A Chinese supercomputer has raced to the top of the world league of supercomputers by demonstrating processor speeds of almost double the nearest rival.
Tianhe-2 was switched on two years early by a research team at the government’s National University of Defence Technology.
Tianhe-2 has an operating speed of 33.86 petaflops a second, which equates to carrying out 33,860 trillion calculations per second.
Scientists say that pared back performance could crank up to 54.9 petaflops a second over the coming months.
The Chinese government built the supercomputer to remove dependence on help from overseas and to boost technology industries.
The Tianhe-2 will be housed in Guangzhou, Southern China, and will provide research facilities for the region.
However, visiting scientists have noted the supercomputer has special souped up resources for weather forecasting and military applications that are not included in the civilian specification.
Although 3.12 million Intel Ivy Bridge and Xeon Phi chips are installed as processors, the government section has an extra 4,096 Galaxy FT-1500 central processing units.
The builders also added a high-security Linux based operating system to shield the system from eavesdroppers and hackers.
The team who looked over the Tianhe-2 noted the extra design add-ons are unique to China.
World’s fastest computers
The top 10 world supercomputers are:
- Tianhe-2 (China)
- Titan (US)
- Sequoia (US)
- K (Japan)
- Mira (US)
- Stampede (US)
- Juqueen (Germany)
- Vulcan (US)
- SuperMuc (Germany)
- Tianhe-1A (China)
A list of the world’s 500 top-performing supercomputers is released twice a year, with the latest circulating at the International Supercomputing Conference in Leipzig, Germany.
The second fastest computer, Titan, operates at 17.59 petaflops a second, peaking at 27.11 petaflops a second.
Exaflop machine on the way
The Japanese K toppled Tianhe-1 as the world’s fastest supercomputer, but now only ranks in fourth place with a speed of 10.51 petaflops a second.
Despite not taking the supercomputer crown for the fastest machine, the US reigns supreme with 252 of the top 500 computers, while 30 are in Japan, 29 in Britain, 23 in France and 19 in Germany.
Supercomputers can calculate incredibly complicated equations quickly by splitting the load across thousands of processors.
Tianhe-2’s time at the top also looks limited as US scientists are working on an exaflop supercomputer that is rated at 1,000 times faster than the Chinese machine.
The US defence agency DARPA is working with Intel on the project, which should see phase one complete in 2014 and final completion in 2018.
The delay allows scientists to resolve power problems related to running the machines at such fast speeds.