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Tianhe-1A

HPCwire's People to Watch 2011

Tianhe-1A

The team responsible for building the 2010 #1 Top500 supercomputer Tianhe-1A at China’s Tianjin-based National Supercomputer Center

The recent takeover of the number one spot in the Top500 by the Chinese Tianhe-1A system was no small feat. It not only drew the attention of the HPC community, it drew the attention of the entire world. Thus, this year’s final selection for the 2011 HPCwire People to Watch List is the team of dedicated men and women who worked tirelessly to build Tianhe-1A from the ground up. Thought by many to become the leaders in High Performance Computing before the end of the decade, China has already stated it wants to be the first nation to field an exascale machine.

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Not only is China is accelerating its move into high performance computing, 5 of their top 41 machines reside in the top 100 and no doubt those numbers will increase this year as they continue to build out their supercomputing infrastructure. And the Chinese are not simply buying their way into the upper echelons of supercomputing. While winning the #1 spot on the Top500 seemed to get all the focus, what’s really interesting is that the Tianhe-1A machine is based on a homegrown system design, sporting a custom network interconnect and I/O processor developed from the silicon on up. Building your own processor is a really big deal.

Tianhe-1A, which achieved a performance level of 2.57 petaflop/s, or quadrillions of calculations per second, topped the 36th edition of the list, the first time a Chinese supercomputer has taken the honor. According to Nvidia, who provided one of the processors, the system wields the combined compute power of 175,000 laptops.

Tianhe-1A will be used for the usual academic-leaning applications, such as weather forecasting, scientific research, pharmaceutical development and animation design. It will also be used for military purposes, as China’s intelligence mining efforts continue to grow in scale, intensity, and sophistication.

As Liu Guangming, president of the center in Tianjin was quoted recently as saying, “The scientific research that is now possible with a system of this scale is almost without limits. We could not be more pleased with the results.”

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