No. 2: Tianhe-1A
No. 2: Tianhe-1A

Just a year ago, the Tianhe-1A was the fastest supercomputer on the planet. The fact that the K Computer is now four times faster than the Tianhe-1A shows just how rapidly things change in this space.

Located at the National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin, China, the Tianhe-1A is capable of achieving speeds of 2.57 quadrillion calculations per second.

It uses just 14,336 central processing units. That's because, unlike the K Computer -- which has more than 88,000 CPUs -- the Tianhe-1A has several thousand Nvidia graphics processors to accelerate computation. That saves a lot of floor space.

Like the K Computer, the Tianhe-1A is open for researchers to use for large-scale scientific computations. It is currently being used for drug discovery, hurricane and tsunami modeling, cancer research, car design, and studying the formation of galaxies.

The Chinese are coming on strong in supercomputing, with 75 systems on the Top 500 list -- second only to the United States.

Last updated November 14 2011: 9:09 AM ET
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