China supercomputers pull ahead

01 November 2010

BEIJING: China has stepped up its challenge in the global supercomputer race, in a trend that could have implications for the home PC and smartphone markets.

Unveiled at an IT conference here last week, the new system, known as Tianhe-1A, boasts a speed of 2.5 petaflops and can complete no less than 1,000 trillion calculations per second.

Developed by the National University of Defence Technology and backed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the 1A easily outsmarts the University of Tennessee's Jaguar, which topped the last global ranking of supercomputers and was until now seen as the world leader.

Chinese electronics firms are already expanding their operations around the world.

As reported on Warc News earlier this week, Huawei is planning major deals with US firms Clearwire and Sprint Nextel as it leverages its technological edge to become a global brand.

Almost half of the Chinese firm's staff are employed in its R&D divisions.

Nvidia, the California-based graphics chip design company whose chips are used in the new machine, has confirmed that the Tianhe-IA is "the fastest system in China and in the world today".

While a rival computer system being developed by Japan's Fujitsu relies solely on Japanese technology, the Tianhe-1A uses components from both Nvidia and Intel.

Representatives of HPC China, which hosted the supercomputing conference in Beijing last week, were quick to stress that key intellectual property rights in the new Chinese system were both developed and held domestically however.

Zhang Yunquan of the Institute of Software at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who compiles China's top 100 supercomputers list, said he expected Tianhe-1A to definitively top the new rankings, due to be published later this month.

"Having the fastest supercomputer will give us a feeling of pride, it will be like winning gold medals at the Olympics, it will excite people," he said.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff