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By GCN Staff

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Tianhe-1

China plans 100-petaflop supercomputer, and exaflops are in sight

No sooner had the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory taken the wraps off of Titan, a 20-petaflop supercomputer that stands to claim the title of world’s fastest, than China announced its plans for a 100-petaflop machine it plans to have up and running by 2015.

So things go in the world of high-performance computing.

The Tianhe-2, being designed by China's National University of Defense Technology, could achieve five times the speed of Titan, but it won’t be sitting in the top spot for long. Several national programs are aiming for 1,000 petaflops, or an exaflop, by 2018, IDG News reports.

China, the United States, the European Union and Japan all have exaflops in their sights, Jack Dongarra, a computer scientist at the University of Tennessee who compiles the Top500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers, told IDG.

The new supercomputer would be China’s second stint in the top spot. The Tianhe-1A (pictured above) took the lead in 2010 with a peak speed on 4.7 petaflops before being eclipsed a year later by Japan’s K Computer, which clocked 10.51 petaflops. A petaflop is a quadrillion — or 1,000 trillion — floating point operations per second.

The K Computer, in turn, was surpassed earlier this year by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s  Sequoia, which hit 16.32 petaflops and currently is listed as the fastest, at least until Titan shows up on the next list, expected out later this month.

The newest and fastest supercomputers aren’t just a result of bigger processing power. They’re also being accelerated by the use of graphical processing units --  such as the gaming processors from Nvidia -- in combination with more traditional CPUs and are being constructed within relatively low-power architectures. Titan, for example, is an upgrade of Oak Ridge’s Jaguar, which in 2009 held the fastest title with a then-impressive, 1.75 petaflops. Titan, although more than 10 times faster than Jaguar, takes up the same space and uses only slightly more power.

Posted by Kevin McCaney on Nov 01, 2012 at 9:39 AM


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