IBM supercomputer named world's fastest, lands new job

It would take almost 7 billion people working continuously for over three centuries to match what the IBM Sequoia can do in an hour.

Once again, America can brag about having the world´s fastest supercomputer.

Two years after being ousted by China´s Tianhe-1A, IBM´s Sequoia helped regained the top spot on the TOP500 list of the world’s top supercomputers. Drawing from 1,572,864 cores, the IBM BlueGene/Q system clocked in at 16.32 petaflops per second,according to the LINPACK benchmark. For clarification,a petaflop is measured as a thousand trillion floating point operations per second. In less technical terms, it would take 6.7 billion people continuously typing on calculators for 320 years to complete as many calculations as the Sequoia can get done in just an hour.

And this time around the computer really outprocessed the competition. Last year´s supercomputing champion, Fujitsu’s “K Computer”, finished in second place with a benchmark score of 10.51 Pflop/s. It´s still a powerful computer, though much slower with less than half as many cores than the Sequoia. And just behind the Japanese system is another IBM machine, the Mira, which registered at 8.15 petaflop/s. In fact, of the top 10 fastest supercomputers, half of them were built by "Big Blue."

So what exactly is all that processing power used for? Located at the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, the world´s most capable computer has just been enlisted this month to carry out nuclear weapon simulations. The intensive computing work will allow scientists to test the replicate explosions to check the effectiveness of the military´s current arsenal without the need to perform actual underground tests. The Sequoia will also be used to advance our understanding in the fields of astronomy, energy, genetics and climate change.

While it´s natural to assume that the crown jewel of IBM computing systems would be a real energy vampire, it´s incredibly power-efficient. In fact, the Sequoia consumes 7.9 megawatts, much less than the K computer which uses 12.6 megawatts.

For the complete list from TOP500, check out TOP500´s annual rankings.

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