Categories: InnovationResearch

America Tops Supercomputing Rankings

America is once again leading the supercomputing arms race, and has pulled ahead of its arch rival, China.

Indeed, the Asian nation has now slipped into third position after the latest Top 500 supercomputer list placed two American machines in the top two positions.

Until now, China had dominated the rankings for many years as the nation sought to exploit the advantages that having the world’s most powerful computers can deliver.

Credit: ORNL

World rankings

Supercomputers are typically used to carry out calculation-heavy tasks, such as climate change studies, nuclear weapons simulations, weather forecasting etc. They usually require tens of thousands of individual processors.

The Top 500 supercomputer list is published twice a year, and the US now has two machines right at the top, namely the Summit supercomputer at the DOE/SC/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Sierra (with processing power of 94 petaflops).

Both machines were built by IBM, but the Summit supercomputer boasts a staggering 143,500 petaflops.

China’s third place machine, the Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer, is capable of 94 petaflops.

The US has five entries in the top 10, whereas China has 227 machines in the top 500, compared to US with 109 supercomputers.

But what of other nations. Well, other supercomputers from Switzerland, Germany, and Japan also occupy the top ten list.

Italy has one supercomputer ranked at 15, and France has one ranked at 16.

The United Kingdom meanwhile is down at number 23, with a Cray machine located at the Meteorological Office.

Trade tensions

The rankings come amid growing trade tensions between the United States and China.

The US under President Donald Trump has started to clamp down on Chinese firms, alleging that China has engaged in wide-scale industrial espionage of America tech.

This was evidenced when earlier this month Chinese chipmaker Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co denied US allegations that it was involved in stealing technology from Micron, an Idaho-based chip firm that is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of memory chips.

The US administration has already cut Fujian Jinhua off from US suppliers, a move that could damage the company’s ability to continue in business.

A similar order against telecoms giant ZTE earlier this year led the company to shut down operations until a deal was reached allowing it to resume buying parts from the US.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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