Slideshow

The world’s 10 fastest supercomputers

Los Alamos and Oak Ridge laboratories break the petaflop barrier.

  • Using a special benchmark, the Top500.org project ranks the 500 most powerful computing systems in the world twice a year. The amazing speeds of the world's fastest computers are measured in teraflops (a trillion floating point operations per second), and petaflops (one quadrillion floating point operations per second). Here's a look at the 10 fastest supercomputers, announced this week.

  • This IBM system at the DOE's Argonne lab uses an energy-efficient design that still delivers massive amounts of computing power. "If all six billion people on Earth were participating in a science computation, each person would need to do 70,000 additions or multiplications per second to keep up with the Blue Gene/P," the lab says.

  • This Cray supercomputing cluster is part of the Jaguar system at Oak Ridge, a Department of Energy facility that needs major computing power to tackle problems related to climate modeling, renewable energy, fusion and combustion.

  • Red Storm, one of four Cray supercomputers to make the top 10, helped the US Navy shoot down a failed satellite with a single missile strike early this year, and is also used to certify the reliability of the US nuclear weapons stockpile without underground testing.

  • Named after a cluster of stars in the Taurus constellation, Pleiades uses 12,800 Intel Xeon quad-core processors to research climate change, simulate future space vehicle design, and develop models of dark matter halos and galaxy evolution.

  • Named after Benjamin Franklin, this system at Lawrence Berkeley's National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center was designed for incredibly detailed simulations and analysis of massive amounts of data. Installation of the supercomputer last year increased the computational power available to scientists by a factor of six.

  • This is it: the world's fastest supercomputer. Roadrunner took over the top spot in June and was able to fend off a stiff challenge from the Cray system at Oak Ridge. In addition to being the world's fastest, it's one of the most energy-efficient supercomputers on the Top 500 list, requiring fewer than half the kilowatts used by the world's second-fastest supercomputer. Using x86 processors in conjunction with the same chips used by the Playstation 3, Roadrunner ensures the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile and is also used for research in astronomy, energy, the human genome and climate change.

  • Nanotechnology is one of the key research topics for the only Sun computer on the top 10 list. University of Texas research could potentially lead to the design of nanoscale materials useful in hydrogen fuel cells or advanced development of solar power.

  • This IBM system is actually older than the fifth-ranked supercomputer, and was No. 1 on the list a year ago. While the Lawrence Livermore machine is still faster than the Blue Gene/P at Argonne, it's not nearly as efficient, using almost twice as much energy.

  • The most powerful portion of Oak Ridge's Jaguar supercomputing cluster, this Cray XT5 system is only the second in the world to break the highly-sought petaflop barrier, performing more than one quadrillion floating point operations per second.

  • The world's 10th fastest supercomputer and China's most powerful is at the Shanghai Supercomputer Center, which performs research in a broad range of fields including weather forecasting, oil exploration, bio-medical and genetic research, and aviation and aeronautics. It's also the first Windows HPC system to make the top 10.

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