For years the US was a leader in supercomputer technology, but recently, other governments have been building machines that have significantly more computing power than those built in the US.
A new ranking shows that for the second year running, the world’s fastest supercomputer is TaihuLight, housed at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, China. Capable of performing 93 quadrillion calculations per second, it’s almost three times faster than the second-place Tianhe-2. And in third spot this year is a newly upgraded device, called Piz Dain, at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre, which recently had its performance boosted by the addition of Nvidia GPUs.
…This is the first time since 1996 that America hasn’t held one of the top three spots. It indicates that, while it certainly has significant supercomputing resources, it can’t tackle its biggest problems at anywhere near the speeds enjoyed by researchers in China.
…That leaves many areas of research currently reliant on the results of huge computational effort—among them drug discovery, materials science, and climate modeling—still in need of fast supercomputers.
The Department of Energy, whose Titan device was once the fastest in the world, is painfully aware of that fact. That’s exactly why it last week announced a $258 million funding injection into its exascale computing project. The money, which will be shared between AMD, IBM, Intel, Nvidia, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Cray, is intended to fuel development of machines that are 50 times faster than Titan.
The increase in attention and funding for supercomputing technology can potentially be a big boon for private industry that is facing the challenges of higher computing needs due to data heavy technology like Artificial Intelligence. As these companies are rising to the challenge of developing machines that can once again compete with the best technology from other countries, we will be keeping an eye on how this affects enterprises moving forward.
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