Japan is trying to pull together a follow up to their 10 petaflop K supercomputer. For the latest supercomputer rankings, K topped the list by clocking 8,162 trillion calculations per second, or 8.162 petaflops, with 672 cabinets of processors. That means K is more than three times faster than the previous champ, China’s Tianhe-1A, which grabbed the title last autumn. K could have failed to beat the Chinese rival if RIKEN had not been allowed to use 18.3 billion yen of the 28.5 billion yen earmarked for fiscal 2011 ahead of time in order to purchase some 300 additional cabinets. The additional system boards doubled K’s calculation speed.
Leading U.S. manufacturers are building systems that will be as fast as or much faster than K. In Japan, the supercomputer program is in jeopardy due to the budget crunch.
One is a 10-petaflop system called Blue Waters being developed at the University of Illinois, to be completed in July, according to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. It will rival K in speed.
Two other extremely powerful supercomputers under development at U.S. labs, “Sequoia” at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and “Titan” at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, will be 20-petaflop machines, or capable of performing calculations two times faster than K, when they are completed next year.
In addition, a project is already under way in the United States to develop a 100-petaflop system by around 2018, with a prototype now in the works, according to the science ministry.
China has built another supercomputer using the same technology as the Tianhe-1A system, which reigned briefly as the world’s most powerful supercomputer.
The new supercomputer, called Tianhe-1, has a theoretical peak speed of 1.1 petaflops (quadrillion floating-point calculations per second), slower than the Tianhe-1A, which has a theoretical peak speed of 4.7 petaflops and a sustained performance of 2.5 petaflops when measured with the Linpack benchmark.
Tianhe-1 went into operation this weekend at the national Changsha supercomputer center in the country’s Hunan province. It will be used to perform simulations that will forecast the weather, help with disaster prevention and aid industrial fields including automobile manufacturing and medical research. More supercomputers from China are making the Top 500 list. The current tally is now at 61, up from the 24 the country had a year ago in June. The U.S. has 255 computers on the list.
The largest gas supplier Gazprom (Russia) might acquire a petascale supercomputer. The giant needs an HPC-system for seismic data processing and reservoir simulation. If the system is deployed, it is likely to be amongst the most powerful supercomputers in the world.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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