Home-cooked tech helps China topple US as top supercomputer user

Chucking money, engineering talent at HPC pays off

ISC For the first time since the Top 500 rankings of the most powerful supercomputers in the world was started 23 years ago, the United States is not home to the largest number of machines on the list – and China, after decades of intense investment and engineering, is.

Supercomputing is not just an academic or government endeavour, but it is an intensely nationalistic one given the enormous sums that are required to create the components of these massive machines, write software for them, and keep them running until some new approach comes along. And given that the machines support the militaries and indigenous industry in their home countries, there is always politics in play. The competition between HPC centres in the United States, China, Europe, and Japan is to be expected and is, in a sense, a reflection of the larger economic reality on Earth.

China has had the most powerful machine on the list before, starting with the Tianhe-2 system at the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzhou province that was built by the National University of Defense Technology, which is a hybrid Xeon-Xeon Phi machine that came in at the top of the list in June 2013 with a 33.86 petaflops rating on the Linpack HPC system performance benchmark.

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