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  • NZ takes seven places in supercomputer list

    New Zealand has made a weighty impact in an international measure of the world’s fastest computers — thanks largely to Wellington’s Weta Digital.
    A list of the world’s 500 fastest computers — the TOP500 — has been released overnight at a computing conference in Hamburg, Germany. In all, seven New Zealand computers made the grade.
    Weta Digital, whose computers were used to make James Cameron’s Avatar, came in ranked at 279, 280, 281, 282, 283 and 413.
    The only other New Zealand entry was the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research, whose computer ranked 434th.
    Weta’s fastest computer is a Hewlett Packard Cluster Platform 3000BL which runs on Linux. Its speed is measured at 31527.8 GFlops, which is an acronym meaning "floating point operations per second".
    The chart topper on the TOP500 is the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the United States, where, among other things, virtual digital nuclear explosions are run in the computer. They do it on a Jaguar Cray XT5-HE computer, which runs on Linux, at speeds of the rather faster 1.759 petaFLOPS.
    One petaflop/s refers to one quadrillion calculations per second.
    The University of Mannheim, Germany, which compiles the list, says statistics on high-performance computers are of major interest to manufacturers, users, and potential users
    "These people wish to know not only the number of systems installed, but also the location of the various supercomputers within the high-performance computing community and the applications for which a computer system is being used" the university says.
    Weta Digital, formed in 1993 by a group of young New Zealand filmmakers including Sir Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor, used its computers in the The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong.
    It says it has also generated digital effects for box office hits such as I, Robot, X-Men: The Last Stand, Eragon, Bridge to Terabithia, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, The Water Horse, Jumper, The Day the Earth Stood Still, District 9 and The Lovely Bones.
    IBM and Hewlett-Packard continue to sell the bulk of systems at all performance levels of the TOP500.

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