The Essential Supercomputer Statistics: Everything You Need to Know

Updated · May 20, 2023

There are many problems left to solve and many processes to improve in this world of ours. Despite the millions of issues, computers resolve daily, there are always more of them requiring our attention.

It’s practically impossible to discuss large-scale matters without mentioning supercomputers—these solve an imaginable number of issues every second, just so our lives can keep getting better.

All this calls for some exciting supercomputer statistics, right? Join us as we shed light on some of the world’s strongest electrical devices—their definition, history, and future.

Absorbing Facts and Stats About Supercomputers (Editor’s Choice):

  • Supercomputers tend to use more and more power.
  • In November 2021, China owned 173 of the 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world.
  • The Fugaku Supercomputer still leads the TOP500 list, only behind China’s secret systems.
  • More than half of the computers on this list operate on Linux.
  • 1976’s Cray-1 is a six-foot-high supercomputer with a seven-foot diameter.
  • The Summit supercomputer can process 200 quadrillion calculations per second.
  • China’s Oceanlite had a peak performance of 1.3 exaFLOPS on the Linpack benchmark.
  • Frontier is set to become the most powerful supercomputer in the world.

Types of Supercomputers

Did you ever wonder how supercomputers are classified? Or even what exactly is a supercomputer? Well, now you’ll find out about all that and then some. Are you ready?

1. By definition, a supercomputer can be any extremely powerful one.

(Source: Britannica)

In theory, it’s a term that’s usually pointing out which are the fastest computers on the market. In reality, it’s not all that simple.

These are not your regular PCs but rather machines built with specific goals. Certain characteristics, such as multiple CPUs, help them stand out from the rest. The most common ones revolve either around business or research.

2. General purpose and special purpose supercomputers are the two biggest subtypes.

(Source: YoungWonks)

All supercomputers are strong, but their uses can vary. As such, they are divided not by supercomputer hardware specification but by purpose instead.

The general-purpose subtype has a wide variety of uses. The most common one is solving extremely complex mathematical operations as fast as possible.

On the other side, the special-purpose ones are usually built for a specific goal. Some of the most notable examples of such supercomputers are those made for playing chess, like Hydra, Belle, and Deep Blue. There are others created specifically for the molecular biology or astrophysics fields. The examples are numerous as supercomputers are unparalleled helpers in today's big industries.

3. Cray-1, released in 1976, is a six-foot-high supercomputer with a seven-foot diameter.

(Source: Britannica)

Most supercomputers are rather tall. Old ones, in particular, have always been popular in terms of supercomputer size. Take Cray-1, for example. This 1976 machine is approximately 1.8 meters tall and has a diameter of 2.1m!

And as big as it is, its influence is probably even more significant. This is the first supercomputer ever made by Cray Research Inc. The name of its founder, Seymour Cray, is one of the most important ones in the history of supercomputers—he was known as the father of the supercomputer.

4. IBM’s Summit can solve 200 quadrillion calculations per second.

(Source: Fanatical Futurist)

Summit is the name of the IBM supercomputer that’s currently the second strongest in the world. IBM also owns the third strongest, called Sierra. Did you know that Summit and Sierra took first and second place between June 2018 and November 2019? Both stayed there until Fugaki appeared.

Summit is an excellent example of how far supercomputers have come—it can solve 200 quadrillion problems every second! In comparison, Cray-1 was only capable of solving 240,000,000 calculations every second.

5. Linux is the preferred supercomputer operating system.

(Source: Stackscale)

Linux is excellent for many reasons. It being an open-source system is among the most important ones. What does this mean? It allows for every single part to be modified by its users—they can even add new modules without affecting the rest of the OS, which aids with resource optimization—something other operating systems just don’t provide. All this further helps experts maximize the supercomputer capabilities.

Not to mention that Linux is completely free! Given how expensive supercomputers are, that’s way more significant an advantage than it may seem at first.

6. Supercomputers use an ever-increasing amount of power.

(Source: DCD)

Great computing power demands a great electrical one.

Frontier, the current #1, though, doesn’t seem to care about the insane power consumption. According to several supercomputer stats, it now consumes a staggering 29 megawatts. However, should it grow, it’ll be capable of facing 70 megawatts.

“Fun” fact: Frontier’s engineers added 40 megawatts in cooling capacity only. Talk about an environmental hazard!

7. The Green500 supercomputer list exists for this reason.

(Source: TOP500)

Because of the massive power consumption, TOP500 came up with a Green500 list to rank supercomputers based on their power efficiency. It’s measured in gigaFLOPS per watt. The bigger it is, the better the power efficiency. Here are the top 10 in the November 2021 edition:

  • MN-3
  • SSC-21 Scalable Module
  • Tethys
  • Wilkes-3
  • HiPerGator AI
  • Snellius Phase 1 GPU
  • Perlmutter
  • Karolina, GPU partition
  • MeluXina - Accelerator Module

2022 Supercomputer Statistics—Is the Next Level Around the Corner?

We’re still waiting on the 2022 biggest news, as TOP500 is yet to publish its ranking.

So instead, we’ll get into some of the general but still crucial facts about the industry before diving into what awaits us in the future.

8. In November 2021, China owned 173 of the top 500 most powerful supercomputers.

(Source: Statista)

While it may seem impressive, it’s a significant decrease from just a year before when it had 214 out of 500. However, no matter the date, China still has the most supercomputers by country.

The US currently comes second with 149 of 500, as opposed to just 113 in November 2020. The sum of supercomputers owned increased primarily in smaller countries—their combined number jumped from 45 to 54.

If you’ve started to worry about China, don’t. Their systems aren’t in any danger, as the country continues to own the most powerful supercomputers in the world. But more on that later.

9. As of June 2021, more than half of the top 500 supercomputers ran Linux.

(Source: Statista)

As a matter of fact, they have been running Linux for years now. Supercomputer stats confirm the number—one that’s continuously circling the 50% mark. In 2021, for example, it was at 52.8%.

Did you know that just the two operating systems—Cray Linux Environment and Redhat Enterprise Linux—add almost 10% of the supercomputer OS market share?

10. In November 2021, the global supercomputer market revenue was $6.26 billion.

(Source: Statista)

The market spiked significantly in 2020, going from $5.12 billion to $6.02 billion. In late 2021, it rose only to $6.26 billion. However, reliable sources give out some pretty optimistic supercomputer statistics and estimations for the near future.

They predict a jump to $7.73 billion this year and the industry reaching a $9.4 billion peak in 2024! Considering how important they are, it all sounds like a completely reasonable turn of events.

Most Powerful Computers in the World in 2022

While we haven’t seen significant changes in the list recently, that doesn’t mean we don’t expect any.

Let’s take a look at some of the most powerful computers of today and engage in some predictions about the future.

11. The TOP500 organization ranks the world’s 500 most powerful supercomputers every June and November.

(Source: TOP500)

These rankings have been around since 1993—they marked their 58th one in November 2021. Since we’re still waiting for the 2022 TOP500 supercomputer list, we’ll list the most recent one:

  • Supercomputer Fugaku
  • Summit
  • Sierra
  • Sunway Taihulight
  • Perlmutter
  • Selene
  • Tianhe-2A
  • JUWELS Booster Module
  • HPC5
  • Voyager-EUS2

12. Fugaku is the fastest supercomputer in the world.

(Source: DCD)

With a peak performance of 442 petaFLOPS, Fujitsu’s Fugaku is still the world’s strongest public supercomputer. Summit doesn’t even come close with its “measly” 148 petaFLOPS. Sierra is even further at just 94.

On the other hand, rumors claim that China has not one but two secret supercomputers that are even stronger. Both are exascale, meaning that they will breach the 1,000 petaFLOPS mark.

13. The Chinese Oceanlite supercomputer has a peak performance of 1.3 exaFLOPS.

(Source: DCD)

Even Sunway TaihuLight, the strongest public Chinese supercomputer, has a successor. It’s not public, but its supercomputer specs are borderline unimaginable.

Oceanlite boasts a peak performance of 1.3 exaFLOPS on the Linpack benchmark. Even during a sustained performance, its average computing power is 1.05 exaFLOPS. However, it’s not exactly an energy saver, as it consumes a massive 35 megawatts of power.

China has big ambitions for the supercomputer industry, as it plans to reach 20 exaFLOPS by 2025. That, however, doesn’t mean that the US is stagnating.

14. Frontier is set to become the new strongest computer in the world.

(Source: DCD)

The US also plans to release a brand-new supercomputer called Frontier. It’s said to have a peak performance of 1.5 exaFLOPS and a sustained performance of around 1.3 exaFLOPS. It also seemingly consumes only 29 MW of power.

Should it come out soon, it’ll be the new strongest supercomputer and the first public one that’s exascale. While we are waiting to see it, we expect two other American supercomputers to come out sooner—the much-delayed Aurora and El Capital, a two exaFLOP system set to launch in 2023.

Wrap Up

That’s all for today’s lesson on supercomputers. We hope our collection of the essential and most exciting supercomputer statistics helped you catch up on their ever-rising popularity.

In short, they are crucial for the proper functioning of things, so we don’t see them becoming irrelevant soon. Let’s just hope engineers figure out a way for them to consume less power because if they continue this way, we could be facing an entirely different threat by itself!

Nick Galov
Nick Galov

Unaware that life beyond the internet exists, Nick is poking servers and control panels, playing with WordPress add-ons, and helping people get the hosting that suits them.