Japan reclaims no.1 spot on TOP500 list of world's fastest supercomputers

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June 21, 2011 11:18 AM EST

Japan has won back the crown to having the fastest supercomputer in the whole planet. A Japanese supercomputer capable of performing more than 8 quadrillion calculations per second (petaflop/s) is the new number one system in the world, putting Japan back in the top spot for the first time since the Earth Simulator was dethroned in November 2004, according to the latest edition of the TOP500 List of the world's top supercomputers. The system, called the K Computer, is at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS) in Kobe.

The 37th edition of the closely watched list was released Monday, June 20, at the 2011 International Supercomputing Conference in Hamburg. The ranking of all systems is based on how fast they run Linpack, a benchmark application developed to solve a dense system of linear equations.

For the first time, all of the top 10 systems achieved petaflop/s performance - and those are also the only petaflop/s systems on the list. The U.S. is tops in petaflop/s with five systems performing at that level; Japan and China have two each, and France has one.

Bumped to second place after capturing No. 1 on the previous list is the Tianhe-1A supercomputer the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin, China, with a performance at 2.6 petaflop/s. Also moving down a notch was Jaguar, a Cray supercomputer at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Oak Ridge National Laboratory, at No. 3 with 1.75 petaflop/s.

Rounding out the Top 10 are Nebulae at China's National Supercomputing Center in Shenzen (1.27 petaflop/s), Tsubame 2.0 at the Tokyo Institute of Technology (1.19 petaflop/s), Cielo at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico (1.11 petaflop/s), Pleiades at the NASA Ames Research Center in California (1.09 petaflop/s), Hopper at DOE's National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) in California (1.054 petaflop/s), Tera 100 at the CEA (Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives) in France (1.05 petaflop/s), and Roadrunner at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico (1.04 petaflop/s).

Japan's K Computer

The K Computer, built by Fujitsu, currently combines 68544 SPARC64 VIIIfx CPUs, each with eight cores, for a total of 548,352 cores-almost twice as many as any other system in the TOP500. The K Computer is also more powerful than the next five systems on the list combined.

The K Computer's name draws upon the Japanese word "Kei" for 10^16 (ten quadrillions), representing the system's performance goal of 10 petaflops. RIKEN is the Institute for Physical and Chemical Research. Unlike the Chinese system it displaced from the No. 1 slot and other recent very large system, the K Computer does not use graphics processors or other accelerators. The K Computer is also one of the most energy-efficient systems on the list.

RIKEN President Ryoji Noyori said the company envisions making its supercomputer available to users around the world.

"As we move forward to complete this project by next June, we will maintain our firm commitment to the maintenance and operation of the system, and I hope to see wonderful results when we begin to make the world's top performing supercomputer available to users around the world," he said.

The TOP500 list is compiled by Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim, Germany; Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of NERSC/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

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