China’s Sunway TaihuLight is now the world’s fastest supercomputer, beating its own Tianhe-2 which held the title in the last six rankings.
The latest ranking comes from Top500, which curates the most powerful supercomputers twice each year. According to its report, Sunway TaihuLight has a processing capacity of 93 petaflops. A petaflop is equivalent to one quadrillion calculations per second — in other words, it’s insanely fast.
“It’s not based on an existing architecture. They built it themselves. This is a system that has Chinese processors,” said Jack Dongarra, a computer scientist from the University of Tennessee and one of the list’s compilers. This processor is designed by the Shanghai High Performance IC Design Center, Bloomberg notes.
Tianhe-2, now at second place, processes at 33.85 petaflops. Unlike Sunway TaihuLight, it has Intel chips under the hood. BGR recalls the U.S. government preventing Intel from exporting processors necessary to upgrade this supercomputer under the assumption that it was used for nuclear simulations.
While the export ban took place, China had something in the works up its sleeve — the TaihuLight is the end result. Based in the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, TaihuLight is said to have a peak performance of 124.5 petaflops, making it the first system to go over 100. It is slated for engineering and research purposes, including weather modeling, IEEE Spectrum reports.
Titan, the leading U.S. system located at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, now sits at the third spot processing at 17.59 petaflops.
The U.S. appears to be lagging behind, but Dongarra anticipates the coming of three new machines for the Department of Energy in 2018. Among these is Summit, a supercomputer processing at 200 petaflops. In the meantime, he is convinced that China’s increase in systems is a “striking accomplishment”.
As it seems, Sunway TaihuLight’s ascendance is something Intel can worry about. ComputerWorld cites IDC analyst Steve Conway, who said, “The Chinese were already determined over time to move to an indigenous processor. I think the ban accelerates that — it increases that determination.”
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