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Japanese supercomputer tops Top500 list

The announcment of the most powerful computer in the world had special poignacy at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Hamburg, Germany. The 37th edition of the Top500 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers cited the K computer at Riken in Japan as the top performer. But construction of the machine had been delayed due to the earthquake and tsunami earlier this year, which had affected suppliers and contractors.

Accepting the accolade at ISC'11, Tadashi Watanabe from Riken and Fujitsu's Hideyuki Saso paid homage to the earthquake victims among their suppliers and contractors. They also expressed hope that the Japanese-built system will stand as encouragement to the rest of the country.

The Japanese supercomputer is capable of performing more than eight quadrillion calculations per second (8 Petaflops) and its place in the coveted top spot, marks the first time the country has had a list-leading system since the Earth Simulator in 2004. Built by Fujitsu, the system named K Computer has achieved a Linpack benchmark performance of 8.162 Pflops, and unlike many systems of this size, incuding the Tianhe-1A supercomputer at the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin that headed the Top500 list last year, has done so without the use of graphics processors or other accelerators.

The half-built system currently combines 68,544 Sparc64 VIIIfx CPUs, each with eight cores for a total of 548,352 cores – almost twice as many as any other system in the list. It is also more powerful than the next five systems on the list combined. Located at the Riken Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS) in Kobe, K has recorded a computing efficiency ratio of 93 per cent and when configuration of the system is complete in 2012, it is designed to achieve a 10 Pflop performance. Interestingly, it has the highest recorded power consumption on the list, but is the third most energy-efficient system with a power consumption of 9.89 MW.

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