Two Chinese supercomputers have been declared the fastest machines on the planet, according to a list released today by researchers in the US and Germany. China’s Sunway TaihuLight and Tianhe-2 remained the world’s fastest and second fastest machines, according to the semiannual T0P500 list of supercomputers. They are followed by the Swiss Piz Daint, a system installed at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre, at the third place, and America’s Titan at the fourth, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Sunway TaihuLight, described by the T0P500 list as “far and away the most powerful number-cruncher on the planet,” maintained the lead since last June, when it dethroned Tianhe-2, champion for the previous three consecutive years.
It means a Chinese supercomputer has topped the rankings maintained by researchers in the US and Germany for nine times in a row. What’s more, Sunway TaihuLight, with a performance of 93 petaflops, was built entirely using processors designed and made in China. “It highlights China’s ability to conduct independent research in the supercomputing field,” Haohuan Fu, deputy director of the National Supercomputing Centre, where Sunway TaihuLight was installed, told the news agency. “China is simultaneously developing hardware and software technologies of supercomputers,” Fu said. “It is expected that rapid development in homegrown hardware technologies, supported by homegrown software, will lead to a stronger research and engineering test capacity in many fields, thus promoting an industrial upgrading and, eventually, a sustainable development of China’s homegrown supercomputing industry.”
Tianhe-2, capable of performing 33.9 petaflops, was based on Intel chips, something banned by the US government from selling to four supercomputing institutions in China since 2015. The Swiss system’s current performance of 19.6 petaflops pushed Titan, a machine installed at the US Oak Ridge National Laboratory, to fourth place. Titan’s performance of 17.6 petaflops has remained constant since it was installed in 2012.
“This is the second time in the 24-year history of the TOP500 list that the US has failed to secure any of the top three positions,” the TOP500 organisers said in a statement. The only other time this occurred was in November 1996, when three Japanese systems captured the top three spots. “Nevertheless, the US still claims five of the top 10 supercomputers, which is more than any other nation,” they said. Fu called the upgraded Swiss system “really a surprise,” saying that “it reflects the increased investment in large- scale supercomputers in Europe.”