Ireland now ranked first globally in supercomputers per capita

28 Nov 2017

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In the race to build the world’s most powerful supercomputer, Irish researchers are growing in stature.

Ireland has doubled its amount of supercomputers in the Top500 global list in the space of a year. As a result, it has bolstered its position internationally, according to the latest edition of the Irish Supercomputers List.

Compiled by Dr Brett Becker of the School of Computer Science at University College Dublin (UCD), the list has found that four Irish supercomputers now have a total performance power of 4.42 petaflops per second, up from 3.01 on the previous year.

This gives Ireland the enviable position of being the No 1 country in the world in terms of performance per capita, based on the Top500 supercomputers list. It also places Ireland ninth in the world for the number of systems, and 18th in terms of computing performance.

In the EU, Ireland is ranked sixth in the number of systems ahead of countries that include Spain, Austria, the Czech Republic and Finland.

Impressive recent performances

Ireland has ranked on the Top500 list 33 times over a history of 23 years with a total of 20 supercomputers.

More than half of these rankings (19) and supercomputers (12) have been in the last six years, representing Ireland’s increasing pace of high-performance computing investment.

First launched in 2013, the Irish Supercomputers List is updated twice annually and is maintained by an independent group of computer scientists from across the island of Ireland, the UK and the US.

Reacting to the news, Becker said: “It is fantastic that Ireland is continuing to make a mark on the global Top500 list. It is important that Ireland is seen for what it is: a world leader in high-performance computing.”

To put Ireland’s performance against the world leader, China, the Asian superpower last year revealed the most powerful machine in the world, the Sunway TaihuLight, with 93 petaflops of processing power.

Distorting reality

Despite the accolade, not all response to the list has been positive, with the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC) describing it as distorting the reality of high-end computing in Ireland.

“Ireland’s inclusion in the Top500 global list stands in stark contrast to Ireland’s standing in industry and public research,” said ICHEC’s director, Prof Jean-Christophe Desplat.

“Irish researchers are heavily disadvantaged in their access to computational resources as they have the lowest access in the EU per capita.”

He continued: “As each year passes, the Irish national HPC [high-performance computing] service remains chronically underfunded since recessionary times and has seen no investment since 2012. The recent list highlights the ever-widening gulf between supercomputing expenditure in industry and public research in Ireland.”

ISL infographic

Graph: Irish Supercomputing List

Updated, 4.58pm, 28 November 2017: This article was updated to include comments from the ICHEC.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic