Every year at the International Supercomputer Conference that is held in Dresden, Germany, the top 500 most powerful supercomputers are announced. These high performance computers are super impressive with unimaginable computing speeds. There are multiple big name companies building these computers like Hewlett-Packard, Dell and IBM. Virginia Tech in the U.S. ranks 28th on the most powerful list with a self-made supercomputer. IBM dominates the top list with 240 of the 500 most powerful and more than half the total processing power.
First on the list is the BlueGene/L System which is installed at DOE’s Laboratory in Livermore, California. It has 131,072 processors and 32,768 GB of main memory. How impressive is that? Most hardcore gamers deck out their machines with around 4 GB of ram! It has an unprecedented sustained performance of 280.6 Tflop/s. It is truly amazing to see the progress that supercomputers have made over the last 10 years. Just for a comparison, in 1996 the most powerful supercomputer was a Hitachi installed at the University of Tokyo in Japan. It utilized only 1,152 processors in comparison to the 131,072 processors in use by the top computer today. 299 of the top 500 supercomputers are installed in the United States with the United Kingdom next at 35.
Because I’m partial to Iowa State University, here’s some cool information about their supercomputer ranked 99th on the list of 500 (pictured above). It is an IBM Blue Gene/L supercomputer that can handle 5.7 trillion calculations per second! IBM calculated that it would take someone 5 million years to make the same number of calculations plus it includes 11 trillion bytes of data storage. These supercomputers are great for some pretty serious research from astrophysics to nuclear physics. CyBlue(yes, they named it) is being used to help sequence the corn genome (it is Iowa after all) which is considered to be pretty complex.
Supercomputers are without a doubt pretty powerful to say the least! Who’s up for a game of chess against of these?