China just built the world’s most powerful supercomputer — and it runs Linux
China has just built the world’s most powerful computer ever, and it’s capable of 93 petaflops – or 93,000 trillion calculations per second. Like all supercomputers, Sunway TaihuLight is pretty huge, and is installed at the National Supercomputing Centre in Wuxi.
Those figures are pretty hard to grasp, even when compared to the second-fastest computer in the world: the Sunway is twice as fast and three times more energy-efficient than the second most powerful supercomputer in the world, the Tianhe-2 – another Chinese computer. Like other supercomputers, this isn’t something you’d be able to build with off-the-shelf components; the TaihuLight gets its power from 10.5 million bespoke processing cores and 40,690 nodes, all built locally.
So what’s it even for? Although 93 petaflops of processing power would make for an incredible game of 1v1 Call of Duty or Time Commanders, the Sunway TaihuLight runs Linux, so it’s pretty hard to find decent games to run on it. Instead, the Sunway TaihuLight will be used for far more useful, mundane applications such as weather forecasting and handling Big Data.
When we usually think of supercomputers, we think of names like IBM Watson and Deep Blue, but in 2016 it’s China that leads the world of supercomputing. According to the BBC, this year is the first time the new superpower has more supercomputers than the US, with 167 of the top computers being Chinese compared to 165 in the US.