If you need to model things like the worlds weather, nuclear reactions, molecular dynamics or simulate the first few seconds after the big bang, you’re going to need some pretty serious computing power but just how much more powerful are the top 10 supercomputers compared to the PC on your desktop or the latest iPad Pro for example.
In this video we’ll see just how powerful supercomputers have become but first we need to know how do you measure a computers performance.
There are lots of way to do this but the most common for high performance systems and simplest to understand is to measure how many calculations per second they are capable of.
The unit of measurement is called the FLOP or Floating Point Operation.
A FLOP is a calculation that would be either adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing 2 numbers with decimal points in them.
For example, 10.545 multiplied by 6.387 would be a single FLOP. Modern computers can do this billions of times per second.
At the time of making this video Feb 2016 the latest iPad Pro with the A9x dual core cpu is capable of about 1.5 gigaflops, that’s 1.5 thousand million FLOPS per second
Typical $1000 pc with a single Intel 5820 6 core CPU is capable of around 100 GigaFLOPS that’s 66 times more that the iPad pro
You can measure the performance of your own Intel based PC or MAC or mobile device with the same type of Linpack software as they use to benchmark supercomputers, look for the link in the description of this video.
Because supercomputers are so much powerful they are measured in PetaFLOPS. 1 PetaFLOP is equal to 1000 TeraFLOPs and 1 TeraFLOP is = 1000 GigaFLOPS and remember our PC was 100 GigaFLOPS and the Ipad Pro 1.5 GigaFLOPS
A petaflop is equal to about one million billion calculations per second. One estimate suggests it would take a human about 32,000,000 years to complete the same task.
Now we know what an everyday computing device that you or I can own is capable of let see the how it compares to the top 10 supercomputers in the world. All the figures given are correct as of Nov 2015 and gathered from the top500 list of supercomputers.
Supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas, United States
This supercomputer made by dell has a maximum Linpack performance of 5.1 PFLOPS, that’s
Thats equivalent to 51,000 of our PC’s or 3.4M ipads pro’s. It has 462,462 processing cores, 192 Terabyes of RAM and consumes a maximum of 4.5 Mw of power
9. Shaheen II
Cray XC40 , at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia
This supercomputer is made by Cray and has a maximum Linpack performance of 5.5 PFLOPS.
Thats equivalent to 55,000 of our PC’s or 3.66M ipads pro’s. Its cost aprroximatly $51M to buy and install.
It has 196,608 processing cores, 790 Terabytes of RAM and consumes a maximum of 2.8 Mw of power.
8 Hazel Hen
Cray XC40 at HLRS in Stuttgart, Germany
This is another supercomputer made by Cray Inc and it has a and has a maximum Linpack performance of 5.6 PFLOPS and is the fastest supercomputer in the European Union.
Thats equivalent to 56,000 of our PC’s or 3.73M ipads pro’s. It has 185,088 processing cores and consumes a maximum of 3.2 Mw of power.
7. Piz Daint
Cray XC30 at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS), Lugano, Switzerland.
Yet another Cray built supercomputer it has a and has a maximum Linpack performance of 6.2 PFLOPS
Thats equivalent to 62,000 of our PC’s or 4.13M ipads pro’s. It has 115,984 processing cores, 169 TB of RAM and consumes a maximum of 2.3 Mw of power.
Cray XC40 at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, United States
Yes, is another Cray supercomputer a and has a maximum Linpack performance of 8.1 PFLOPS
Thats equivalent to 81,000 of our PC’s or 5.4M ipads pro’s. It has 301,056 processing cores and cost $174M
BlueGene/Q at the US Department of Energy, Argonne National Laboratory, Lemont, Illinois, United States.
This supercomputer is built by IBM has a maximum Linpack performance of 8.5 PFLOPS
Thats equivalent to 85,000 of our PC’s or 5.66M ipads pro’s. It has 786,432 processing cores, 768 Terrabyte of RAM and consumes a maximum of 3.9 Mw of power. No cost has been released by IBM but it’s believed to be about $50M.
4. K computer
At the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science, Kobe, Japan
Built by Fujitsu the K supercomputer it has a maximum Linpack performance of 10.5 PFLOPS
Thats equivalent to 105,000 of our PC’s or 7M ipads pro’s. It has 705,024 processing cores, 1,410 Terrabyte of RAM and consumes a maximum of 12 Mw of power.
A simulation of the human heart which had taken two years, for instance, is accomplished in just one day on the K computer.
BlueGene/Q at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California, United States.
The number 3 on the top 10 list is built buy IBM and has a maximum Linpack performance of 17.1 PFLOPS
Thats equivalent to 171,000 of our PC’s or 11.4M iPads pro’s. It has 1,572,864 processing cores, 1,572 Terrabyte of RAM and consumes a maximum of 7.8 Mw of power.
The primary use of the sequoia is for Nuclear weapons simulation but will also be used for study of the human Genome, climate change and astronomy to name a few.
Cray XK7 at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennesse, United States
Another Cray built Supercomputer is the number 2 and has a maximum Linpack performance of 17.5 PFLOPS
Thats equivalent to 175,000 of our PC’s or 11.6M iPads pro’s. It has 560,640 processing cores, 710 Terrabyte of RAM and consumes a maximum of 7.1 Mw of power.
Although the main CPUs are AMD 16 core Opterons the full power comes from the Nvidia K20 GPU’s or graphics processing units , they are similar to the top end graphics cards used in many home and gaming PC’s.
The 17.5 PFlops Linpack test was obtained using only the K20 GPU’s
1. Tianhe-2 (MilkyWay-2)
At the National Super Computer Center in Guangzhou City, Guangdong province, China
This was built by the Chinese National University of Defense Technology and has a maximum Linpack performance of 33.8 PFLOPS
Thats equivalent to 338,000 of our PC’s or 22.53M iPads pro’s. It has 3,120,000 processing cores, 1024 Terrabyte of RAM and consumes a maximum of 17.8 Mw of power.
If you were to stack all the equivalent ipad pro’s flat on top of each other the pile would be 155km high.
The Tainhe 2 has been the top supercomputer for the last 3 years in the top500 list which comes out twice a year.
Where do we go from here, well, If anyone can figure out how to build a real quantum computer, IBM has previously said that if one could be made with just 50 quantum bits (qubits), and that can detect both types of errors and scale to large systems, no combination of today’s TOP500 supercomputers could successfully outperform it.
Until then we will look forward to the first 1000 Peta FLOP or 1 Exa Flop machines in hopefully around 2025.