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October 28, 2011

China Deploys First Petaflop Supercomputer with Native Chips

Michael Feldman

The New York Times reported on Friday that China has built and installed a petaflop supercomputer using homegrown microprocessors. Apparently the machine is powered by 8,700 ShenWei SW1600 processors. From the NYT piece:

The announcement was made this week at a technical meeting held in Jinan, China, organized by industry and government organizations. The new machine, the Sunway BlueLight MPP, was installed in September at the National Supercomputer Center in Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province in eastern China.

Given that 8,700 chips were used to attain a petaflop of peak performance, each ShenWei SW1600 processor should deliver about 115 gigaflops, which is pretty much on par with a late-model quad-core x86 processor. As far as the nature of the chip itself, there was little information provided by the NYT report, other than to say “[t]he “ShenWei microprocessor appears to be based on some of the same design principles that are favored by Intel’s most advanced microprocessors…”

According to reports from the technical conference, the new super consumes just one megawatt of power. If true, that would be less than half power used by the one petaflop Blue Gene/P JUGENE system in Germany, one of the most energy efficient CPU-based supercomputers in production today.

A peak petaflop supercomputer would not place the machine in the top 10 of the TOP500 today, but the presence of the made-in-China processors is certainly a notable accomplishment, and indicative of the nation’s growing HPC aspirations. China is also committed to employing its latest Godson processors in supercomputers. In February, at the International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), Godson lead engineer Weiwu Hu said the Godson-3B will power the 300-teraflop Dawning machine that was scheduled to be deployed over the summer.

There may be even more of this kind of news on the horizon. According to a report from CPU World back in March, besides the Godson-based and ShenWei-based systems, another design based on something called “Yinhe” will be used in a supercomputer before the end of 2011. The CPU World report attributes both the ShenWei and Yinhe designs to the Jiangnan Institute of Computing Technology and National University of Defense Technology.

Full story at The New York Times

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