China builds world’s fastest su­per­com­puter with­out US chips

Pakistan Observer - - PAGE -

BEIJING—China on Mon­day re­vealed its lat­est su­per­com­puter, a mono­lithic sys­tem with 10.65 mil­lion com­pute cores built en­tirely with Chi­nese mi­cro­pro­ces­sors. This fol­lows a U.S. govern­ment de­ci­sion last year to deny China ac­cess to In­tel’s fastest mi­cro­pro­ces­sors.

There is no U.S.-made sys­tem that comes close to the per­for­mance of China’s new sys­tem, the Sun­way Tai­huLight. Its the­o­ret­i­cal peak per­for­mance is 124.5 petaflops, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est bian­nual re­lease to­day of the world’s Top500 su­per­com­put­ers. It is the first sys­tem to ex­ceed 100 petaflops. A petaflop equals one thou­sand tril­lion (one quadrillion) sus­tained float­ing-point op­er­a­tions per sec­ond.

The most im­por­tant thing about Sun­way Tai­huLight may be its mi­cro­pro­ces­sors. In the past, China has re­lied heav­ily on U.S. mi­cro­pro­ces­sors in build­ing its su­per­com­put­ing ca­pac­ity. The world’s next fastest sys­tem, China’s Tianhe-2, which has a peak per­for­mance of 54.9 petaflops, uses In­tel Xeon pro­ces­sors.

Tai­huLight, which is in­stalled at China’s Na­tional Su­per­com­put­ing Cen­ter in Wuxi, uses ShenWei CPUs de­vel­oped by Jiang­nan Com­put­ing Re­search Lab in Wuxi. The op­er­at­ing sys­tem is a Linux-based Chi­nese sys­tem called Sun­way Raise.

The Tai­huLight is “very im­pres­sive,” said Jack Don­garra, a pro­fes­sor of com­puter science at the Univer­sity of Ten­nessee and one of the aca­demic lead­ers of the Top500 su­per­com­put­ing list, in a re­port about the new sys­tem.

Tai­huLight is run­ning “size­able ap­pli­ca­tions,” which in­clude ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing, earth sys­tems mod­el­ing, life science and big data ap­pli­ca­tions, said Don­garra. This “shows that the sys­tem is ca­pa­ble of run­ning real ap­pli­ca­tions and [is] not just a stunt machine,” Don­garra said.

It has been long known that China was de­vel­op­ing a 100-plus petaflop sys­tem, and it was be­lieved that China would turn to U.S. chip tech­nol­ogy to reach this per­for­mance level. But just over a year ago, in a sur­pris­ing move, the U.S. banned In­tel from sup­ply­ing Xeon chips to four of China’s top su­per­com­put­ing re­search cen­ters.

The U.S. ini­ti­ated this ban be­cause China, it claimed, was us­ing its Tianhe-2 sys­tem for nu­clear ex­plo­sive test­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. The U.S. stopped live nu­clear test­ing in 1992 and now re­lies on com­puter sim­u­la­tions. Crit­ics in China sus­pected the U.S. was act­ing to slow that na­tion’s su­per­com­put­ing de­vel­op­ment ef­forts.

Four months af­ter the In­tel ban, in July 2015, the White House is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der cre­at­ing a “na­tional strategic com­put­ing ini­tia­tive” with the goal of main­tain­ing an “eco­nomic lead­er­ship po­si­tion” in high-per­for­mance com­put­ing re­search.—Agen­cies

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