Supercomputers: Moore's Law Falling Behind But China Catching up

A new top 500 list, but no good news for Moore’s Law.

So the 500 fastest supercomputers list has been released again. And for an area of technology based on continuous improvement, the results aren’t very encouraging. For the third list running, Tianhe-2, a supercomputer developed by China’s National University of Defense Technology was ranked #1. While a computer retaining its title isn’t unheard of, the rest of the list isn’t doing much better. There was only one new entry to the top ten – owned by the US government and hidden away somewhere.

There has been "a noticeable slowdown in growth”, the Top 500 announcement said. "The performance of the last system on the list (No. 500) has consistently lagged behind historical growth trends for the past five years." Jack Dongarra a computer science professor with the University of Tennessee and involved with the list told Wired, “You might characterize it as maybe a sign that Moore’s Law is having some issues.”

While there hasn’t been a big shake up in terms of performance, the same can’t be said about the makeup of the list. The US comes top with 233 entries, but down from 265 six months ago. China however, is up to 76 computers – almost as many as the UK (30), France (27), and Germany (23) combined. Japan also increased its presence slightly, and now has 30 computers on the list.

The Green500 List, a ranking of the most energy-efficient supercomputers, tells the same story. Although it hasn’t updated for June yet, a look at November’s list shows 264 US entries, followed by 63 for China –again almost as many as the big European three combined.

Are we seeing the end of Moore’s law at the high end?Is this the rise of the Chinese supercomputer gathering steam?