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2015’s first edition of the top 500 list contains a new entrant but an old champion.
The biggest supercomputers out there
The twice-yearly top500 listing of the world’s most powerful supercomputers is out, and even if there are few surprises, the presence of a brand-new system on the top 10 is intriguing. Here’s your illustrated list of the 10 mightiest computing machines on the planet, as of June 2015.
The mysterious U.S. government supercomputer that occupied this spot last year has fallen off the list, to be replaced by last year’s No. 9, a less-mysterious U.S. government supercomputer called Vulcan. Housed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Vulcan is partially open to the public, who can rent out processor cycles for research or business purposes.
Germany-based JUQUEEN is one of two European entries on this edition of the top500 list, powering the Jülich Research Center’s work on scientific simulation in areas from biology to energy and climate research.
The University of Texas’ Stampede is the lone Dell-built entry on the most recent list, and is the most powerful academic supercomputer in the U.S., posting a 5.16 petaflop mark. It’s used to improve brain tumor imaging, research new types of biofuels, and study earthquakes and climate change, among many other things.
The sole new entrant on this top500 list, Shaheen II is also the first supercomputer from Saudi Arabia (or, indeed, from the Middle East as a whole) to crack the top 10. Housed at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology north of Jeddah, Shaheen means “peregrine falcon” in Arabic and is designed to support scientific and academic research at KAUST.
The Swiss National Supercomputing Center operates the second of two European machines in the latest top 10, Piz Daint. Named for a nearby Alpine peak, Piz Daint is used for HPC research, as a computing resource for national and international projects, and even as a meteorology platform for MeteoSwiss.
The Argonne National Laboratory’s Mira is the third-most powerful supercomputer in the U.S. and among the most energy-efficient on the list, tying with its larger cousin Sequoia (No. 3) for the greenest in the top 5, at 2176.58 megaflops per watt.
One of the longest-standing members of the top 10, Fujitsu’s K Computer operates at Japan’s Advanced Institute for Computational Science, running simulations for weather forecasting, pharmacological research, space science and more.
Sequoia, at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory alongside Vulcan and other less powerful supercomputers, maintains its No.3 ranking and tops the list of most powerful machines that do not use GPU-type accelerators alongside its main processor cores.
The most powerful American supercomputer resides at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where it’s used for research on materials science, fuel combustion, chemistry simulations and meteorology. But as powerful as it is, at 17.59 petaflops, it remains second-best, behind…