Linux and China rule supercomputing's TOP500 in 2016

At the International Supercomputer Conference, the latest TOP500 list of supercomputers was announced. To no one's surprise, Linux, is the top operating system for the world's fastest computers, but many may be shocked to find China now has the most and fastest supercomputers.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

For a long time now, China has had the fastest supercomputer in the world: The Intel-based Tianhe-2 or Milky Way 2. This year, at the 2016 International Supercomputer Conference in Frankfurt, Germany, the TOP500 list of the fastest computers in the world was topped by a new system made entirely of Chinese designed and made processors: The Sunway TaihuLight.

Sunway TaihuLight Supercomputer

Say hi to the fastest supercomputer on the planet: China's Sunway TaihuLight running Linux.


The US government's ban of high end Intel, Nvidia and AMD CPUs and GPUs sales for use in Chinese supercomputers didn't work. China doesn't need our chips to create the best supercomputers on the planet.

Making matters even worse, from an American viewpoint, this is the first time since the TOP500 list debuted in 1993 that the US was not home to the largest number of systems. With a surge in industrial and research installations, China leads with 167 systems, while the United States is second with 165. China also leads in terms of performance thanks to Sunway TaihuLight and Tianhe-2.

The Sunway TaihuLight took first place with 93 petaflop/s (quadrillions of calculations per second) on the LINPACK benchmark. This brand-new supercomputer was developed by China's National Research Center of Parallel Computer Engineering & Technology (NRCPC) and installed at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi. Sunway TaihuLight knocked Tianhe-2 into second place. Tianhe-2 had occupied the top spot on the past six TOP500 lists.

If this were a race, the Sunway TaihuLight, with its 10,649,600 computing cores comprising 40,960 nodes, would have blown its competition out of the water. It's twice as fast and three times as efficient as Tianhe-2, which posted a LINPACK performance of 33.86 petaflop/s. The peak power consumption under load (running the HPL benchmark) is at 15.37 MW, or 6 Gflops/Watt.

The Sunway TaihuLight uses the custom-designed SW26010 processor. These ShenWei chips are said to bear a strong resemblance to the Digital Alpha chip, but according to Top 500 list co-founder researcher, Dr. Jack Dongarra, it is not an Alpha variant.

Titan, a Cray XK7 system installed at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the top American supercomputer, is now the number three system. It achieved 17.59 petaflop/s.

Rounding out the Top 10 are Sequoia, an IBM BlueGene/Q system installed at DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Fujitsu's K computer installed at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS) in Kobe, Japan; Mira, a BlueGene/Q system installed at DOE's Argonne National Laboratory; Trinity, a Cray X40 system installed at DOE/NNSA/LANL/SNL; Piz Daint, a Cray XC30 system installed at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre and the most powerful system in Europe; Hazel Hen, a Cray XC40 system installed at HLRS in Stuttgart, Germany; and Shaheen II, a Cray XC40 system installed at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia is at No. 10.

One thing remains the same. Linux owns supercomputing. 497 of the TOP500 run Linux. Only three supercomputers, all running Unix, aren't using Linux. The fastest of these came in at 281st place.

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