In the super-computing league table, the U.S. has reclaimed ‘top spot’ from China.
IBM’s Sequoia computer, which is 1.55 times faster than China’s previous record-breaker, the Fujitsu K Computer, was installed and switched on at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
Throwing evidence behind Moore’s Law – which dictates that computers get twice as powerful and twice as small every 18 months – the new super-computer is a powerful machine.
It can perform – in less than a second – calculations which would take the super computers of 1993 three days to solve.
In fact, the IBM team say it is 273,930 times more powerful than the 1993 machine – called the CM-5/1024 and created by American firm Thinking Machines.
The BBC reports that Sequoia is capable of calculating, in one hour, ‘what otherwise would take 6.7 billion people using hand calculators 320 years.’
The computer will be used carry out simulations to help extend the life of nuclear weapons, in a bid to avoid real-world underground tests
Sequoia and uses over 1.5 million processors – to put that in perspective, your brand-new, luxurious £3,000 desktop PC will like be a quad-core, e.g. with four processors.
Gamers and computer enthusiasts all over the world will be very tempted to install some modern computer games like the first-person shooter Crysis onto Sequoia to watch the hardware destroy all previous hardware benchmarks.
National Nuclear Security Administration administrator Thomas D’Agostino said: ‘While Sequoia may be the fastest, the underlying computing capabilities it provides give us increased confidence in the nation’s nuclear deterrent.
Sequoia also represents continued American leadership in high performance computing.’
It is also the machine with relatively outstanding economy power-wise, consuming 7.9 megawatts compared to the K computer, which consumes12.6 megawatts.
Other countries with supercomputers include China and Japan, with two apiece, and and Japan, France and Italy each have one.
IBM has built five out of the top 10 computers.
David Turek, vice president of deep computing at the firm, told the BBC: ‘Substantial planning went into this. We knew the day would come.’
Not everyone was left excited by the new machine: ZDNet’s Zack Whittaker said: ‘The U.S. may claim home to some the world’s top scientists, just as China has for two non-consecutive years claimed the world’s fastest computer. … At the end of the day: supercomputers are just tools.’
However, in reply, another ZNET writer, Dan Kusnetzky, said: ‘On the other hand, IBM or any other supplier’s ability to create such a complex, powerful computing research is of extreme importance.
‘The thought, the tools and the procedures needed to build and operate such a huge system are directly applicable to other types of computing.’