World’s Most Powerful Supercomputer Is Faster than 28,000 PS3s

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Where in the world can you crunch over 8 quadrillion calculations per second? Find 672 computer racks linking an astonishing 68,544 CPUs, each of which harbors eight cores? Where the computing output is roughly equivalent to the power of 28,160 PlayStation 3s? *

On Japan’s “K” computer, that’s where. The supercomputer was built by Fujitsu Co. and thrusts Japan back into the rarefied top 10 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers—the topmost spot, in fact, where it’s just wrestled the lead away from the Chinese National University of Defense Technology. The list is maintain by Top500, and it’s based on how fast each computer can crunch a benchmark app called Linpack, which calculates a computer’s floating point prowess.

(PHOTOS: A Brief History of the Computer)

What’s more, according to the press statement, it’s not even fully built. Work building the computer began in September 2010, but the finished project—due to be completed in 2012 at Japan’s RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science—will contain 800 computer racks equipped with “ultrafast and energy-efficient CPUs.”

And that’s where the name comes in. “K” derives from the Japanese Kanji letter “kei,” which means 10 peta, or 10 to the 16th power, which is roughly how fast the supercomputer is expected to be when it crosses the finish line next year.

“Bringing together hundreds of thousands of components to quickly launch such a massive-scale computing system – which would have been nearly impossible using conventional technologies – requires an incredible level of reliability,” said Michiyoshi Mazuka, Chairman and Representative Director at Fujitsu Limited. “I believe that this reliability is truly the pinnacle of Japanese manufacturing. Without being too pleased with ourselves and losing sight of our goal, going forward we will proceed with the system’s deployment and, once complete, we look forward to contributing to the achievements that the K computer will make possible.”

Achievements like? “[Fields] ranging from global climate research, meteorology, disaster prevention, and medicine,” reads the press statement.

The latest benchmark breakdown also heralds the first time all of the systems placing in the top 10 achieved petaflops performance (1 petaflops is equal to 10 to the 15th floating point operations per second). The “K” computer can do 8 petaflops, while the Chinese computer it bumped to second place can do 2.6 petaflops. The U.S.’s “Jaguar” Cray supercomputer now slots third, managing 1.75 petaflops.

Forget the Wii U—imagine running Nintendo’s next Zelda game on one of these.

* 1,760 PS3s can reportedly perform 500 trillion calculations per second.

MORE: China’s Supercomputer Fastest in the World, Has American Parts