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Gallery: Inside Japan's K Computer - world's top supercomputer

The unfinished Fujitsu K Computer, at more than 8 petaflops, is more than three times more powerful than China's second place machine.
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By Andy Smith on
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1 of 11 Andy Smith/ZDNet

Japan's K Computer took over first place as the top-performing supercomputer in the world as determined by the Top500 Supercomputing List. The K Computer, which is housed at the Riken Advanced Institute for Computational Science in Kobe, has 672 computer racks and 68,544 CPUs. This system achieved a LINPACK benchmark performance of 8.162 petaflops (quadrillion floating-point operations per second).

But this supercomputer isn't even finished. That should happen in November 2012 when it is expected to house more than 800 computer racks and exceed 10 petaflops.

For more on the supercomputer showdown, read Larry Dignan's blog. And Steven Vaughan-Nichols tells why Linux powers the fastest supercomputers.

Photo: Riken

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2 of 11 Andy Smith/ZDNet

The K Comptuer's performance of 8.162 petaflops was more than three times higher than the second-place and former title-holder, the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin China which maxed out at 2.566 petaflops.

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Here's a look a a typical rack in the K Comupter.

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The pieces of the K Computer.

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The K computer uses a "SPARC6 VIIIfx" CPU designed and developed by Fujitsu using 45 nanometer process technology. 80,000 of these chips are expected to be housed in the completed project which is expected to top the 10 petaflop barrier.

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Six I/O system boards are installed in each rack. Each board contains 4 SPARC64 VIIIfx CPUs with 8 cores integrated into each chip. The board delivers a performance to power ratio of 2.2 gigaflops per watt.

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Here's a look at the pieces of the water cooling system for the K Computer.

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The 6-dimensional mesh/torus topography is described by Fujitsu:

"The design of the 6-dimensional mesh/torus topology in the K computer means there are many communication routes between neighboring CPUs. This enables the execution of data communications between CPUs via the shortest route and over the shortest period of time and ensures the network can fully draw out this world top-class CPU computational power."

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Here is China top supercomputer which was built in 2010 and is located at the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin. China place second to the U.S. with 62 supercomputers on the Top 500 list.

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The DOE/SC/Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn.  operates the third most powerful supercomputer  and former No. 1, Jaguar. Ancient compared to the Japanese and Chinese best, the system was built in 2009. UT-Battelle, LLC operates this computer for the U.S. Department of Energy.

The U.S. did have five of the top ten supercomputers and dominated the list of the top 500.

To regain the world title, Oak Ridge National Laboratory is working on a $100 million Cray supercomputer called Titan. It's expected to exceed 20 petaflops when completed in 2012, although the first stage will be ready this year.

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What can you do with a supercomputer? This graphic shows five areas where the K Computer is expected to toil.

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