China Touts Supercomputing Credentials

Nathan Eddy is a contributor to eWeek and TechWeekEurope, covering cloud and BYOD

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China is touting its superpower credentials in the field of supercomputers, boasting of two of the world’s top ten fastest supercomputers

China is now an emerging supercomputing superpower after figures showed that it has two of the fastest top ten computing machines in the world.

A system called Nebulae is currently the fastest system worldwide in theoretical peak performance at 2.98 petaflops per second (Pflop/s). It was build from a Dawning TC3600 Blade system with Intel X5650 processors and NVidia Tesla C2050 GPUs.

A petaflop is a measure of a computer’s processing speed and can be expressed as a thousand trillion floating point operations per second. China now runs 24 of the top 500 computers in the world, and two placed in the top 10.

Supercomputer Rankings

The main objective of the TOP500 list, compiled with the help of high-performance computer experts, computational scientists, manufacturers, and the Internet community in general is to provide a ranked list of general purpose systems that are in common use for high end applications. The TOP500 list is compiled by Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim, Germany, Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of NERSC/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The latest version of the TOP500 list, which is issued twice yearly, will be formally presented 31 June, in Hamburg, Germany. With an actual performance of 1.271 PFlop/s, it holds the number two spot on the 35th edition of the Top 500 list of supercomputers for real-world capability, and the top spot for theoretical supercomputing performance.

Jaguar, which is located at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, held on to the top spot on the TOP500 with its record 1.75 petaflop/s performance speed running the Linpack, or real-world performace, benchmark. Jaguar has a theoretical peak capability of 2.3 petaflop/s and nearly a quarter of a million cores.

Roadrunner Flagging?

In part due to its NVidia GPU accelerators, Nebulae’s reported theoretical peak capability of almost 3 petaflop/s, is the highest ever on the TOP500. The supercomputer is located in the Chinese city of Shenzhen. Roadrunner, which was the first ever petaflop/s system at Los Alamos in June 2008, dropped to number three with a performance of 1.04 petaflop/s.

China’s second entry in the TOP500 rankings, the Tianhe-1 (meaning River in Sky), is installed at the National Super Computer Center in Tianjin, China. The supercomputer ranked seventh on the list.

Tianhe-1 and Nebulae are both hybrid designs with Intel Xeon processors and AMD or NVidia GPUs used as accelerators. Each node of Tianhe-1 consists of two AMD GPUs attached to two Intel Xeon processors, the TOP500 list explained.

The ranking organisation announced IBM and Hewlett-Packard (HP) continued to sell the bulk of systems at all performance levels of the TOP500.

HP lost its lead in systems to IBM and has now 185 systems (37 percent) compared to IBM with 198 systems (39.8 percent). HP had 210 systems (42 percent) six months ago, compared to IBM with 186 systems (37.2 percent), the organisation reported, noting in the system category, Cray, SGI, and Dell follow with 4.2 percent, 3.4 percent and 3.4 percent respectively.