China Dominates the List of Supercomputers

By Faith Magbanua, November 15, 2017 05:11 AM

Supercomputer(Linus Tech/ Facebook)

In the list of the world's fastest 500 computer systems, or supercomputers, China has overtaken the US and dominates the entire record.

According to the latest Top500 survey which was just recently released, China has accounted for 202 of the globe's highest performance machines. By contrast, the US only had 143. That marks its lowest level since the bi-annual study began 25 years ago, but it still secured second place.

Meanwhile, Japan placed third with 35 systems, and Germany in fourth with 20.

Based on the previous survey, published in June, the US still had a lead of 169 supercomputers to China's 160.

The reversal of fortunes reflects China's increased investment in research and development and according to a recent study, the country now accounts for about 20% of the world's total R&D expenditure.


A supercomputer is a computer that performs at or near the currently highest operational rate for computers.  Traditionally, supercomputers have been used for scientific and engineering applications that must handle very large databases or do a great amount of computation (or both).

Although advances like multi-core processors and GPGPUs (general-purpose graphics processing units) have enabled powerful machines for personal use (see: desktop supercomputer, GPU supercomputer), by definition, a supercomputer is exceptional in terms of performance.

To add to that, based on scientific studies, supercomputers are typically large and expensive systems featuring tens of thousands of processors designed to carry out specialized calculation-intensive tasks.

As for the performance, it is measured in petaflops (one thousand trillion floating point operations per second).

China's fastest computer - the Sunway TaihuLight - maintained its lead as the world's speediest, performing at 93 petaflops.

Furthermore, the US's fastest - Titan - ranks fifth in the world, with a maximum performance of 17.6 petaflops.

According to the author of the list, the latest figures also indicated China had overtaken the United States in terms of aggregate performance, accounting for 35.4% of the list's total processing power versus the US's 29.6%.

Erich Strohmaier - one of the survey's co-founders - told the BBC that many of the Chinese systems had been created to earn money, with the owners renting out their processing power to local and international firms.

"At the very high end - the systems in the top 10 - those are there for two reasons," he added.

"One is simply the prestige attached with [being in the lead] in a market that used to be a prime example of US technology dominance.

"The other is to do with scientific exploration and national security - a lot of these systems are used for calculations related to weapons systems."


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