Visualizing the race to build the world’s fastest supercomputer | Infographic News

Of the 10 fastest supercomputers in the world, there are 5 in the US, 2 in China, and 1 each in Japan, Germany and Italy.

They are the most powerful machines on Earth, doing everything from researching the best treatments for coronaviruses to revealing the origin of the universe.

Capable of performing petaflops (numbers denoted by a 1 followed by 15 zeros) calculations per second, supercomputers are at the heart of the global technology and information race—especially between China and the United States.

How to measure computing performance?

Inside every cell phone, laptop, and desktop computer is a central processing unit, or CPU, often referred to as the computer’s brain.

While a typical computer might have a CPU with 1 to 16 cores (separate processing units), a supercomputer can contain thousands or even millions of cores, each of which allows them to perform very specialized computer operation.

The speed of a supercomputer is determined by the number of arithmetic calculations it can perform in one second – called FLOPs (floating point operations per second).

Advances in computing power mean that speeds are now measured in teraFLOP (trillion) and petaFLOP (trillion) operations per second. Taken together, the iPhone 11 is at least six times faster than the world’s fastest supercomputer in 1993.

Interactive - How to Measure Computational Performance_(Al Jazeera)

The most powerful supercomputer in the world

The Fugaku supercomputer at the RIKEN Center for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan is the fastest supercomputer in the world as of November 2021, according to the Top500, which ranks computers worldwide.

The $1 billion power plant has 7,630,848 cores and consumes 29,899 kilowatts of power for a peak performance of 442,010 teraFLOPs.

Fugaku has at least three times the processing power of the world’s second-fastest computer, Summit, a system IBM built at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee, USA, and measured 148,600 TFLOPs.

Of the 10 fastest supercomputers in the world, there are 5 in the US, 2 in China, and 1 each in Japan, Germany and Italy.

Interactive - the world's most powerful supercomputer(Al Jazeera)

The race to build the world’s fastest supercomputer (1993-2021)

Since 1993, the computing power of supercomputers has increased from 124 GFLOPs to 442,010 TFLOPs—a 3.5 million-fold increase.

For much of the 1990s and 2000s, the United States and Japan battled for the title of the world’s fastest supercomputer. However, in 2010, China first took the No. 1 spot from Japan and the US with the launch of the Tianhe-1A, a 2,566 TFLOP system built with an Intel processor.

Main uses of supercomputers

Supercomputers are good at handling complex problems in a range of fields.

In terms of total computing power in TFLOPs, the world’s supercomputers are mainly used for scientific research (1,533,466 TFLOPs), industrial applications (762,172 TFLOPs), and academia (376,594 TFLOPs).

Interactive - the main use of supercomputers(Al Jazeera)

Who are the major tech companies?

The supercomputer market is expected to grow from $37.8 billion in 2020 to $49.4 billion in 2025, according to market research firm Technavio.

The largest supercomputer manufacturer in the world is Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). The Houston, Texas-based multinational has at least 84 supercomputers in operation with a combined output of 564,245 TFLOPs. As of 2021, 149 of the world’s 500 most powerful supercomputers are located in the United States.

The world’s second-largest supercomputer maker is Japan’s Fujitsu, with a combined production of 548,646 of its 14 supercomputers.

In third place is Lenovo. The Chinese tech company’s total output of 180 supercomputers is 459,463. As of 2021, 173 of the 500 most powerful supercomputers are located in China.

Interactive - a major manufacturer of supercomputers(Al Jazeera)