Saudi machine makes it on to world's top ten supercomputer list

The Shaheen II is the first supercomputer based in the Middle East to enter the world’s top ten list, debuting at number seven.

The Saudi supercomputer is based at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and is the seventh most powerful computer on the planet, according to the Top 500 organisation that monitors high-performance machines. China’s Tianhe-2 kept its position as the most powerful supercomputer in the world in the latest rankings.

Top 500 said the Shaheen II, with a peak number-crunching capacity of 5.536 petaflops on the Linpack benchmark, was the highest-ranked Middle East system in the 22-year history of the list and the first to crack the top ten.

The Cray XC40 computer uses 200,000 processors arranged in more than 6,000 nodes, has 17.6 petabytes of storage and 760 terabytes of main memory. China’s Tianhe-2 has a peak processing ability of 33.86 petaflops spread across 16,000 nodes – a petaflop is 1015 calculations (floating-point operations) per second.

The machine is currently being used for projects including modelling turbulence in engines, atmospheric dynamics and renewable energy grids, the BBC said, and its industrial partners are also planning to use it in the processing of raw materials.

The Top 500 said the growth rate in global computing is in a slump mostly because few new massive supercomputers were introduced in the last few years. “The other nine systems in the top 10 were all installed in 2011 or 2012, and this low level of turnover among the top supercomputers reflects a slowing trend that began in 2008,” said the organisation.

The US remains the top country in terms of overall systems with 233, but nearing its historical number on the list. The number of European systems rose to 141, up from 130 on the last list, while the number of systems across Asia dropped to 108 from 120. The number of Chinese systems on the list also dropped to 37, compared to 61 last November, Japan continues to increase its count on the list, claiming 39 spots this time, up from 32 last November.

However, China’s role in high-performance computing is increasing in the manufacturing arena, with Lenovo now being counted among the vendors of systems on the Top 500 list. Three new systems are solely attributed to Lenovo, while 20 systems previously listed as IBM are now labelled jointly between IBM and Lenovo. 

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