A supercomputer built by IBM has clinched the top spot in the biannual rankings of the world’s most powerful computers. Sequoia was built by IBM for the US National Nuclear Security Administration, and is situated at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a government R&D facility in California.
According to the biannual TOP500 supercomputing rankings, Sequoia is capable of "an impressive" 16.32 petaflops (quadrillion floating point operations per second), using 1.6 million processor cores. Based on IBM’s BlueGene supercomputing platform, it is also one of the most energy efficient computers on the list.
Sequoia is used by the NNSA in its Advanced Simulation and Computing programme. It helps the agency calculate "uncertainty quantifications" in planning maintenance and support for the US nuclear arsenal.
It has knocked K Computer, built by Fujitsu and installed at Japan’s RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science, into the number two spot, after a year at the top. K is capable of 10.5 petaflops, and uses 705,000 cores.
Another IBM-built system, Mira at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, debuted at number three. Also based on BlueGene, it is capable of 8.2 petaflops using 786,000 cores.
This is the first time a US-based supercomputer has topped the rankings since November 2009. More than 50% of the systems listed in the TOP500 are based in the US, followed by 121 in Asia, and 107 in Europe. The UK lead the European countries with 25 systems in the TOP500.
Also today, IT industry analyst company IDC announced the winners of its High-Performance Computing (HPC) Innovation Excellence Award, which celebrate successful applications of HPC.
Winners included General Electric, which was able to model "unsteady flow" in aerodynamics – i.e. turbulence – in order to improve the efficiency of air turbines, and Chinese drugmaker BGI Shenzhen, which developed a set of applications based on MapReduce to process genetic data.