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July 14, 2015

Saudi Peregrine Falcon swoops in to challenge supercomputing giants

Tianhe-2 remains the top supercomputer, but a new entry from Saudi Arabia has broken into the top 10 of the Supercomputer 500 list.

By James Nunns

Tianhe-2 is the top supercomputer, maintaining its position for the fifth year in a row.

The supercomputer, which is based at China’s National University of Defence Technology, outstrips the competition with a performance of 33.86 petaflop/s. This equates to quadrillions of calculations per second, based on the Linpack benchmark.

Titan, a Cray XK7 system, which is installed at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, came in at number two with 17.59 petaflop/s.

The top 10 has only one new entry in it, the Shaheen II, the system installed at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. The Crazy XC40 ranked as the seventh most powerful machine in the world.

This represents the first time that a supercomputer based in the Middle East has entered the top 10 list.

Shaheen II, meaning Peregrine Falcon, ranked at 5.536 petaflops, which made it the highest ranked system from the region in the 22-year history of the list. This kind of hardware doesn’t come cheap, the university spent around £51million buying, installing and operating the machine.

The other nine systems in the top 10 had all been installed in 2011 or 2012, the low turnover among the top supercomputers is reflective of a slowing trend.

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The U.S. has maintained its top spot for overall systems, with 233, up from 231 six months ago but down from 265 in November 2013. However, the country still dominates at the top, with five of the top 10.

Europe has shown reasonable growth with 141 systems up from 130 six months ago, while the number of systems in Asia dropped to 108 from 120. China had the biggest fall in systems though, with only 37 on the list compared to 61 last November.

At number three came Sequoia, custom made by IBM, at four is K computer from Fujitsu while another IBM system called Mira rounds out the top five.

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