China Tops Supercomputer List For Third Time

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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China’s Tianhe-2 has yet again led the Top500 supercomputer rankings, but the overall growth in performance has levelled off

China has topped the list of the world’s fastest supercomputers for the third time in a row, as it continues to enlarge its presence in the twice-yearly Top500 rankings.

The country’s Tianhe-2 was the fastest on the list, at 33.86 petaflops, or 33,860,000,000,000,000 floating-point operations per second. This is the third time that this system, at the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzho, has come in at the top of the rankings.

China © Stephen Finn, Shutterstock 2012

China growth

Since the previous list six months ago, China has grown its presence on the list by 20 percent, with the US’ presence declining by 15 percent. However, the US still has the largest number of computers in the top 500, at 233.

China now has 76 systems in the top 500, up from 63 in the last edition. China’s presence now is nearly as great as that of the UK (30), France (27) and Germany (23) combined.

Only five years ago, IBM’s Roadrunner was the first supercomputer to break the 1 petaflops mark. The systems on the latest list had a combined power of 274 petaflops.

While the top systems on the list have continued to show a strong growth rate, the overall progress of the list seems to be slowing, according to the Top500 organisers.

The combined performance of all the top 500 systems rose from 250 petaflops in November 2013 to 274 petaflops in June 2014, a “noticeable slowdown”, they stated.

Lag in progress

The performance of the lowest-ranking systems on the list has consistently lagged historical growth trends for the past five years, according to the Top500 researchers. The system ranked No. 500 currently grows at about 55 percent each year, compared to 90 percent per year between 1994 and 2008.

The researchers said the market trends for the top systems on the list seems to be diverging from that of the lower parts of the list.

“Recent installations of very large systems until June 2013 have counteracted the reduced growth rate at the bottom of the list… 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,” the researchers stated.

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