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UF supercomputer rivals fastest in the world

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Posted: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 11:41 pm

It may not have gotten a shout-out from President Obama, but UF’s supercomputer, the Novo-G, can do some things better than China’s celebrated supercomputer.

The Chinese Tianhe-1A was dubbed “the world’s fastest computer” during Obama’s State of the Union address. But being No. 1 is relative, said Herman Lam, a UF electrical and computer engineering professor.

“Basically, it depends on how you want to rate them,” he said. “There’s not one way to say, ‘This is the best.’”

UF’s Novo-G was not included in the international TOP500 list of supercomputers, a list of the world’s fastest processors, that the Chinese computer tops because UF’s computer is a different type.

The Novo-G, which stands for “new green,” is smaller and runs on much less power than other supercomputers, Lam said. This makes it the computer of choice for space satellites.

What makes the Novo-G different is the chips that are used.

Lam said the engineers can change the hardware to fit how the data is calculated instead of the other way around.

The different chips allow for large amounts of data to be processed in a smaller computer, making it a better fit for satellites, he said.

With the supercomputer inside, the satellite doesn’t have to send massive amounts of raw data to supercomputers on earth. It can process the information itself and send down the results. The Novo-G is also faster at processing DNA.

UF’s supercomputer can’t perform certain operations as fast as China’s, but it is more compact and can do other operations just as fast.

In an age where the U.S. and China are being pitted against each other to determine which country will stay ahead, Lam said the supercomputers aren’t competing.

But, since both computers were designed for different things, both computers have their strengths.

“For certain things, yes, we can do much better,” he said.

Welcome to the discussion.