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China’s Tianhe-2 remains world’s most powerful supercomputer

Tianhe-2, Chinese supercomputer, Chinese technology

China is experiencing a supercomputing boom.


For the past two years, the country has been home to the world's most powerful supercomputer, the National University of Defense Technology's Tianhe-2 machine. But China's prowess at building supercomputers is becoming widespread.


China now hosts 109 of the high-performance computing systems on a widely watched list of the world's most powerful supercomputers that was released Monday. The country had just 37 machines on the list only six months ago.


The U.S. remains home to the largest number of supercomputers on the list, but with 200 machines, the U.S. tally has fallen to its lowest level since computer scientists began compiling the list, called the Top500, back in 1993.


The U.S. is slipping on the Top500 list even as the country performs an unprecedented build-out of high-performance computing. Over the past decade, companies such as Alphabet Inc.'s Google, Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc. have spent billions building massive data centers that operate as supercomputers for the Internet. These systems, however, aren't optimized for the type of calculations that the Top500 list's benchmarks test for.

美国在该名单上的排名正在下滑,即便美国正在史无前例地增建高性能计算机。过去10年中,诸如Alphabet 的谷歌、亚马逊公司、Facebook等公司均已花费数十亿美元资金建设作为互联网超级计算机的大规模数据中心。然而,这些系统所从事的计算工作,并不属于Top500榜单入围测试标准所针对的计算类型。

The results don't reflect so much a slowdown of U.S. supercomputing efforts as an acceleration of high-performance computing build-outs in China, said  Horst Simon, deputy director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.


"China has recognized the value of high-performance computing for modeling and simulation and has ramped up simulations and created a broad base of installations that is very competitive with the U.S.," Mr. Simon said.


The Top500 results are important because they serve as a shorthand way of viewing international competitiveness in computer simulations. Originally used for scientific modeling in physics and chemistry, these systems are increasingly used to simulate consumer products—everything from automobiles to diapers.


Tianhe-2, which has been ranked the world's most powerful supercomputer since June 2013, is capable of performing 33.86 quadrillion calculations a second. The system ranked second on the list, Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Titan, can perform 17.59 quadrillion calculations a second.



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