu-Light has taken the crown of the world’s fastest ma­chine again, ac­cord­ing to the latest edi­tion of the semi­an­nual Top500 list of su­per­com­put­ers re­leased Mon­day.

The mas­sive su­per­com­puter, built en­tirely us­ing pro­ces­sors de­signed and made in China, made its first pub­lic ap­pear­ance in June, when it eas­ily de­throned the for­mer cham­pion, Tianhe-2, also a Chi­nese sys­tem but built based on In­tel chips.

Taihu-Light is ca­pa­ble of per­form­ing 93 mil­lion bil­lion cal­cu­la­tions per sec­ond (petaflop/s). That’s al­most three times as fast as Tianhe-2, which had claimed the No. 1 spot in the Top500 list for the past three years.

That means a Chi­nese su­per­com­puter has topped the rank­ings eight times in a row, in­di­cat­ing the rise of China in the high per­for­mance com­put­ing (HPC) field.

In the previous list re­leased in June, China over­took the United States in the num­ber of to­tal su­per­com­put­ers in­stalled. That was first time that the United States has not dom­i­nated this cat­e­gory since the list was started 23 years ago.

This time, the num­ber of sys­tems in­stalled in China in­creased to 171 from 168 on the last list, but the United States also made “a slight re­cov­ery” and now has 171 sys­tems, up from 165 in the previous list.

“The 48th edi­tion of the Top500 list saw China and the United States pac­ing each other for su­per­com­put­ing supremacy,” Top500 ed­i­tors said in a state­ment re­leased at an HPC con­fer­ence in Salt Lake City, Utah. “A year ago the United States was the clear leader with 200 sys­tems, while China had 108.”

China and the United States are “neck-and-neck in the per­for­mance cat­e­gory”, with the lat­ter hold­ing 33.9 per­cent of the over­all in­stalled per­for­mance while the for­mer is sec­ond with 33.3 per­cent of the over­all in­stalled per­for­mance, the state­ment said.

In the latest rank­ings, Ti­tan and Se­quoia, two sys­tems from the United States, re­mained No. 3 and No. 4, but the top 10 list did re­ceive “a mild shake-up”.

The Cori su­per­com­puter, a new sys­tem in­stalled at the US’ Lawrence Berke­ley Na­tional Lab­o­ra­tory, slipped into the fifth slot with a per­for­mance of 14.0 petaflop/s.

Right be­hind it at No. 6 was the new Oak­for­est-PACS su­per­com­puter that is run­ning at Ja­pan’s Joint Cen­ter for Ad­vanced High Per­for­mance Com­put­ing, with a per­for­mance of 13.6 petaflop/s.

The ad­di­tion of Cori and Oak­for­est-PACS pushed ev­ery sys­tem be­low them a cou­ple of notches down, with the ex­cep­tion of Piz Daint, a su­per­com­puter in­stalled at the Swiss Na­tional Su­per­com­put­ing Cen­ter, which main­tained its spot at No. 8 as a re­sult of a mas­sive 3.5 petaflop/s up­grade.

When it comes to com­pa­nies mak­ing these sys­tems, US-based Hewlett-Packard En­ter­prise has the lead with 112 su­per­com­put­ers, which is fol­lowed by China’s Len­ovo with 92 sys­tems.

There are three other Chi­nese com­pa­nies in the ven­dor list: Su­gon (No. 4 with 47 sys­tems), In­spur (No. 8 with 18 sys­tems) and Huawei (No. 9 with 16 sys­tems).

“Chi­nese man­u­fac­tures like Len­ovo and Huawei are do­ing well glob­ally,” Jack Don­garra, pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Ten­nessee and editor of the list, told Xin­hua.

The Top500 list is con­sid­ered one of the most au­thor­i­ta­tive rank­ings of the world’s su­per­com­put­ers. It is com­piled on the ba­sis of the ma­chines’ per­for­mance on the Lin­pack bench­mark by ex­perts from the United States and Ger­many.

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