Updates to this story
China has been quickly climbing the supercomputer ladder recently with news of its first petaflop supercomputer and its recordbreaking for supercomputer speed. Today a new report by Top500.org on the top 500 supercomputers has been released, giving China reason to jump for joy in this field yet again, but the UK also has reason to cheer, albeit not as loudly.
The top slot went to the American Jaguar at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, with a whopping speed of 1.75 petaflops, but China would have taken first place on theoretical speed with its Nebulae supercomputer, capable of up to 2.98 petaflops. The Nebulae sank into second place behind the Jaguar during a Linpack performance test, where it gave a reading of 1.271 petaflops, which is still really, really fast. The Jaguar has a massive 224,162 cores, while the Nebulae has a respectable 120,640 cores. We guess that explains the "super" part of the name.
The United States took most of the remaining top ten slots, with number three going to the Roadrunner, number four going to the Kraken XT5, number six going to the Pleiades, and numbers eight to ten going to the BlueGene/L, Intrepid, and Red Sky respectively, all flying the stars and stripes banner.
Germany managed to get to number five with its IBM-based JUGENE, which had the most cores at 294,912, while China took a second top ten slot at number seven with its Tianhe-1, which used to be China's top performing supercomputer until recently.
The UK got 38 supercomputers on the top 500, with its highest ranking at 16, the HECToR in the University of Edinburgh, capable of 0.27 petaflops. The University of Edinburgh, reknowned for research on artificial intelligence, had another HECToR supercomputer ranking at 26 with around half the cores of its big brother, making that the second highest ranking one for Britain.
The Met Office managed to rank as numbers 104 and 105 with its UKMO B and UKMO A supercomputers, suggesting that it's doing something right, even if it's not forecasting the weather properly. The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in the UK ranked considerably higher at 39 and 40 with two Power 575s.
The UK featured a number of others much lower on the list for government bodies, including the WillowA and WillowB at the Atomic Weapons Establishment, which ranked 321 and 322. It's probably a good thing that these nuclear weapons simulation machines aren't ranking higher than that.
There are also a number of "Classified" supercomputers mentioned, with no details on their location and usage for obvious reasons. All we know is that they're fast enough to rank on the top 500, but who knows what the UK government is using them for. We've probably said too much already.
There were a few more for the financial industry, probably lower on the list because the bankers were spending the money on themselves instead of technology, but a surprising entry on the list is a number of supercomputers for the food industry. Four of them managed to enter the top 500, but no details were provided for who is actually using them. Does McDonalds need and use supercomputers? Is Asda compiling price lists on these multi-cored monsters?