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Saudi supercomputer enters top ten list
August 1, 2015, 3:33 pm

For the first time a supercomputer based in the Middle-East has entered the top ten list of the most powerful computers on the planet, according to T500, the organization that monitors high-performance machines.

The Shaheen II, a Cray XC40 computer based at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Kaust) in Saudi Arabia, becomes the seventh most powerful machine in the world. China's Tianhe-2 retained its position at the top of the supercomputer list.

Shaheen II's place on the list, which was revealed in the Top 500's latest release of its bi-annual rankings, comes from its peak number-crunching capacity of 5.536 petaflops. This makes it the "the highest-ranked Middle East system in the 22-year history of the list and the first to crack the Top 10", said T500.

Kaust has spent about US$80 million buying, installing and operating the Cray machine which is about 25 times more powerful than the machine it is replacing. The machine uses 200,000 processors arranged in more than 6,000 nodes, has 17.6 petabytes of storage and 790 terabytes of main memory. By contrast, China's Tianhe-2, which is ranked Number 1 by T500, has a peak processing ability of 33.86 petaflops spread across 16,000 nodes.

A petaflop is equal to about one quadrillion calculations per second. One estimate suggests it would take a human about 32,000,000 years to complete the same task.

The machine, based in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia is being used for research projects modeling turbulence in engines, atmospheric dynamics, and renewable energy grids. Industrial partners of Kaust are also planning to use it to help refine their search for minerals and fossil fuels and in the processing of raw materials.

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