China overtakes the U.S. in race for supercomputer dominance

Lloyd Doyle
November 14, 2017

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For the last few years, China has been outshining the consistently ranking first in TOP500's supercomputing rankings list, most notably with its TaihuLight.

China has 202 systems on the Top500's supercomputer list, with the US comparatively having only 143.

Supercomputers are vital tools for advanced scientific work due to their ability to perform rapid calculations for everything from weather forecasts to missile development. Just six months ago, the U.S. led with 169 systems, with China slightly trailing with 160.

According to experts, the US Department of Energy is now working on a system called Summit that is likely to dethrone Sunway TaihuLight in 2018. These systems can handle a billion billion calculations a second, or one exaflop.

The standing corresponds with China's growing reputation as the global leader in supercomputers, as the Asian power prepares to launch in June 2018 a prototype exascale computing machine-a "super supercomputer". Now the country has seized another victory from the having the largest number of supercomputers in the TOP500 ranking - on the other hand, the U.S.' presence is the lowest that it has been since the list got started 25 years ago.

The processing speeds of a supercomputer are measured in floating points operations per second, or "flops".

The Sunway TaihuLight is now installed at the National Supercomputing Centre in Wuxi.

China's Tianhe-2, or Milky Way-2, is still the No. 2 system at 33.86 petaflops.

Meanwhile, some experts have also said that China's overtaking of the United States in the total number of ranked supercomputers didn't make much sense as the latter's technologies still dominate the high-performance computing (HPC) market. It has a capacity of 9.6 petaflops. Japan clocks in at third and Germany at fourth with 35 and 20 supercomputers respectively.

Titan has maintained a constant score of 17.6 petaflops since it was installed at the US Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2012.

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