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Top 500 Supercomputers – shocking new number one

The world has a brand new number one supercomputer and it is thrice as fast as the previous leader.

The June 2016 Top500 Supercomputer list was released earlier today at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt, Germany.

Following six consecutive number one positions by the Chinese Tianhe-2 (Tianhe is Chinese for "Milky Way"), the leader was finally pushed down to second by a new entrant also from China – the Sunway TaihuLight.

Boasting an amazing 10,649,600 processor cores the new computer achieved a Rmax rating (the standard measuring tool for Supercomputers) of 93,014,594 Mflop/sec – that's over 93 Petaflop/sec. For comparison, an Intel Core i7 2700K will achieve nearly 90Gflop/sec.

The Sunway TaihuLight features a locally designed and manufactured CPU that was built to achieve low power usage. In fact, this new computer features one of the most energy-efficient Gflop/sec / Watt ratings in the list, requiring 15.37MW to run at full speed. One of the poorest energy-efficient performers is Japan's K Computer, sitting at number five in the list, requiring 82% of the power to achieve 11% of the performance.

Aside from the new entrant at number one, the top 10 is unchanged – the next new machine arrived at position 18.

Australia has five entries on the list.

  • "Magnus" at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre (WA) is at position 79;
  • Unnamed computer at the National Computational Infrastructure, ANU is at 98;
  • "Avoka" at the Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative, is at 143;
  • The CSIRO GPU Cluster at 409; and
  • "Phoenix" at the University of Adelaide, is at 437.

Additionally there is one supercomputer from New Zealand – an unnamed computer at Weta Digital (part of Peter Jackson's movie organisation) comes in at 251.

It was only a few years ago that we were celebrating the first ever peta-scale supercomputer; now that achievement is held by the first 94 place holders.

Every computer runs a version of Unix, with all but 16 being a Linux variant.

The list contains 170 computers in the Americas (4 in Brazil, 1 in Canada and the rest in the US), 105 in Europe (in a broad mix of countries), 218 in Asia (with 167 of those being in China – one more than the US), six in Oceania and just one in Africa.

In June 2008, when the list first achieved petascale computing, there were just 12 entries based in China (with a peak of 19 a couple of years earlier).

At position 500 is "Helen", based at the Imperial College London with an Rmax of 285908 Gflop/sec. This is Helen's first time on the list.  It is also certain to be her last.

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