One thing that your average WoW player probably doesn't think about much is the sheer processing power that's needed to play the game. I don't mean your gaming rig personally. WoW's actually pretty forgiving on that front. I mean the server hardware over on Blizzard's end, the stuff that makes us miss some gaming every other Tuesday or so. Do we really stop to think about how powerful it is?
It turns out that it's powerful enough to dominate a list of China's top 100 supercomputers. The Register reports that 5 of the top 10 supercomputers in China are owned by The9, WoW's China distributor. Not only that, it also owns at least 12 of the top 100 overall, and perhaps more. That means that more than 10% of China's best supercomputing power is directed toward MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft.
It's not too surprising, from one angle. The9 has always boasted of the huge numbers they pull down on their games, such as the time they claimed 1 million concurrent connections to WoW, and this back that claim up quite nicely.
Regardless, the register seems a little bit shocked to see a gaming company up on the top of the list alongside business and scientific ventures. They caution that these numbers are from 2007, and may be skewed because the Chinese government often hides information on the computer power of its own government machines. In addition, China's computing infrastructure is still developing compared to other powerful nations, so weaker systems can get on the top 100 list, systems that would have no chance of competing elsewhere..
Still, maybe this will give you some idea of the power that goes into running those machines that pipe all that WoW goodness into your home every day. The next time you get a little steamed over scheduled maintenance, remember that the type of computers they run this stuff on are powerful enough to get on some pretty impressive lists. If they put out that much power, it isn't too surprising that they need a little bit of TLC every once in a while.