Racing to the future – Supercomputers of tomorrow
What is similar between Usain Bolt and Tianhe-2? Does the question sound a bit weird? Not at all if you know that we are talking about speed. The former as you all know is the fastest human on earth having won the World Championship in Beijing in end August 2015. Tinahe-2, the Chinese super computer has once again placed itself at the top of the list of 500 supercomputers of the world and has been recognized as the fastest computer today in the list published in July 2015. Doing it three times in a row is no mean achievement for the giant computer that has been able to maintain its position on the list of Top 500 computers in the world that is prepared twice in a year. China seems to be pretty focused in retaining its position as it has increased its count of supercomputers by an impressive 20% over the figure in the last list that was published in end 2014.
National Computer Center of China in Guangzhou houses Tianhe-2 that has clocked a speed of 33.86 petaflop per second. In plain words it means that this giant machine is capable of performing as many quadrillions of floating-point calculations in one second.
More than 50 percent of the Top 500 supercomputers belong to the US that boasts of 233 super computers despite a decline of 15% over the previous figure. The combined figures of UK at 30, Germany at 23 and France at 27 fall behind China that aggregates 76.
Speed of development
The fast pace of development of super computers and the importance that countries attach to it can be understood by looking at the speedy evolution of the fastest computer. Barely five years ago, IBM was the first to cross the 1 petaflop per second mark and in such a short span of time Tianhe -2 has reached the unthinkable number of 33.86 petaflop per second. The US has set a goal of building the world’s fastest computer that would be 20 times faster than Tianhe-2 and the project is expected to be completed by 2025. Considering the stupendous pace of development, it seems quite possible that the world would get its speediest supercomputer capable of making one quintillion calculations in a second. If you are baffled by the figure, think it to be a billion, billion calculations just as you blink.
The way forward
For fulfilling its ambitious plans to capture the top slot of super computers, the US has set up the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI), a nodal body to build the computer .The computer will not only be the fastest super computer but would be able to aid projects related to national security and scientific research besides performing complex simulations. It is also expected to analyze X ray images to assist in diagnosing cancer and weather forecasts could become more accurate based on its analysis of weather data.
NASA could also use the powers of this supercomputer to design aircraft that is more sleek and streamlined without taking recourse to wind tunnel testing.