IN THE PAST, a nation wanting to make its mark on the world would build fabulous monuments, invade other countries etc.
National contests these days include building ever more powerful computers, and China's Sunway TaihuLight has just taken the crown as the world's most powerful supercomputer in the latest Top 500 rankings.
The Sunway TaihuLight was built from microprocessors designed and made in China, and has a capacity of 93 petaflops per second on the LINPACK benchmark.
The machine (below) was developed by the National Research Centre of Parallel Computer Engineering & Technology, and is installed at the National Supercomputing Centre in Wuxi, if you want to take a look.
It's the first shift at the top of the Top 500 for three or so years, and the Sunway machine elbowed aside the Intel-based Tianhe-2 supercomputer which had claimed the top spot for the past six Top 500 rankings, which are released every six months.
The latest Top 500 was unveiled today at the International Supercomputer Conference in Frankfurt.
The Sunway TaihuLight has 10,649,600 compute cores comprising 40,960 nodes, and is twice as fast and three times as efficient as the Tianhe-2, which posted a LINPACK performance of 33.86 petaflop/s.
The peak power consumption under load (running the HPL benchmark) is 15.37 megawatts, or six gigaflops per watt. This enables the TaihuLight system to grab one of the top spots on the Green500 as well.
The US claimed third place with Titan, a Cray XK7 system installed at the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, achieving a paltry 17.59 petaflop/s.
The Top 500 rankings have tended to reflect shifting economic fortunes. The rankings now have more supercomputers in China than the US for the first time. A surge in industrial and research installations registered over the past few years has seen China lead with 167 systems in the TOP500, followed by the US with 165. Europe's share declined from 107 to 105.
China also leads the performance category, thanks to the Sunway TaihuLight and the Tianhe-2 supercomputers in the top two spots.
America isn't taking this lying down, however. The US government decided in November 2014 to fling $325m at Intel and Nvidia to build a 150-petaflop machine that would show the world that Uncle Sam can still build a mean supercomputer when it wants to, although we're still waiting for that.
Nevertheless, Cray would appear to be the shop of choice if you want a common or garden supercomputer to install in the shed or the garage. The firm has four of the top 10 bashed together in Seattle. µ
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