China's Tianhe-1A crowned supercomputer king

Tianhe supercomputer, Nvidia The Tianhe-1A supercomputer is about 50% faster than its closest rival.

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China's Tianhe-1A supercomputer has been confirmed as the most powerful in the world.

Confirmation came with the publication of the latest list of the Top 500 supercomputers on the planet.

Tianhe-1A has a peak speed of 2.57 petaflops, far higher than the US XT5 Jaguar that can manage 1.76 petaflops.

The list also reveals significant changes in the technology used to power the machines and the nations hosting the most powerful ones.

Unconfirmed reports that Tianhe-1A would take the top spot on the list emerged in late October. Since then no other more powerful computers machines have emerged to knock it off the number one position.

Located at China's National Supercomputer Centre in Tianjin much of the machine's processing power comes from chips more typically found in graphics cards. It is expected to be doing simulations to help Chinese weather forecasts and to help with work to locate undersea oil fields.

Of the top four machines on the list, three are now largely built around graphics processors. By contrast the US Jaguar supercomputer that Tianhe-1A has pushed into second place is built around more traditional CPUs typically used in desktop computers.

Top ten supercomputers

  • Tianhe-1A - 2.57 petaflops
  • XT5 Jaguar - 1.76 petaflops
  • Nebulae - 1.27 petaflops
  • Tsubame 2.0 - 1.19 petaflops
  • XE6 Hopper - 1.05 petaflops
  • Tera 100 - 1.05 petaflops
  • Roadrunner - 1.04 petaflops
  • Kraken XT5 - 0.83 petaflops
  • Jugene - 0.82 petaflops
  • Cielo - 0.81 petaflops

The top seven supercomputers on the list can now all carry out at least one petaflop which is the equivalent of 1,000 trillion calculations per second.

The latest Top 500 list also reveals that the US is slipping down the rankings of supercomputer superpowers. Only five of the top ten machines are in the US, a change from other years in which American supercomputers have typically dominated the upper regions of the Top 500 list.

The US maintains its spot as the nation with the most supercomputers in the Top 500 list and China is now second. However, it has a long way to go to catch up as the US has 275 machines in the top 500 and China has only 42.

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