China Constructs World's Most Powerful Supercomputer
The Tianhe-2 supercomputer is the most powerful in the world.
In the global race to produce sophisticated supercomputers, China has taken the top spot for 2013. The TOP500 organization, which lists the 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world each year, has named the Tianhe-2 the most powerful computing device on Earth.
The Tianhe-2 boasts 3.12 million processor cores and can perform 33,862.7 teraflops per second. (One teraflop is equivalent to 1 trillion independent operations.) In practical terms, this means that the Tianhe-2 is almost 5 million times more powerful than the average home PC.
Of course, this fantastic power comes at a price. The Tianhe-2 requires 17,808 kilowatts of power to run, and uses 1.024 million GB of memory. That's almost 200,000 times more electricity than the average PC, with 100,000 times more memory.
The Tianhe-2 comes from the National Supercomputing Center in Guangzhou. Though the exact functions of the Tianhe-2 are somewhat mysterious, its funding came from China's National University of Defense Technology. This organization specializes in constructing supercomputers, and has connections to both the Chinese Ministry of National Defense and China's space program.
Although the U.S. did not take top honors this year, it still acquitted itself well. Two-hundred fifty-two of the world's most powerful supercomputers came from American soil. Asia had 119 of the systems, and 112 European supercomputers made the list.
In fact, the U.S. took second place, with the Titan supercomputer from Cray Inc. The Titan clocked in at 17,590 teraflops per second; 710,144 GB of memory; and a power requirement of 8,209 kilowatts. Nothing to sneeze at, certainly, but the Titan is only about half as powerful as the Tianhe-2 overall. [See also: 9 Super-Cool Uses for Supercomputers]
Supercomputers are exactly what they sound like — incredibly powerful devices that can perform trillions upon trillions of calculations without skipping a beat. Even though their specs may look tempting, no everyday user would ever need a supercomputer. Researchers apply supercomputers' vast power toward weather forecasting, aerospace, cryptography, nuclear chemistry and molecular simulations.
TOP500 will meet again next year to re-evaluate the list, so the United States and Europe have until then to wow the evaluators.