China overtakes the U.S. in race for supercomputer dominance

Illustration of supercomputing machines as a bar graph

For the last few years, China has been outshining the U.S.by consistently ranking first in TOP500's supercomputing rankings list, most notably with its TaihuLight.

"It is the largest number of supercomputers China has ever claimed on the TOP500 ranking, with the USA presence shrinking to its lowest level since the list's inception 25 years ago", Top500 said.

In a list of the world's 500 fastest supercomputers, China sits pretty with 202 on the list.

"For the second time in a row there is no system from the USA under the TOP3", Top500 said in a statement. Japan clocks in at third and Germany at fourth with 35 and 20 supercomputers respectively. Just six months ago, the United States. led with 169 systems, and China with 159.

Installed at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, Sunway TaihuLight is built entirely using home-made processors, and it has been at the top position since June 2016. That computer's processing power can reach 93 petaflops (quadrillion floating-point calculations per second), over twice as many as the second fastest supercomputer, another Chinese-developed system called Tianhe-2.

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They're used for various things such as weather forecasting, nuclear weapons simulation and even to track space activity.

A "petaflop" is one thousand trillion "flops".

In contrast, the US's fastest supercomputer, the Titan, is No. 5 on the list with a speed of 17.5 petaflops.

If China successfully develops a super supercomputer prototype this coming summer, it will take the lead in an global race to a build a system capable of one quintillion (a billion billion) calculations per second.

The November report from TOP500 definitely is not a good one for the US, while the top 10 list looks similar to June, the Japanese and Americans have traded places for the number four and five spots respectively.

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