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China’s ‘Sunway TaihuLight’ wins fastest supercomputer title

China’s Sunway TaihuLight has unsurprisingly taken the crown of the world’s fastest machine again, according to the latest edition of the semiannual Top 500 list of supercomputers released on Nov 14.

The massive supercomputer, built entirely using processors designed and made in China, made its first public appearance in June, when it easily dethroned the former champion, Tianhe-2, also a Chinese system but built based on Intel chips.

TaihuLight is capable of performing 93 million billion calculations per second (petaflop/s). That’s almost three times as fast as Tianhe-2, which had claimed No. 1 spot in the Top 500 list for the past three years.

That means a Chinese supercomputer has topped the rankings for eight times in a row, indicating the rise of China in the high performance computing (HPC) field.

In the previous list released in June, China overtook the United States in the number of total supercomputers installed. That was first time that the United States has not dominated this category since the list was started 23 years ago.

This time, the number of systems installed in China increased to 171 from 168 on the last list, but the United States also made “a slight recovery” and now has 171 systems, up from 165 in the previous list.

“The 48th edition of the Top 500 list saw China and the United States pacing each other for supercomputing supremacy,” Top 500 editors said in a statement released at an HPC conference in Salt Lake City. “A year ago the United States was the clear leader with 200 systems, while China had 108.”

In addition, China and the United States are “neck-and-neck in the performance category” with the latter holding 33.9 percent of the overall installed performance while the former is second with 33.3 percent of the overall installed performance, said the statement.

In the latest rankings, Titan and Sequoia, two systems from the United States, remained No. 3 and No. 4 positions, but the top 10 list did receive “a mild shakeup.”

The Cori supercomputer, a new system installed at the US Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, slipped into the fifth slot with a performance of 14.0 petaflop/s.

Right behind it at No. 6 is the new Oakforest-PACS supercomputer that is running at Japan’s Joint Center for Advanced High Performance Computing with a performance of 13.6 petaflop/s.

The addition of Cori and Oakforest-PACS pushed every system below them a couple of notches down, with the exception of Piz Daint, a supercomputer installed at the Swiss National Supercomputing Center, which maintained its spot at No. 8 as a result of a massive 3.5 petaflop/s upgrade.

When it comes to companies making these systems, the America-based Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has the lead with 112 supercomputers, which is followed by China’s Lenovo with 92 systems.

There are three other Chinese companies in the vendor list: Sugon (No. 4 with 47 systems), Inspur (No. 8 with 18 systems) and Huawei (No. 9 with 16 systems).

“Chinese manufactures like Lenovo and Huawei are doing well globally,” Jack Dongarra, professor of the University of Tennessee and editor of the list, told Xinhua.

The Top 500 list is considered one of the most authoritative rankings of the world’s supercomputers. It is compiled on the basis of the machines’ performance on the Linpack benchmark by experts from the United States and Germany.