US takes fastest supercomputer crown

In October 2010, China developed the fastest computer of the day, beating the previous record by 30% – quite an impressive feat. But the US didn’t just lie on its back.

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Titan, which resides at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee is an upgrade from the 2009 record holder, working at 17.59 petaflops per second – meaning it can make 17,590 trillion calculations per second. That’s about as much as the entire population of the US working together would make in a gazillion years.

Titan leapfrogged the previous champion IBM’s Sequoia, which sadly, is working on how to extend the life of nuclear weapons, by mixing together Nvidia’s CPUs and Tesla GPUs. This is a different approach from other supercomputers, which relied only on CPUs. GPUs, despite being slower at individual calculations, make it up by being able to perform more at the same time.

“Basing Titan on Tesla GPUs allows Oak Ridge to run phenomenally complex applications at scale, and validates the use of ‘accelerated computing’ to address our most pressing scientific problems,” said Steve Scott, chief technology officer of the GPU accelerated computing business at Nvidia.

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