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NSA, DOE say China's supercomputing advances put U.S. at risk

Patrick Thibodeau | March 16, 2017
China's computing efforts are a threat to U.S. national security and may undermine profitable parts of the U.S. economy, a new report warns

Among those at the meeting was Barry Bolding, a senior vice president and chief strategy officer at supercomputer company Cray. "I will say from Cray's view, [the report] accurately reflects the discussion of the workshop and mostly accurately reflects some of our primary concerns regarding HPC competitiveness."

Steve Conway, an HPC analyst and research vice president at Hyperion Research, said the meeting "and report are important for alerting the U.S. HPC community, especially government officials, to the dangers of taking U.S. HPC leadership for granted when other nations, particularly China, are intent on seizing global leadership of the market for supercomputers."

The report makes three overarching observations about China's Sunway TaihuLight system, which at 93 petaflops, is ranked first on the Top500 list of supercomputers.

The TaihuLight supercomputer is "homegrown," and includes processors that were designed and fabricated in China. The Chinese chip design "includes architectural innovations," and was designed using "a true co-design approach" where the applications are tuned to take advantage of the chip design, the report said.

The machine "is not a stunt," the report notes, meaning China didn't develop this system for bragging rights. The machine "is being used for cutting edge research," and three of the six finalists for the Gordon Bell Prize, the top research award in HPC, were the result of Chinese efforts.

The report offers something particularly insightful about China's motivations.

"Meeting participants, especially those from industry, noted that it can be easy for Americans to draw the wrong conclusions about what HPC investments by China mean – without considering China's motivations," the report states.

"These participants stressed that their personal interactions with Chinese researchers and at supercomputing centers showed a mindset where computing is first and foremost a strategic capability for improving the country; for pulling a billion people out of poverty; for supporting companies that are looking to build better products, or bridges, or rail networks; for transitioning away from a role as a low-cost manufacturer for the world; for enabling the economy to move from 'Made in China' to 'Made by China,' " the report states.

But it also pointed out that the computer codes developed for industry, "are good proxies for the tools needed to design many different weapons systems."

 

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