Global Thermonuclear Supercomputer War

China leads in the battle to build the most super supercomputers.

Being an American geek, I have to say this is just wrong.  Oh, I’m all for the global village when it comes to grapes, alternative fuels, porn, and cool little phones, but the country that created the WOPR simply must always be on top when it comes to computing power.  It’s a matter of pride for me and national defense for you.

Ok, maybe I’m being dramatic.

Computing superiority is as American as Jennifer Aniston and the phrase “as American as.”

China recently took the lead by activating Tianhe-1A.  This monster runs 2.507 petaflops.

A petaflop is one thousand trillion floating point operations per second.

One thousand trillion is one million billion floating point operations per second.

What’s a floating point operation?

Quick!  Answer this:   189863292797.17618962961996 divided by 18723.176276

Too hard?

Answer this: 1.5 divided by 0.2

Answer this: 0.000000000000002 multiplied by 0

That last one was easy.  Now say “zero” one thousand trillion times per second.  Excellent.  You’re as fast as that Chinese monster computer.

The Chinese computer was built using 7,168 Nvidia Tesla M2050 graphics cards and 14,336 Intel Xeon processors.

The previous world champion was a Cray XT5 Jaguar, running 1.75 petaflops.  It uses 37,376 AMD hex-core processors (six cores for each chip).  This box was sold to the National Center for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratories.

The Chinese computer cost about $88 million to build.   The Cray was much more expensive.  When delivered in 2008, it was $104 million, but that was only using quad-core.  They later upgraded all the processors.

But no one can beat the Americans on style!

That’s right!!  We put graphics on our cabinets because the only thing better than having a supercomputer is showing people your supercomputer.
China is much more no-nonsense about this thing.

Cray is famous (in my mind) for turning supercomputers into furniture!
The only thing better than having or showing people your supercomputer is Jennifer Aniston.

Do not panic.  

The Oakridge National Laboratory and IBM are each working on their own 20 petaflop monsters which should be ready by 2012 — just in time to save us from the end of the world.


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