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Second Tier of Supercomputer Rankings Shifts as Quantum Looms

Carl Weinschenk

Last month, Top500.org posted the 49th edition of its biannual listing of top supercomputers. The top of the list is stable. The Chinese supercomputers Sunway TaihuLight and Tianhe 2, at 93 petaflop and 33.9 petaflops, respectively, remain the top two machines, says Network World.

There are some changes, however. The Swiss GPU-based Piz Daint doubled its performance to 19.6 petaflops, which moved it from eighth to third on the list.

Perhaps more significantly, according to Network World’s Peter Sayer, were changes to the middle of the list. He writes that a 432-teraflop computer built in 2015 by Sugon in China had entered the listings in 213th place in 2015. Since then, 108 supercomputers have joined the top 500 list and kicked the Sugon device all the way down to last on the list.

Big Data and artificial intelligence (AI) are two disciplines that rely heavily on high-end computing platforms. Last month, Cray, perhaps the oldest and best known name in supercomputing, introduced the Urika-XC analytics software suite, which offers graph analytics, deep learning and Big Data analytics tools for use on its flagship Cray XC supercomputer platform. The software enables identification of patterns within massive datasets.


Supercomputers are about more than raw power. Precisely how that power is harnessed is important as well. Huffington Post describes an approach being taken at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which has been home to more than 100 supercomputers over the decades. The lab has introduced Charliecloud, a “crisp 800-line code” that enables Big Data operations without demanding changes with which computer staffs are likely unfamiliar.

This all may change very quickly. Like much else in technology, supercomputing is on the precipice of great change. Quantum computing, which relies on sci-fi like and virtually impossible to conceptualize technologies, will radically increase the capacity of computers. These devices seem to be set to become factors in the commercial sector. This means that the Top500 list may look significantly different in the relatively near future.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

 


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