China leads 'Top500' ranking of supercomputers

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The People's Daily, China's government-controlled media outlet, reports that China has become the world's leading producer of supercomputers.

China has also overtaken the United States in aggregate performance as well. The US dropped from 169 to 144.

Next year should be a good year in supercomputing with both Japan and China planning to deploy new machines. It also marks a notable shift in the global balance of high-end computing power that's closely tied to industrial, academic and military abilities. Furthermore, U.S. has fallen to an all-time low since the list's conception, with the Titan supercomputer coming up at fifth place. Today's slowest machine has the performance of the fastest one in 2008.

Supercomputers have a much higher processing capacity compared to a general-use computer, and a much higher speed of calculation.

Some 202 of the world's fastest supercomputers are in China - compared with 143 in the USA - according to Top500, a site that has tracked supercomputer development for more than two decades.

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How fast is a supercomputer?

Results are measured in floating-point operations per second, or FLOPS. Japan also has two additional systems within the top ten.

According to a biannual ranking of the world's 500 fastest supercomputers, called the Top500 published Monday, China's Sunway TaihuLight maintains the lead as the No. 1 system for the fourth time, with a performance of 93.01 petaflops.

Until six months ago, the USA led with 169 systems to China's 160; the number of listings by US has now dropped to 143, putting it in second place. They've held the top two spots for two years. Considering that the Asian country has been accounting for almost 20 percent of the department's expenditures, it should be no surprise that Japan finished in third place at 35 supercomputers, Germany with 20, France with 18, and the United Kingdom with 15. An IBM-built machine called Summit at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is created to reach about 200 petaflops, double the performance of Sunway TaihuLight. That's enough electricity to power about 16,300 houses.

The list, produced twice a year, rates supercomputers based on speed in a benchmark test by experts from Germany and the US. In about 2012, though, progress improvements slowed down a notch, limited by diminishing processor speed improvements. Supercomputers are vital tools for advanced scientific work due to their ability to perform rapid calculations for everything from weather forecasts to missile development.