Japan Reclaims Supercomputing Crown


The computing arms race continues with the news that Japan now has the world’s most powerful supercomputer

Japan now has the world’s most powerful supercomputer, said to be more powerful than the next five systems on the list.

The Japanese supercomputer is said to be capable of performing more than 8 quadrillion calculations per second (petaflop/s), which means that Japan is once again in the top spot for the first time since the Earth Simulator was dethroned in November 2004, according to the latest edition of the Top500 list of the world’s top supercomputers.

The system, called the K Computer, is at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS) in Kobe.

Millions Of Cores

The K Computer, built by Fujitsu, currently combines 68,544 SPARC64 VIIIfx CPUs, each with eight cores, for a total of 548,352 cores – almost twice as many as any other system in the Top500. The K Computer is also more powerful than the next five systems on the list combined, the organisation noted.

The K Computer’s name draws upon the Japanese word “Kei” for 10^16 (ten quadrillions), representing the system’s performance goal of 10 petaflops. RIKEN is the Institute for Physical and Chemical Research.

Unlike the Chinese system it displaced from the top slot and other recent very large systems, the K Computer does not use graphics processors or other accelerators. The K Computer is also one of the most energy-efficient systems on the list, according to the organization.

Bumped to second place after capturing the top spot on the previous list is the Tianhe-1A supercomputer at the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin, China, with a performance at 2.6 petaflop/s.

Also moving down a notch was Jaguar, a Cray supercomputer at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory, now at the No. 3 position with 1.75 petaflop/s.

Benchmarking Test

The ranking of all systems is based on how fast they run Linpack, a benchmark application developed to solve a dense system of linear equations. For the first time, all of the top 10 systems achieved petaflop/s performance – and those are also the only petaflop/s systems on the list. The United States is tops in petaflop/s with five systems performing at that level; Japan and China have two each, and France has one.

The two Chinese systems at the No. 2 and No. 4 spots and the Japanese Tsubame 2.0 system in fifth place are all using Nvidia GPUs to accelerate computation, and a total of 19 systems on the list are using GPU technology. China keeps increasing its number of systems and is now up to 62, making it clearly the No. 2 country as a user of HPC, ahead of Germany, the UK, Japan and France.

Intel continues to provide the processors for the largest share (77.4 percent) of Top500 systems. Intel’s Westmere processors increased their presence in the list strongly with 169 systems, compared with 56 in the last list. Quad-core processors are used in 46.2 percent of the systems, while already 42.4 percent of the systems use processors with six or more cores.

“Cray defended the number two spot in market share by total against Fujitsu, but IBM stays well ahead of either,” the organisation said in a release. “Cray’s XT system series remains very popular for big research customers, with three systems in the TOP 10 (one new and two previously listed).”

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