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Chinese supercomputer arrives 2 years early to dominate Top500 list

China has overtaken the US with the Tianhe-2 supercomputer, a monster of a system delivered two years earlier than expected.

The rig, also called Milky Way-2, performs at a mind-boggling 33.86 petaflop/s (using the Linpack benchmark), guaranteeing it the top position in the Top500 supercomputer list.

It features 16,000 nodes, each of which employ two Intel Xeon IvyBridge processors and three Xeon Phi processors, resulting in a total 3,120,000 cores.

The Tianhe-2 will be officially launched at the National Supercomputer Centre in Guangzho, China later this year. It is the successor to the Tianhe-1A, which topped the list in 2010.

The previous top spot was held by the US with the Titan supercomputer, a Cray XK7 rig based in the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the Department of Energy. Titan achieved 17.59 petaflops, a huge number, but significantly less than Tianhe-2.

Despite the setback for the US, it is still the market leader for high-performance computing, with 252 of the top 500 supercomputers based in the country. Asia comes in next with 119, followed by Europe with 112.

The UK plays a significant role, with 29 supercomputers on the list. The highest rank it has achieved in the June list is number 18 with the Blue Joule supercomputer, capable of 1.22 petaflops, and operated by the Daresbury Laboratory of the Science and Technology Facilities Council.