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October 8, 2012

DreamWorks Outsources Animation Work to Chinese Petaflopper

Michael Feldman

China’s number one supercomputer, Tianhe-1A, is apparently in the movie-making business. An article in China Daily this week reports that the 2010 TOP500 crown-winner is being used to help create animated films for DreamWorks.

Tianhe-1A delivers 2.5 peak Linpack petaflops, which still earns it 5th place on the current list. It’s one of a new breed of hybrid CPU-GPU petaflop systems that are making their presence felt in the upper echelons of supercomputing.

The Tianhe-1A animation work is being done in conjunction with a local rendering firm: Cool Cartoon in Tianjin. According to the company’s chairman, Hu Yong, they’re in the process of developing a data transmission system for sending the rendered output back to clients in North America.

Super-rendering is just one Tianhe-1A task though. The article also describes work being done to support the country’s first official 3D map, Tianditu, China’s version of Google Earth. According to Meng Xiangfei, who heads the application group at the National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin, where Tianhe-1A is hosted, they’re developing software that will improve the quality of the 3D map.

The supercomputer is also being used for seismic simulations at BGP, a geophysical service company, which is affiliated with China National Petroleum Corp, the country’s largest supplier of oil and gas. According to Meng, the simulation software was developed locally to reduce their dependency on foreign ISVs.

Car manufacturer Tianjin Motor Dies also has managed to get time on Tianhe-1A, which it uses to design car body panels and large stamping parts. According to company experts there, the design work will allow them to grow their market and move from low-end products to high-end products.

The China Daily piece didn’t describe how much of the supercomputer’s 4.7 peak petaflops are being employed for these workloads. CPU-GPU systems such as these are still proving themselves in the application domain. Later this year, the largest US-based GPU-accelerated supercomputer, Titan, will be up and running at Oak Ridge National Lab, and start moving DOE and other science applications into the hybrid computing domain.

Full story at China Daily