China’s Supercomputing Strategy Called Out

By Tiffany Trader

July 17, 2014

Since China’s Tianhe-2 supercomputer has successfully held on to its number one position for three iterations of the TOP500 list, there has been a lot of attention focused on just how useful this nearly 34-petaflops (LINPACK) beast actually is. In fact for many years the consensus on supercomputing in China has centered on a dearth of application software expertise.

This week, several Chinese news sites came out with essentially the same critique: China is spending too much money on hardware, but isn’t investing enough in software. Operating cost is another issue. The electricity bill for Tianhe-2 runs between 400,000 yuan and 600,000 yuan ($65,000-$100,000) a day.

Tianhe-2 was built by the National University of Defence Technology at a cost of 2.4 billion yuan ($390 million). It began trial operations in April and has so far served 120 clients at 34 percent of its capacity, supporting such projects as railway design, astrophysics and genetics, according to a piece in the South China Morning Post. Because of a lack of software support from the project’s backers, however, users have been forced to write the programs themselves, making the expensive machine less useful than it could be.

“It is at the world’s frontier in terms of calculation capacity, but the function of the supercomputer is still way behind the ones in the US and Japan,” remarked Chi Xuebin, deputy director of the Computer Network and Information Centre under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “It’s like a giant with a super body but without the software to support its thinking soul.”

In a rebuttal to these claims, the chief designer of the supercomputer, Lu Yutong from National University of Defense Technology in Changsha, has joined the debate. Lu took issue with assertions that the system was only “theoretically powerful,” noting that the LINPACK benchmark measures actual performance. She also pushed back on claims that Tianhe-2 was gobbling up too much energy, referring to TOP500 metrics that showed the Tianhe-2 as being nearly equal with the consumption of the US Titan and Sequoia machines. Lu added that Tianhe-2 uses far less energy than Japan’s K computer.

As for one of the most sticky critiques of China’s computing strategy, which is that it emphasizes performance numbers over practical applications, Lu responded that Tianhe-2 has contributed to the fields of energy, meteorology, aviation and astronautics, biomedicine and industrial manufacturing. She also said that the machine supports a wide array of users, including enterprise, academia and government researchers. As a further data point, Lu added that SeisSol, the seismic simulation software running on Tianhe-2, was nominated for the Bernard M Gordon Bell Prize.

Lu conceded ground on one point, however – software development – acknowledging that “China is still behind in software, as high-efficiency software development depends on the overall scientific and technological level of the nation.”

Another critique from MarketWatch’s Laura He goes even further, questioning not just China’s software prowess, but taking aim at the troublingly low utilization rates of its most expensive number-crunchers. The author cites a report from the NewEase Chinese new portal that claims less than 20 percent of China’s supercomputers have been used for scientific research.

“It seems a lot of these massive machines, usually made with large government investment, lie idle after they are made, or are even abandoned midway, due to fundamental defects in China’s traditional bureaucratic management system,” remarks He.

The NewEase report, according to He, says the nation’s most expensive supercomputing projects are going to waste. To wit: the Tianhe-1, predecessor to the current world’s fastest system, has reportedly been unused since 2013 and sits idle inside of a leaky, moldy computer room inside the central China city of Changsha.

Apparently the computer was supposed to be delivered to Hunan University but there is a dispute between the university and the Hunan provincial government, which commissioned the system. An official on the government side said the transfer would be completed by early August.

China has been steadily increasing its supercomputer power, boosting its global share of the TOP500 list to 15.2 percent (that’s 76 systems), which is second behind the US, which operates 232 of the top machines, giving it a 46.4 percent share.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

What’s New in HPC Research: Rock Art, Protein Design, Genome Assembly & More

June 25, 2019

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Azure Benchmarks HC-series Across 20,000 cores for HPC

June 25, 2019

Cloud provider Microsoft Azure’s push into HPC continues to gain momentum. In a blog last week, Evan Burness, principal program manager, Azure HPC, announced HC-series Virtual Machine are now available in West US 2 and Read more…

By John Russell

MLPerf Expands Toolset; Launches Inferencing Suite

June 24, 2019

MLPerf today launched a benchmark suite for inferencing, v0.5, which joins the MLPerf training suite launched a little over a year ago. The new inferencing benchmark, which has been anticipated, covers models applicable Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture: How to Power a Cloud

Learn how HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture provide critical infrastructure for leading Nordic HPC provider’s HPCFLOW cloud service.

For decades, HPE has been at the forefront of high-performance computing, and we’ve powered some of the fastest and most robust supercomputers in the world. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Rediscovering the Value of the Past

Some people would like to forget their past, perhaps for good reasons. But for business or research organizations, preserving institutional memory can be the key to thriving in the future. Read more…

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Hardware That Powered the Black Hole Image

June 24, 2019

Two months ago, the first-ever image of a black hole took the internet by storm. A team of scientists took years to produce and verify the striking image – and now, Tom Coughlin (on behalf of Supermicro) has provided a Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

MLPerf Expands Toolset; Launches Inferencing Suite

June 24, 2019

MLPerf today launched a benchmark suite for inferencing, v0.5, which joins the MLPerf training suite launched a little over a year ago. The new inferencing benc Read more…

By John Russell

Is Weather and Climate Prediction the Perfect ‘Pilot’ for Exascale?

June 21, 2019

At ISC 2019 this week, Peter Bauer – deputy director of research for the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) – outlined an ambitious Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

ISC Keynote: Thomas Sterling’s Take on Whither HPC

June 20, 2019

Entertaining, insightful, and unafraid to launch the occasional verbal ICBM, HPC pioneer Thomas Sterling delivered his 16th annual closing keynote at ISC yesterday. He explored, among other things: exascale machinations; quantum’s bubbling money pot; Arm’s new HPC viability; Europe’s... Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Claims No. 1 Commercial Supercomputer with Total Oil & Gas System 

June 20, 2019

IBM can now boast not only the two most powerful supercomputers in the world, it also has claimed the top spot for a supercomputer used in a commercial setting. Read more…

By Staff Report

HPC on Pace for 5-Year 6.8% CAGR; Guess Which Hyperscaler Spent $10B on IT Last Year?

June 20, 2019

In the neck-and-neck horse race for HPC server market share, HPE has hung on to a slim, shrinking lead over Dell EMC – but if server and storage market shares Read more…

By Doug Black

ISC 2019 Research Paper Award Winners Announced

June 19, 2019

At the 2019 International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt this week, the ISC committee awarded the event's top prizes for outstanding research pape Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

ISC Keynote: The Algorithms of Life – Scientific Computing for Systems Biology

June 19, 2019

Systems biology has existed loosely under many definitions for a couple of decades. It’s the notion of describing living systems using first-principle physics Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Achieves 445 Petaflops on New ‘HPL-AI’ Benchmark

June 19, 2019

Summit -- the world's top-ranking supercomputer -- has been used to test-drive a new mixed-precision Linpack benchmark, which for now is being called HPL-AI. Traditionally, supercomputer performance is measured using the High-Performance Linpack (HPL) benchmark, which is the basis for the Top500 list that biannually ranks world's fastest supercomputers. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

High Performance (Potato) Chips

May 5, 2006

In this article, we focus on how Procter & Gamble is using high performance computing to create some common, everyday supermarket products. Tom Lange, a 27-year veteran of the company, tells us how P&G models products, processes and production systems for the betterment of consumer package goods. Read more…

By Michael Feldman

Cray, AMD to Extend DOE’s Exascale Frontier

May 7, 2019

Cray and AMD are coming back to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to partner on the world’s largest and most expensive supercomputer. The Department of Energy’s Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphene Surprises Again, This Time for Quantum Computing

May 8, 2019

Graphene is fascinating stuff with promise for use in a seeming endless number of applications. This month researchers from the University of Vienna and Institu Read more…

By John Russell

Why Nvidia Bought Mellanox: ‘Future Datacenters Will Be…Like High Performance Computers’

March 14, 2019

“Future datacenters of all kinds will be built like high performance computers,” said Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang during a phone briefing on Monday after Nvidia revealed scooping up the high performance networking company Mellanox for $6.9 billion. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Verifies Its Largest 7nm Chip Design in Ten Hours

June 5, 2019

AMD announced last week that its engineers had successfully executed the first physical verification of its largest 7nm chip design – in just ten hours. The AMD Radeon Instinct Vega20 – which boasts 13.2 billion transistors – was tested using a TSMC-certified Calibre nmDRC software platform from Mentor. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

It’s Official: Aurora on Track to Be First US Exascale Computer in 2021

March 18, 2019

The U.S. Department of Energy along with Intel and Cray confirmed today that an Intel/Cray supercomputer, "Aurora," capable of sustained performance of one exaf Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Deep Learning Competitors Stalk Nvidia

May 14, 2019

There is no shortage of processing architectures emerging to accelerate deep learning workloads, with two more options emerging this week to challenge GPU leader Nvidia. First, Intel researchers claimed a new deep learning record for image classification on the ResNet-50 convolutional neural network. Separately, Israeli AI chip startup Hailo.ai... Read more…

By George Leopold

TSMC and Samsung Moving to 5nm; Whither Moore’s Law?

June 12, 2019

With reports that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TMSC) and Samsung are moving quickly to 5nm manufacturing, it’s a good time to again ponder whither goes the venerable Moore’s law. Shrinking feature size has of course been the primary hallmark of achieving Moore’s law... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

Nvidia Embraces Arm, Declares Intent to Accelerate All CPU Architectures

June 17, 2019

As the Top500 list was being announced at ISC in Frankfurt today with an upgraded petascale Arm supercomputer in the top third of the list, Nvidia announced its Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

Top500 Purely Petaflops; US Maintains Performance Lead

June 17, 2019

With the kick-off of the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt this morning, the 53rd Top500 list made its debut, and this one's for petafl Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray – and the Cray Brand – to Be Positioned at Tip of HPE’s HPC Spear

May 22, 2019

More so than with most acquisitions of this kind, HPE’s purchase of Cray for $1.3 billion, announced last week, seems to have elements of that overused, often Read more…

By Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Cascade Lake Xeons with Up to 56 Cores

April 2, 2019

At Intel's Data-Centric Innovation Day in San Francisco (April 2), the company unveiled its second-generation Xeon Scalable (Cascade Lake) family and debuted it Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Announcing four new HPC capabilities in Google Cloud Platform

April 15, 2019

When you’re running compute-bound or memory-bound applications for high performance computing or large, data-dependent machine learning training workloads on Read more…

By Wyatt Gorman, HPC Specialist, Google Cloud; Brad Calder, VP of Engineering, Google Cloud; Bart Sano, VP of Platforms, Google Cloud

In Wake of Nvidia-Mellanox: Xilinx to Acquire Solarflare

April 25, 2019

With echoes of Nvidia’s recent acquisition of Mellanox, FPGA maker Xilinx has announced a definitive agreement to acquire Solarflare Communications, provider Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia Claims 6000x Speed-Up for Stock Trading Backtest Benchmark

May 13, 2019

A stock trading backtesting algorithm used by hedge funds to simulate trading variants has received a massive, GPU-based performance boost, according to Nvidia, Read more…

By Doug Black

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This