Nowday’s supercomputers are measured in PetaFLOPS, a processing speed equal to a million billion, or a thousand trillion, floating point operations per second. These machines are made to help scientists and meteorologists forecast global warming and weather; to stimulate brain activity or the effects of global warming; to advance nuclear technology and security, and much more throughout the world.
Below are the world’s three most impressive supercomputers are ranked by their eye watering price tags.
3. Tianhe-2 (China) – $390 million
China’s Tianhe-2 (translated to “Milky Way-2” in English) is the world’s fastest current supercomputer. Tianhe-2 was developed by a team of 1,300 scientists and engineers, and it is located in National Supercomputer Center in Guangzhou. It was built by China’s National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) after the US government rejected Intel’s application for an export license for the CPUs and coprocessor boards. Tianhe-2 is used for simulation, analysis, and government security applications.
Tianhe-2 is able to perform 33,860 trillion calculations per second. One hour of these calculations by the supercomputer is the equivalent of 1,000 years of difficult sums by 1.3 billion people.
2. Earth Simulator (Japan) – $500 million
The Earth Simulator (quite the ominous name) was developed by the Japanese government way back in 1997. The project cost 60 billion yen, or roughly $500 million in today’s economy. It was developed as a highly parallel vector supercomputer system, used to run global climate models, and to evaluate the effects of global warming and problems in solid earth geophysics.
The computer contains a total of 5104 processors in 640 separate “nodes”, each containing eight NEC Vector processors. The complete machine spans the area of three tennis courts and has 2900 kilometres of cable, including 83,000 copper wires. The Earth Simulator at the Marine Science and Technology Center in Kanagawa, notched up 35.61 teraflops – that is over 35 trillion “floating point” calculations per second.
1. Fujitsu K (Japan) – $1.2 billion
Despite having the two most expensive supercomputers in the world, Japan’s heralded technology has been lacking in the supercomputer department as of late. Still, the K computer, named for the Japanese word “kei,” and meaning 10 quadrillion, is the fourth fastest supercomputer in the world, with a theoretical peak speed of 11 PFLOPS. The system cost 140 billion yen, or $1.2 billion to create.
In 2011, TOP500 ranked K the world’s fastest supercomputer, and in November 2011 the system became the first computer to top 10 PFLOPS officially. In 2012, K was superceded by IBM’s Sequoia as the world’s fastest supercomputer. The K computer, located at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science, is 60 times faster than the Earth Simulator. K costs $10 million a year to operate, using 9.89 MW of power, or the equivalent of almost 10,000 suburban homes, or one million linked desktop computers.