An upgrade to a Swiss supercomputer has bumped the US Department of Energy's Cray XK7 to number four on the list rating these machines. According to supercomputer ranking published on Monday, Switzerland’s 19.6 petaflop1 Piz Daint supercomputer ranked third in the world after Sunway TaihuLight and Tianhe 2, two Chinese supercomputers.
The only other time the US fell out of the top three was in 1996. If there’s any consolation, U.S.-based systems secured five of the top ten spots on the TOP500 list.
"With the two Chinese supercomputers and one Swiss system occupying the top of the rankings, this is the second time in the 24-year history of the TOP500 list that the United States has failed to secure any of the top three positions,” writes the TOP500 team which published the research. “The only other time this occurred was in November 1996, when three Japanese systems captured the top three spots.”
The Swiss machine is named after a peak in the Grison region of Switzerland and is located the commune of Manno near Lugano. The performance improvement meant it surpassed the 17.6 petaflop capacity of the DoE machine, located at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.
One petaflop is equal to one thousand trillion operations per second. A "flop" (floating point operation) can be thought of as a step in a calculation.
Supercomputers are often used to carry out incredibly detailed simulations, handle weather forecasts and tackle problems in physics, computational science and geophysics.
While both the Swiss and ORNL systems can handle huge amounts of data, the Chinese machines in the top two slots are much more powerful.
In second place is China's Tianhe-2 (Milky Way-2) machine , which has a throughput of 33.9 petaflops.
But this is dwarfed by the 93 petaflops available to the Sunway TaihuLight machine at the nation's supercomputing centre in Wuxi.
Japan is currently building a supercomputer, the AI Bridging Cloud, whose number-crunching ability will go beyond the Sunway machine. Once completed, the AI Bridging Cloud is expected to have a peak performance of 130 petaflops.
The new TOP500 list comes just days after the U.S. Department of Energy announced that it would make available $258 million in funds to AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, IBM and Cray with the goal of deploying an exascale supercomputer by the year 2021.
“Continued U.S. leadership in high performance computing is essential to our security, prosperity, and economic competitiveness as a nation,” said Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry last week. “These awards will enable leading U.S. technology firms to marshal their formidable skills, expertise, and resources in the global race for the next stage in supercomputing—exascale-capable systems.”
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