My ZDnet colleague Zack Whittaker, just published a commentary called U.S. IBM supercomputer is world's fastest: Does it matter?. In this piece, Zack looked at the announcement that IBM’s “Sequoia” has taken the crown as the world’s fastest supercomputer and dismissed it as just another announcement of another tool for research.
It’s not the computing power that matters: it’s the human capital. In a global environment where a U.S. scientist can rent access to an Asian supercomputer, it doesn’t particularly matter which country boasts the top supercomputer.
Ultimately it’s about where the people who know how to use these machines are. The scientists, the researchers, the meteorologists, astrologists: the list goes on.
The U.S. may claim home to some the world’s top scientists, just as China has for two non-consecutive years claimed the world’s fastest computer.
At the end of the day: supercomputers are just tools.
After reading Zack's commentary, I felt that I had to reply. On the one hand, he is right. A supercomputer is a very useful tool for many types of research and analysis. Like any other tool, the research and analyis is where the focus should be.
On the other hand, IBM or any other supplier's ability to create such a complex, powerful computing research is of extreme importance. The thought, the tools and the procedures needed to build and operate such a huge system are directly applicable to other types of computing.
For example, by deploying such a huge system IBM and other supercomputer competitors are demonstrating the following: