China's Tianhe-2 is the world's fastest supercomputer, according to the latest semiannual Top 500 list of the 500 most powerful computer systems in the world.

Developed by China's National University of Defense Technology, the system appeared two years ahead of schedule and will be deployed at the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzho, China, before the end of the year.

In all, Tianhe-2, which translates as Milky Way-2, operates at 33.86 petaflop per second, or 33,860 trillion calculations per second.

However, while this benchmark measures real-world performance, in theory the machine maxes out at some 54.9 petaflop per second, reports the University of Tennessee's Jack Dongarra, a member of the Top 500 list team, who issued an analysis of the supercomputer after visiting it in May.

According to Dongarra, Tianhe-2 contains 3.12 million processor cores using Intel's Ivy Bridge and Xeon Phi chips to carry out its calculations; however, many of its features were in developed in China and are, he says, "unique and interesting."

This includes the TH-Express 2 interconnection network, Galaxy FT01500 16-core processor, OpenMC programming model and the "apparent reliability and scalability of the system."

All told, the Tianhe-2's performance is nearly double that of the next computer on the list: the Titan, located at the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, which clocks in at 17.59 petaflop per second in terms of real-world performance and peaks at 27.11 petaflop per second.

However, when it comes to the number of supercomputers, the Unites States still dominates, claiming 252 of the 500 on the list. China comes in second at 66, down from 72 six months ago, Japan third with 30 and the United Kingdom fourth at 29.

Overall, according to the Top 500 report, Intel continues to provide the processors for the largest share - 80 percent - of the systems on the list. Furthermore, 88 percent use processors with six or more cores and 67 percent with eight or more cores.

The Top 500 list is overseen by Hans Meuer, a professor of computer science at the University of Mannheimm and is published to coincide with the International Supercomputing Conference in Leipzig, Germany.