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China dominates list of world's top supercomputers

 
China's Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer remains the world's fastest Photo: Top 500
 
China has dominated a new list of the world's fastest supercomputers, not only taking the top two seats, but also overtaking the United States in the sheer number of systems being used.
 
According to a biannual ranking of the world's 500 fastest supercomputers, called the Top500 published Monday, China's Sunway TaihuLight maintains the lead as the No. 1 system for the fourth time, with a performance of 93.01 petaflops.
 
China's Tianhe-2, or Milky Way-2, is still the No. 2 system at 33.86 petaflops. Intel chip-based Tianhe-2 had topped the list for three years until it was displaced in November 2015 by TaihuLight, which was built by entirely using processors designed and made in China.
 
The No. 3 is Switzerland's Piz Daint, which is also the most powerful supercomputer in Europe. A new system in Japan, called Gyoukou, is the No. 4, pushing Titan, the top U.S system, to the No. 5.
 
"For the second time in a row there is no system from the U.S. under the TOP3," Top500 said in a statement.
 
The 50th edition of Top500 ranking also shows that China has overtaken the United States in the total number of ranked systems by a margin of 202 to 144. Just six months ago, the United States led with 169 systems, and China with 159.
 
"It is the largest number of supercomputers China has ever claimed on the TOP500 ranking, with the U.S. presence shrinking to its lowest level since the list's inception 25 years ago," Top500 said.
 
The reversal of fortunes reflects China's increased investment in research and development, according to a recent study, the country now accounts for about 20% of the world's total R&D expenditure.
 
Supercomputers are typically large, expensive systems featuring tens of thousands of processors designed to carry out specialised calculation-intensive tasks. The areas include climate change studies, nuclear weapons simulations, oil prospecting, weather forecasting, DNA sequencing, and modelling biomolecules and so on.
 
Performance is measured in petaflops (one thousand trillion floating point operations per second). A flop can be thought of as a step in a calculation.
 
The list's authors said the latest figures also indicated China had overtaken the United States in terms of aggregate performance, accounting for 35.4% of the list's total processing power versus the US's 29.6%.

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