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China's Tianhe-2 Shatters Records with 33.86 Petaflop Supercomputer

In the world of Supercomputing, no machine is ever champion for very long.

The semi-annual TOP500 List of the world's most powerful supercomputers is out today, crowing a new champion. The Tianhe-2 is now the fastest supercomputer on the planet, clocking in at a record-breaking 33.86 petaflops per second.

The Tianhe-2, also known as Milky Way-2, was developed by China’s National University of Defense Technology and Titan World's Fastest Supercomputeris set to be deployed at the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzho, China. The Tianhe represents a massive leap forward from China's Tianhe-1, which was the world's fastest computer in November of 2010, clocking in at 2.57 petaflops per second.

The Tianhe-2 is powered by an astonishing 3.12 million computing cores that include Intel Xeon Ivy Bridge and Phi processors. Tianhe-2 uses 17.8 megaWatts of power.

Coming in the number two slot is the Cray Titan, which had held the number one spot in the November 2012 supercomputing rankings. Titan is still clocked at 17.59 petaflops in the June rankings, which is the same performance number reported in November of 2012. The Titan is powered by 560,640 AMD Opteron cores and was turned on near the end of October 2012 at the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee.

The number three slot is held by the IBM-built Sequoia, which is deployed at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Like Titan, Sequoia is a former Supercomputing champion, holding the top spot in the June of 2012 Top500 rankings. Sequoia was originally rated at 16.32 petflops per second and has been upgraded in the new rankings to 17.17 petaflops per second.

Another former top supercomputer champion, the Fujitsu 'K' computer at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS) in Kobe, Japan, holds down the number four spot. The K computer was crowned supercomputer champion in the November 2011 Top500 rankings. The K computer was the first in the world to break the 10 petaflop barrier.

Intel and Linux dominate

Among the trends highlighted by the new June 2013 Top500 list is the dominance of Intel. 80 percent (403 systems) of the supercomputer on the new list are Intel powered, up from 76 percent six months ago.

In contrast, AMD has a 10 percent share (50 systems), down from 12 percent six months ago.

Linux also continues to dominate the Top500 list, now representing 476 systems (95 percent) of the list. There are at least 16 systems powered by Unix, the majority of which are IBM-built machines running AIX. Windows is running on only 3 systems, including Microsoft's own Windows Azure deployment in Chicago, which is powered by an 151-Gigaflop supercomputer.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at ServerWatch and InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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This article was originally published on June 17, 2013
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