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Top 10 Supercomputers, Illustrated (June 2012)

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The twice-a-year list of the Top 500 supercomputers documents the most powerful systems on the planet. Many of these supercomputers are striking not just for their processing power, but for their design and appearance as well. Here's a look at the top finishers in the latest Top 500 list, which was released Monday, June 18 was announced at the 2012International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Hamburg, Germany.

SEQUOIA SUPERCOMPUTER, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Researchers from IBM and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California with Sequoia, the LLNL system that was named the most powerful supercomputer in the world Monday in the top 500 list. (Photo: IBM via Flickr).

The new Top 500 champion is Sequoia, a Blue Gene/Q supercomputer built on IBM Power architecture at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Californa. The emergence of Sequoia has returned the U.S. to the top spot of the Top500 list for the first time since November 2009. Sequoia consists of 96 racks; 98,304 compute nodes, 1.6 million cores and 1.6 petabytes of memory, and hit an impressive new record of 16.32 Petaflops  on the Linpack benchmark. The National Nuclear Security Administration uses Sequoia to research the safety, security and reliability of the United States’ nuclear deterrent – replacing the need for underground testing. The Blue Gene/Q Sequoia is eight times more powerful than its predecessor BlueGene/L technology.

K SUPERCOMPUTER, RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS), Japan

The “K” supercomputer, a joint project by Fujitsu and the RIKEN center, is now the No. 2 system.  Installed at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS) in Kobe, Japan, the K Computer it achieved an impressive 10.51 Petaflop/s on the Linpack benchmark using 705,024 SPARC64 processing cores. The K Computer is the first supercomputer to achieve a performance level of 10 Petaflop/s, or 10 quadrillion calculations per second. The K computer had taken the No. 1 position in both June 2011 and November 2011.

MIRA SUPERCOMPUTER, Argonne National Laboratory, Illinois

A look at the cabling supporting the Mira supercomputer in Argonne National Laboratory (Photo: ANL)

Argonne National Lab's (ANL) Blue Gene/Q-based system Mira is the third-fastest system in the world. Mira is being used to significantly advance science and industry. Mira has 48 racks and 786,432 processors, and weigh 104 tons. It is 20 times faster and five times more energy-efficient than Argonne's current system, Intrepid. When it goes into full production, more than 5 billion computing hours will be allotted to scientists on Mira every year. Any researcher in the world can apply for time on Mira to run programs for their experiments.

SUPERMUC SUPERCOMPUTER, Leibniz Rechenzentrum, Munich, Germany

The new SuperMUC" system at the The Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) was built with IBM System x iDataPlex Direct Water Cooled dx360 M4 servers with more than 150,000 cores to provide a peak performance of up to three petaflops, which is equivalent to the work of more than 110,000 personal computers. IBM says it is the world's first commercially available hot-water cooled supercomputer. The SuperMUC system is Europe's fastest computer, and will be used to drive a wide spectrum of research -- from simulating the blood flow behind an artificial heart valve, to devise quieter airplanes to unearthing new insights in geophysics, including the understanding of earthquakes.

TIANHE-1A, National Supercomputing Center, Tianjin, China

The Tianhe-1A, the most powerful supercomputer in the world as of November 2010.

The Chinese Tianhe-1A system at the National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin is in fifth place in the latest survey, achieving a performance level of 2.57 petaflop/s (quadrillions of calculations per second). In 2010 the Tianhe-1A system took the top spot, but was dethroned by the K Supercomputer when the next TOP500 list was published in June 2011.

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