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China surpassing U.S. with 54.9 petaflop supercomputer

Patrick Thibodeau | June 4, 2013
Intel-based system has China poised to take the global lead in Top500 supercomputing list this month.

The approach of combing China-built technology with American products, is evident in Tiahne-2.

"There are number of features of the Tianhe-2 that are Chinese in origin, unique and interesting," said Dongarra, in his report. These include a proprietary interconnects, and the Galaxy FT-15, a 16-core processor. He cited the "apparent reliability and scalability" of the system as well.

The system's power usage, when cooling is considered, is 24 MWs. Power is major issue in achieving exascale. Researchers could assemble, theoretically, an exascale computing system with current technology. But at a billion or so cores, it would need its own power plant to operate.

To reach exascale, HPC researchers say they need to develop processors, memory and network components that substantially reduce power use. New programming models are also being developed. The problems in achieving exascale are such that Europe, which is investing heavily in its own HPC effort, believes there is a potential to leapfrog the U.S. if breakthrough approaches are discovered to some of these problems.

U.S. researchers, as recently as last month, warned Congress that the U.S., while the undisputed leader in HPC today, is at risk of falling behind in HPC development unless it commits hundreds of millions of dollars to exascale research. But the ongoing budget dispute and sequestration is leading to a reduction in R&D spending.

China wants to produce an exascale system before 2020. The U.S., at its present effort, won't produce an exascale system until around 2025, lawmakers were told last month.


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