China's Tianhe-2 has retained the crown for the fastest supercomputer in the world for the fifth year in a row.

Developed by China's National University of Defense Technology (NUDT), Tianhe-2 stays put as the fastest and most powerful computer worldwide, based on the TOP500 list of most powerful supercomputers, which is collated two times a year.

This list is published to coincide with the supercomputer conferences and offers insight into the popular technologies that organizations worldwide deploy. Supercomputer experts from Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of Mannheim (Germany) and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville compiled the list.

On Monday, July 13, the TOP500 list revealed that China's Tianhe-2, which means Milky Way-2, led the supercomputers list thanks to its 33.86 petaflop/sec performance on the Linpack benchmark.

A FLOP or floating-point operation is a reference to a mathematical problem that involves fractions which, when measured in quadrillions, are called petaflops.

For comparison's sake, Tianhe-2's performance is over 4,000 times better than the Apple Mac Pro.

Building the supercomputer did not come cheap and cost $390 million. Tianhe-2 has several thousand Intel Xeon E5-2692v2 12C 2.2GHz processors. Moreover, the supercomputer runs on a specially designed version of Linux, which NUDT crafted.

The supercomputer is leaps ahead of its closest rival Titan (a Cray XK7), developed by the U.S. Department of Energy, which ranked number two. Titan managed 17.59 petaflop/sec on the same benchmark, making Tianhe-2 two times faster. Titan, however, is among the more energy-efficient systems on the supercomputer list and is installed at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The other computers that made it on the TOP500 list include the IBM Sequoia (U.S.) and Fujitsu K (Japan) at number three and four, respectively. The new entrant—the only one—in the top 10 was Shaheen II (Cray XC40 system), which is installed at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. It holds the distinction of being the highest rank system from the Middle East in the past 22 years, clocking 5.536 petaflop/sec on the benchmark.

The U.S. accounted for 231 supercomputers in the TOP500 list, making it the top country when it comes to the most number of supercomputers on the list.

Photo: Sam Churchill | Flickr

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