This is the Big Kahuna, the champion on the June 2012 TOP500 list. IBM's Sequoia is the fastest computer in the world (at least, the fastest visible to the public) thanks to 1.6 million processing cores that can crank out an incredible 16.3 petaflops of performance. Wondering just how incredible that is?
Well, if we look back a mere half decade, to 2008, IBM's Roadrunner made history (and grabbed the top slot) for cracking 1 petaflop, aka performing 1,000 trillion operations per second [source: IBM]. IBM said Roadrunner was equivalent to 100,000 of 2008's laptops in performance. And Sequoia is 16 times as fast! Sequoia is one of four computers on the June 2012 list running on the BlueGene/Q IBM design, an 18 core 1.6GHz chip. That's not an especially fast clock speed by today's standards, but with 96 racks of chips, the performance really adds up.
What's Sequoia doing with all that speed, anyway? For a while, IBM has bragging rights -- Sequoia is 55 percent faster than the second fastest computer on the list. But they're putting Sequoia to work, of course. The computer operates at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration at the Livermore National Laboratory. The computer's doing important work: One of its responsibilities is simulating nuclear explosions.