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Heard on the Street: Big Blue takes top spots in fastest computer rankings

November 15, 2018

Two Rochester machines — Summit and Sierra — topped the latest fastest supercomputer list in the top two spots this week.

The list, released on Sunday by the TOP500 computing organization, showed the water-cooled Summit computer designed locally by IBM in first place, clocked at a blistering 143 petaflops.

That’s 143 times faster than IBM’s record-breaking Roadrunner supercomputer, which was the fastest in the world in 2008.

Summit, installed by a mostly Rochester-based team at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory earlier this year, was running at 122.3 petaflops, when it first took the lead on June’s list.

Now, with more of the machine up and running, it has pulled farther ahead in the computing speed race.

Meanwhile, Big Blue’s Sierra picked up speed to go from third place to second place in the past six months. Running at 94.6 petaflops, it edged out China’s Sunway TaihuLight.

Sunway, which led the list in 2016 and 2017, clocked in at 93 petaflops

Rochester’s IBM had one other local machine make the top-10 list with Sequoia, installed at DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It took 10th place with 17.2 petaflops.

While the November list was good for IBM with its best top-10 showing in years, it is ranked at 10th overall among manufacturers on the list.

The list continued the overall U.S. decline in the super computing race.

China’s expanded its position with 227 of the 500 systems located in its country.

The number of U.S. super computers was an all-time low at 109, or just 22 percent of the top 500.

Japan is third with 31 systems, followed by the UK with 21, France with 18, Germany with 17, and Ireland with 12. All other countries have fewer than 10 systems on the list.

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