China's supercomputers have surpassed the United States on the world's 500 fastest supercomputers list, with 202 systems making the rankings compared to 143 U.S. systems, Mashable reported on Tuesday.
Supercomputers have much higher processing capacity than general-use computer, and a higher speed of calculation, Mashable noted. Such systems are used for complex tasks, such as tracking space activities, weather forecasting, and nuclear weapons simulations.
The computers are ranked by their processing speed, which is measured in floating points operations per second, called flops, Mashable said. A petaflop is one thousand trillion flops.
China's Sunway TaihuLight was listed as the world's top supercomputer operating at 93 petaflops and its Tianhe-2 (Milkyway-2) as No. 2 on the list at 33.9 petaflops, Top 500 reported.
The highest ranking U.S. supercomputer on the list was the Titan, which ranked No. 5 at 17.6 petaflops.
"Just six months ago, the U.S. led with 169 systems, with China coming in at 160," Top500 said. "Despite the reversal of fortunes, the 143 systems claimed by the U.S. gives them a solid second place finish, with Japan in third place with 35, followed by Germany with 20, France with 18, and the U.K. with 15.”
"China has also overtaken the U.S. in aggregate performance as well. The Asian superpower now claims 35.4 percent of the TOP500 flops, with the US in second place with 29.6 percent."
Cao Jianwen, a researcher working at the State Key Laboratory of Computer Science at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told the South China Morning Post, though, that the list does not explain a country's overall supercomputing strength.
Cao said China still falls behind the United States and Japan in software development to run the supercomputers.
"The machines are ultimately made to realize programs designed by humans," Cao told the Morning Post. "Owning the fastest supercomputers lays a good foundation for China to catch up, but it could take another decade to see how China can maximize their use. The supercomputer race is basically a race of economies. Whoever puts in the most money wins."
The Morning Post said the U.S. Department of Energy is planning to spend $258 million to develop the first exascale supercomputer capable of performing well above existing levels.
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