The latest edition of the TOP500 supercomputers was released on 14 November. China and the United States are now level in the battle for global dominance, with 171 systems apiece in the new rankings, with the US accounting for 33.9 percent of the total to China's 33.3 percent. The two nations are also steaming ahead in aggregate Linpack performance (a measure of a computer's floating-point rate of execution).
The two countries can ill afford to rest on their laurels while a series of hungry rivals from around the world breathe down their necks. Also on the latest list are a number of new entries, while some perennial contenders have enjoyed rises and endured falls. We countdown the 11 fastest supercomputers in the world.
Bolstering the Chinese claim to supercomputing superpower is another monolith that has retained its previous high rank. Also known as Milky-Way-2, it was knocked off the top spot in June by the Sunway TaihuLight, which boasts three times the speed of its predecessor.
Top speed: 33.9 petaflops
Total cores: 3,120,000
The first American entry on the list has more than earned its imposing name. It’s contributed to research breakthroughs at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF) that have improved nuclear power plant safety and performance, boosted drug development, and improved the understanding of climate change.
Top speed: 17.6 petaflops
Total cores: 560,640
The IBM construction was named the world’s fastest supercomputer in June 2012, but has slowly slipped down the list. It’s primarily used for nuclear weapons simulations.
Top speed: 17.2 petaflops
Total cores: 560,640
The third consecutive American entry in the top five, Cori was named after American biochemist Gerty Cori, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. It’s installed at Berkeley Lab’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC).
Top speed: 14 petaflops
Total cores: 622,336
Japan’s highest entry in the TOP500 is powered by the same Intel “Knights Landing” Xeon Phi 7250 processor as the Cori computer that pipped it into the top five. It’s run jointly by the University of Tokyo and the University of Tsukuba.
Top speed: 13.6 petaflops
Total cores: 556,104
7. K computer
The second consecutive Fujitsu-manufactured Japanese entrant on our list reached number one in its 2011 prime. It’s used in a range of fields including meteorology, disaster prevention and medicine. Like 99.6 percent of the TOP500 list, it uses Linux as its operating system.
Top speed: 10.5 petaflops
Total cores: 705,024
8. Piz Daint
Europe’s fastest supercomputer was named after an Alpine mountain less than 80 miles from its Swiss National Computing Center home. It held onto its number eight ranking thanks to a newly installed NVIDIA P100 Tesla GPU that gave it a 3.5 petaflop upgrade. It’s also the second most energy-efficient supercomputer in the TOP500, with a rating of 7.45 gigaflops/watt. The top-ranked DGX SATURNV came in at number 28.
Top speed: 9.8 petaflops
Total cores: 206,720
According to manufacturer IBM, if every person in the United States performed one calculation every second, it would take them almost a year to do as many calculations as Mira can in just one second. The machine was initially deployed to work on sixteen research projects selected by the Department of Energy.
Top speed: 8.6 petaflops
Total cores: 786,432
The first of four Cray Inc. offerings in the TOP500 list shares a name with the first detonation of a nuclear weapon in 1945, and is run by the same laboratory that developed that bomb. No prizes for guessing what it was built to support.