China beats China with world’s fastest supercomputer

The world’s previous fastest supercomputer, Tianhe-2, has been unseated by the Sunway TaihuLight. The Chinese supercomputer will be located at the National Supercomputer Center at Wuxi.

Supercomputers are frequently benchmarked with the Linpack benchmark. The Sunway TaihuLight clocks in at 93 petaflops. The closest U.S. competitor sits in third place, at 17 petaflops.

Ninety-three petaflops is equivalent to 93 quadrillion floating-point operations per second (FLOP). An iPad 2, for reference, can achieve about 1.6 gigaflops, or 1.6 billion flops. This means the Sunway TaihuLight can execute about 58 million times more processes per second than an iPad 2.

The supercomputer was government-funded and cost $270 million, according to Jack Dongarra’s Report on the Sunway TaihuLight System. According to the same report, the computer’s creators took extra steps to ensure energy efficiency. The 15 Climaveneta water-cooled chillers equipped with magnetic levitation lower the facilities power consumption by 45 percent.

Supercomputers like the Sunway TaihuLight are often used to solve complex systems problems of non-linear dynamics. These problems can include weather projections, financial modeling and modeling neural activity. Generally, any problem with extreme quantities of data and a sizable number of variables requires specialized computing power.