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Top 10 Expensive Super Computers

The first supercomputer, Atlas, dates back to the early ‘60s. It was installed in Manchester University, and is far less powerful than ordinary desktop computers in our homes today.Technology has taken a serious big leap since the hazy ‘60s. Every five years, in fact, the supercomputers of today become obsolete, thanks to rapidly advancing technology in information and computer development and research.

Today’s supercomputers are measured in PetaFLOPS, a processing speed equal to a million billion, or a thousand trillion, floating point operations per second. These machines are made to help scientists and meteorologists forecast global warming and weather; to stimulate brain activity or the effects of global warming; to advance nuclear technology and security, and much more throughout the world.

What about costs, you ask? Well, here are the 10 most expensive super computers out there!

10. IBM Roadrunner (US) – $130 million

IBM Roadrunner (US) – $130 million

The Roadrunner was built by IBM for the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, USA. It became operational in 2008, and was designed for a peak performance of 1.7 petaFLOPS. On May 25, 2008, it achieved 1.026 PFLOPS, becoming the world’s first TOP500 Linpack sustained 1.0 petaflops system. It eventually reached a top performance of 1.456 PFLOPS in November of the same year, retaining its top spot on the TOP500 list.

9. Vulcan BlueGene/Q (US) – $100 million

Vulcan BlueGene/Q (US) – $100 million

Vulcan is a 24-rack supercomputer system that was created by IBM for the DoE and is stationed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California. It has a 5 PetaFLOPS peak, and is currently the ninth fastest supercomputer in the world, according to Top500.org. The BlueGene/Q is the third generation of IBM projects (after BlueGene/L and BlueGene/P) that aims at creating supercomputers that can reach operating speeds in the PFLOPS range, with low power consumption.

8. SuperMUC (Germany) – $111 million

SuperMUC (Germany) – $111 million

SuperMUC is currently the 14th fastest supercomputer in the world. It was formerly the 10th fastest in 2013, but with the speed at which technology advances, it was soon surpassed. Nonetheless, it is the second-fastest supercomputer in Germany (behind current #8, JUQUEEN). SuperMUC is operated by the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. It’s housed near Munich.

SuperMUC is used by European researches in a number of fields, including medicine, astrophysics, quantum chromodynamics, computational fluid dynamics, life sciences, computational chemistry, genome analysis, and earth quake simulations.

7. Trinity (US) – $174 million

Trinity (US) – $174 million

Despite what it is being used for, you might expect the Trinity supercomputer to be even more expensive. But with newer, stronger technology comes a paralleled reduction of costs associated with creating newer, more powerful supercomputers. The US government offered supercomputer manufacturers Cray a $174 million contract to build this Cray XC supercomputer, along with a Cray Sonexion storage system for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Trinity will be used to keep America’s nuclear arsenal secure, safe, and effective.

6. Sequoia BlueGene/Q (US) – $250 million

Sequoia BlueGene/Q (US) – $250 million

The petascale BlueGene/Q supercomputer Sequoia was developed by IBM, again for the NNSA, as part of the Advanced Simulation and Computing Program. It was deployed in June 2012 at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where it immediately became the world’s fastest supercomputer, according to TOP500.org. It currently sits in the number three spot, with a theoretical peak of 20 PFLOPS, or 20 trillion calculations per second.

5. ASC Purple and BlueGene/L (US) – $290 million

ASC Purple and BlueGene/L (US) – $290 million

These two supercomputers came as a pack. The two computers were announced by the DoE in 2002 to be contracted out to IBM for $290 million. They were installed in 2005 in the Lawrence Livermore Lab, and were decommissioned in 2010. At the time, the ASC Purple was ranked 66th on the TOP500 supercomputers list. The BlueGene/L was an older generation and inferior model to the BlueGene/Q, which system currently has four different supercomputers on TOP500’s top 10 list.

4. Sierra and Summit (US) – $325 million

Sierra and Summit (US) – $325 million

Nvidia and IBM will soon help America to reclaim its top position in supercomputer speeds, tech breakthroughs, scientific research, and economic and national security. Built using IBM Power Servers and Nvidia Tesla GPU accelerators, the two supercomputers dubbed Sierra and Summit will be installed in 2017.

Currently, China’s Tianhe-2 supercomputer is the world’s fastest, able to deliver 55 PFLOPS of power, which is twice more than the second on the list. The upcoming Sierra system will have no problem running at over 100 PFLOPS, while Summit will have processing capabilities of as much as 300 PFLOPS.

3. Tianhe-2 (China) – $390 million

Tianhe-2 (China) – $390 million

As mentioned above, China’s Tianhe-2 (translated to “Milky Way-2” in English) is the world’s fastest current supercomputer. Tianhe-2 was developed by a team of 1,300 scientists and engineers, and it is located in National Supercomputer Center in Guangzhou. Since 2013 it has consecutively ranked #1 on TOP500’s list of fastest supercomputers. Tianhe-2 was sponsored by the 863 High Technology Program, and was initiated by the Chinese government and the government of Guangzhou province.

Tianhe-2 is able to perform 33,860 trillion calculations per second. Tianhe-2 is used for simulation, analysis, and government security applications.

2. Earth Simulator (Japan) – $500 million

Earth Simulator (Japan) – $500 million

The Earth Simulator (quite the ominous name) was developed by the Japanese government way back in 1997. The project cost 60 billion yen, or roughly $500 million in today’s economy. It was developed as a highly parallel vector supercomputer system, used to run global climate models, and to evaluate the effects of global warming and problems in solid earth geophysics.

The Earth Simulator (ES) was completed in 2002, developed for Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency, the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute, and the Japan Marine Science and Technology Center.

1. Fujitsu K (Japan) – $1.2 billion

Fujitsu K (Japan) – $1.2 billion

Despite having the two most expensive supercomputers in the world, Japan’s heralded technology has been lacking in the supercomputer department as of late. Still, the K computer, named for the Japanese word “kei,” and meaning 10 quadrillion, is the fourth fastest supercomputer in the world, with a theoretical peak speed of 11 PFLOPS. The system cost 140 billion yen, or $1.2 billion to create.

In 2011, TOP500 ranked K the world’s fastest supercomputer, and in November 2011 the system became the first computer to top 10 PFLOPS officially. In 2012, K was superceded by IBM’s Sequoia as the world’s fastest supercomputer.

Most Expensive Super Computers | updated: December 2015

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