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China builds world’s fastest supercomputer without U.S. chips


China on Monday revealed its latest fastest supercomputer , a monolithic system with 10.65 million compute cores built entirely with Chinese microprocessors.

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.


The TaihuLight is comprised of some 41,000 chips, each with 260 processor cores. This makes for a total of 10.65 million cores, compared to the 560,000 cores in America’s top machine. In terms of memory, it’s relatively light on its feet, with just 1.3 petabytes used for the entire machine. (By comparison, the much less powerful 10-petaflop K supercomputer uses 1.4 petabytes of RAM.) This means it’s unusually energy efficient, drawing just 15.3 megawatts of power — less than the 17.8 megawatts used by the 33-petaflop Tianhe-2.

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.

Standing Their Ground:

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.

In the past 10 years, China only managed to produce 10 systems which was included in the TOP500. But today, with 167 systems on their list, the Southeast Asian giant showed the world that it can be independent from U.S when it comes to technology

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.

Driven to Become Independent

Japan and Russia are also making their own progress in computer development. It was also reported that Europe has been building supercomputers from ARM processors, and just like China, has been putting efforts to decrese dependency on U.S.-made chips and processors.

Over a year ago, the U.S goverment banned Intel from supplying their Xenon chips to China’s top supercomputing facilities. Whether the chip ban accelerated China’s resolve to create their own microprocessors technology is still debatable, but it’s definitely clear that its reliance over U.S is slowly deminishing.

Steve Conway, a high performance computing analyst at IDC said, “The Chinese were already determined over time to move to an indigenous processor. I think the ban accelerates that — it increases that determination.”

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Jay Prakash Kumar
If you have come this far, it means that you liked what you are reading. Why not reach little more and connect with me directly on Facebook or Twitter. Jay Prakash is a founder of Professional Hacker, Technical Writer, Software Developer, Security Analyst and Technology Enthusiast with a keen eye on the Cyber-world and other technology-related developments.