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World's Top 500 Supercomputers
« on: November 19, 2010, 12:01:05 PM »
China's Tianhe-1A supercomputer has taken top spot among the world's top 500 supercomputers -- an important mark mirroring the rapid growth of China's science and technology, which has drawn concerns worldwide.

The Tianhe-1A computing system, developed by China's National University of Defense Technology, ranked first in the TOP500 list of the world's most powerful computers, rewriting the history of the list since it was established in 1993.

Among the top 500 computers in the list officially unveiled on Tuesday by U.S. and European researchers, 41 are from China, 20 more than one year ago, while the United States has 275 in the list, France, Germany and Japan each has 26, Britain 24 and Russia 11.

In addition, China also has two systems in the top 10, of which seven achieved performance at or above one petaflop/s.

The list is compiled by Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim, Germany, Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC)/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

It is a significant achievement for China, given the fierce competition around the world in supercomputer development, which is a fundamental tool for a nation's scientific research in various areas, such as geology,meteorology, oil exploration and the aviation, automobile and chemistry industries.

In the early 1990s, almost all computers in the China market were imported and scientific research institutes could only use computers under the supervision and control of foreign experts.

In recent years, Chinese researchers have worked hard in creating new ways to develop China's own supercomputers, with the support of the 863 Program, a government-sponsored national high-tech research and development initiative.

These "Made-in-China" supercomputers not only break the blockade imposed by foreign countries, but also narrow the gap between China and developed countries. They have even made China a world leader in some technologies.

To some extent, supercomputers reflect a country's demand for supercomputing capacity and the development level of a country's fundamental research and development, modern equipment manufacturing, and high-tech industries.

The computing speed of Tianhe-1A led the world and it showed the increased competitive strength of China's economy, said an official from the French Atomic Energy Commission.

The Tianhe-1A system at the National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin currently is leading the world with a capacity of sustaining computation at 2.57 petaflop/s, which equates to a mind-numbing 2.57 quadrillions of calculations per second.

However, it needs to be remembered that China still lags behind such developed countries as the United States in overall computing capacity, especially in core electronic unit and high-end chip development.

The United States and Japan are developing supercomputers with better performance than Tianhe-1A. In the future, various countries in the world will take turns to lead in supercomputer development, and China still has an arduous task in catching up with the world-class level in the supercomputer realm. - PNA

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