Supercomputing superpower

The U.S. continues to be a supercomputing powerhouse, accounting for slightly more than half of the supercomputers on the biannual compilation of the world's 500 most powerful supercomputers. Moreover, the five fastest computers on the list are supported by federal or state funds.

The latest iteration of this list, posted last week, has 257 supercomputers that run in the United States. In contrast, Europe has 184 systems and Asia has 48.

Topping the list is the Energy Department system at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Nicknamed Roadrunner, this IBM machine was the first on the list to achieve petaflop performance, clocking in at 1.026 petaflops/sec. A petaflop is 1,000 trillion floating-point operations/sec.

The next four supercomputers on the list, which are listed in order of speed, are:
  • The IBM Blue Gene/L at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (478.20 teraflops/sec).
  • The IBM Blue Gene/P at DOE's Argonne National Laboratory (450.3 teraflops/sec).
  • Sun Microsystems' Sun Blade-based Ranger system at the University of Texas at Austin's Texas Advanced Computing Center (326 teraflops/sec).
  • The Cray XT4 Jaguar at DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (205 teraflops/sec).

The U.S. dominance of this list comes in stark contrast to its showing earlier in the decade, when lawmakers worried about the country losing its edge in high-performance computing (

The Top 500 list, now in its 13th year, relies on voluntarily submitted benchmarks and is compiled by researchers at the University of Mannheim, Germany; National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.


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