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Utility Sacrificed for Speed, Supercomputer Critics Say

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Science  05 Oct 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6103, pp. 26
DOI: 10.1126/science.338.6103.26

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Japan's K computer made headlines in June 2011 as the world's fastest supercomputer and again last November when it became the first computer to top 10 petaflops—or 10 quadrillion calculations per second—solving a benchmark mathematical problem. But by the time it opened for general use last week, it had lost those bragging rights. In June, the IBM Sequoia supercomputer became number one, notching a top speed of 16.32 petaflops. And now, after a year of testing and software development, as the $1.4 billion K computer is put to work on real-world problems, some scientific users say it was too narrowly built for speed.