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World's most powerful supercomputer triples speed record

World's most powerful supercomputer triples speed record
PHOTO COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK

A brand new era of supercomputers has begun. We've told you about these high-tech machines before - like IBM's Watson, which was the first computer to ever beat a human at Jeopardy. But now there's another supercomputer that's stealing the show.

China has built the world's fastest computer yet again, beating out the former champ by tripling its speed.

This week, during the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt, the Sunway TaihuLight officially grabbed first place on the Top500 supercomputer list with 93 quadrillion calculations per second, tripling the speed of the former record holder for three years, China's own Tianhe-2, which could only manage a "mere" 33.86 quadrillion calculations per second.

The Sunway TaihuLight, designed by the Chinese National Research Center of Parallel Computer Engineering and Technology, was installed this year at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, an old city in the Chinese Jiangsu province.

The TaihuLight's specs are indeed spectacular. It is reported that it also has a theoretical peak performance of 125 petaflops, with 10,649,600 cores, and 1.31 petabytes of memory! That's definitely a lot more than your average consumer PC. A lot, lot, lot more.

China's meteoric rise in the computer arms race is astounding. In 2001, no Chinese computers were on the Top500 list. Today, they have 167 on the list, narrowly beating USA's 165, with them occupying the top honor for the seventh straight year. The top U.S. computer on the list, the Titan Cray XK7, comes in at third place.

This is also the first time a Chinese supercomputer is not using U.S.-based Intel chips but is relying on Chinese made microprocessor chips instead. (The former champ Tianhe-2 still used Intel chips.)

The TaihuLight is pegged for use in research and engineering work, advanced manufacturing, weather modeling and data analytics and it will be interesting to see what the future holds for supercomputing in general.

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