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The Five Most Powerful Supercomputers In The World

The highest pinnacle of computer technology is the supercomputer.  Never mind gaming rigs like the Pure Luxury or the Alienware Area 51. If one were ever used for gaming, they'd blow them out of the water in a split second. These systems are powerful enough that they've their own unit of measurement for their processing speed-the petaflop. Odd name, but you can't deny the power it represents- trillions to quadrillions of operations every nanosecond. 

Here are the five supercomputers  in particular that stand out above the others as the best of the best; the cream of the crop. Curiously, all of these systems run Linux.

 5. NERSC's Hopper

 

The System

Named for Admiral Grace Hopper, a famous American computer scientist, the Hopper supercomputer is hosted in downtown Oakland for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center. 

Installed in September 2010, the system has a 153,508 processor core with a 1.05 petaflop calculation rate. And this is only number five on the list.

What's It Used For?

Given that the NERSC is a research branch of the U.S. government, it's no surprise that Hopper is being used to carry out advanced scientific simulations in order to aid said research. 

 4.Tokyo Institute of Technology's Tsubame 2.0

 

The System

Japan's first petaflop-level supercomputer, the Tsubame 2.0, was completed in fall 2010. It runs 2,816 six-core 2.96 gigahertz processors and utilizes over four thousand Nvidia Tesla GPUS(don't get your hopes up, this Nvidia hardware isn't available to the general public) to obtain a total speed of 1.19 petaflops.

What's It Used For? 

 Tsubame's actually got a pretty long list of tasks for which its powerful processors are utilized.  According to the TIOT's website, Tsubame "has been providing computing and storage resources for research at Tokyo Tech. The machine has also been made available to select projects at outside research institutes and industries.

TSUBAME is also established to foster advanced education in computer and computational sciences, and is open to every student at the university, including undergraduates." (Tokyo Institute of Technology)

3.  The National Supercomputing Center's Nebulae

 

The System

Developed in May 2010, China's Nebulae supercomputer, located in the city of Shenzen, actually only has a speed of 1.271 petflops. Furthermore, in addition to its basic speed of 1.271, it's said that it could -theoretically- perform at almost 3 petaflops- a result of Nvidia GPU accelerators built into the computer. What this means is, should the scientists in the Shenzen center choose to make a few small modifications to the Nebulae, it could outperform the Tsubame-and perhaps even Jaguar- with relative ease. 

In other words, it's this systems graphical capabilities that put it a spot ahead of Tsubame. 

What's It Used For?

Like many of the other systems on this list, Nebulae's chief purpose is research- mostly related to computer science. 

2.  The U.S. Department of Energy's Jaguar

 

The System

Another system developed by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Jaguar makes its home in the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Originally developed in 2005, the Jaguar's undergone several upgrades that's allowed it to keep its spot high up on this list. Its peak speed is somewhere around 1.75 petaflops(from its original speed of 275 teraflops), and it boasts somewhere around 224,000 processors.

What's It Used For? 

"The petaflop Jaguar seeks to address some of the most challenging scientific problems in areas such as climate modeling, renewable energy, materials science, seismology, chemistry, astrophysics, fusion, and combustion. Annually, 80% of Jaguar's resources are allocated through DOE's Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program, a competitively-selected, peer-reviewed process open to researchers from universities, industry, government, and non-profit organizations." (Wikipedia) So, essentially, it's used to aid advanced scientific and energy research. 

1. The National Supercomputing Center's Tianhe-I

 

The System

And now we've reached the number one spot on the list- the most powerful computer in the world. Completed in 2009 and upgraded October 2010,  the Tianhe-I has a peak speed of 2.57 petaflops. It can also theoretically perform at 4.071 petaflops. 

This thing is a beast- 14,336 processors and over 7,000 Nvidia Tesla GPUs. 

What's It Used For?

China uses it for petroleum exploration (locating veins of petroleum, excavating, et-cetera) and aircraft design. However, they're also planning to make it an internationally accessible supercomputer- meaning that any country with the funds to afford it can contract the Tianhe-I out for their own ends. Not a bad idea, given that it's the most powerful in the world- I don't think they'll have any trouble finding clients.