East Tennessee is still home to two of the world’s fastest supercomputers, according to new rankings released today.
The Top500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers places University of Tennessee supercomputer Kraken in eighth place, where it also holds the title of world’s fastest academic supercomputer, while Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Jaguar computer took second place overall.
The 36th edition of the closely watched TOP500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers confirms the rumored takeover of the top spot by a Chinese supercomputer built by the National University of Defense Technology located at the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin.
The twice-yearly Top500 is published by Jack Dongarra, a UT Knoxville distinguished professor of computer science and the director of the Innovative Computing Laboratory along with colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Mannheim.
China’s supercomputer achieved a performance level of 2.57 petaflops — quadrillions of calculations per second – while Jaguar achieved 1.759 petaflops.
News of the Chinese system’s performance emerged in late October, prompting even President Obama to note at a post-election press conference, “We just learned that China now has the fastest supercomputer on Earth. That used to be us. They’re making investments because they know those investments will pay off over the long-term.”
Still, the U.S. houses five of the world’s top 10 supercomputers. The others are in China, Japan, France and Germany.
According to Dongarra, competition is not necessarily a bad thing.
“The long-term implication for the U.S. is that China is serious about high-performance computing, and is developing its own computing resources,” said Dongarra. “If the U.S. is to remain competitive in high-performance computing, there is a need to act decisively and promptly to develop the next generation of U.S. supercomputers while harnessing existing computing power to drive innovation in science, industry and national security.”
Dongarra is leading an international effort to move to that next generation of supercomputing, called exascale computing, which will equal a speed 1,000 times faster than Jaguar.
While China may now hold the top spot, some argue it takes more than a fast supercomputer to be a scientific leader — you need scientific know-how.
Supercomputers make it possible for scientists to create complex models to simulate processes in the real world in more understandable ways. Those models can be used to address issues from health and medicine to alternative energy. Codes are needed to make these models run efficiently and effectively.
According to CNET, in an interview, UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair Jeremy Smith said, “China might have the largest number of cores in one computer, so theoretically they have the most powerful computer. But they maybe don’t have the most powerful scientific codes yet that use that computer. So from that perspective, they may not be at the same level as Oak Ridge.”
The turnover rate on the list is high. The last system on the list just six months ago is positioned in the 305th spot today.
As Smith put it, “What you find historically with these supercomputers is they become the normal machines five or 10 years later that everybody uses. The Jaguar machines that we’re so amazed at right now, it could be that every university or company has one eventually.”
To read more about the rankings, visit http://www.top500.org/.
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