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October 30, 2012

Who Can Make the Fastest Supercomputer?

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

So which nation has the mojo to make the fastest supercomputer in the world? Many of them, apparently, which is why the TOP500 list of the world’s top supercomputers keeps tally of the fastest, most powerful machines ever built. As of today, however, an American computer is at the top of the heap. A U.S. government laboratory today deployed a computer called Titan—the fastest, most powerful, and most energy-efficient of a new generation of supercomputers.

Titan, which lives at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, is now a leading contender to top the industry's official list of the world's fastest supercomputers, to be announced next month in Salt Lake City, Utah. (The list is updated twice each year) Titan can handle 20,000 trillion calculations each second — this translates to a speed of 20 petaflops. Titan has 200 cabinets containing 18,688 circuit modules, or nodes, each with an AMD (News - Alert) chip and an Nvidia chip called a graphics processing unit, or GPU.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

It would take 60,000 years for 1,000 people working at a rate of one calculation per second to complete the number of calculations that Titan can process in a single second. Think of Titan's power as akin to each of the world's 7 billion people solving 3 million math problems per second, reported National Geographic.

Titan will be up against a system called Sequoia at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory when the annual Top500 list is announced in mid-November. But Sequoia works on classified projects; Oak Ridge says Titan is the biggest for open, non-classified work, noted the Wall Street Journal.

Edited by Rich Steeves
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