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The most powerful computer systems of today—or supercomputers—exploit massive parallelism to achieve their superlative performance. A recent TOP500™ list of the highest-performing computers in the world, compiled by TOP500.Org (www.top500.org) in June of 2007 as this special issue was being prepared, presents some striking performance numbers. The fastest computer in the world, an IBM System Blue Gene/Le Solution housed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, harnesses the power of 131,072 processors working in parallel to achieve a performance of 280.6 teraflops per second on LINPACK, a linear algebra benchmark that is used to rank supercomputers. We note that a teraflop is a trillion floating-point operations such as multiplications or additions. The second, third, and fourth most powerful computers harness the power of between 23,000 and 41,000 processors. Indeed, the most powerful computer with fewer than 10,000 processors appears only in the eighth position on the list.
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