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!

Graphcore Introduces Larger-Than-Ever IPU-Based Pods

October 22, 2021

Graphcore and its “Intelligent Processing Units” (IPUs) emerged from stealth in 2016 and launched its second-generation IPU in 2020. While the company has also launched its IPUs in a variety of form factors over the Read more…

Quantum Chemistry Project to Be Among the First on EuroHPC’s LUMI System

October 22, 2021

Finland’s CSC has just installed the first module of LUMI, a 550-peak petaflops system supported by the European Union’s EuroHPC Joint Undertaking. While LUMI -- pictured in the header -- isn’t slated to complete i Read more…

Killer Instinct: AMD’s Multi-Chip MI200 GPU Readies for a Major Global Debut

October 21, 2021

AMD’s next-generation supercomputer GPU is on its way – and by all appearances, it’s about to make a name for itself. The AMD Radeon Instinct MI200 GPU (a successor to the MI100) will, over the next year, begin to power three massive systems on three continents: the United States’ exascale Frontier system; the European Union’s pre-exascale LUMI system; and Australia’s petascale Setonix system. Read more…

D-Wave Embraces Gate-Based Quantum Computing; Charts Path Forward

October 21, 2021

Earlier this month D-Wave Systems, the quantum computing pioneer that has long championed quantum annealing-based quantum computing (and sometimes taken heat for that approach), announced it was expanding into gate-based Read more…

LLNL Prepares the Water and Power Infrastructure for El Capitan

October 21, 2021

When it’s (ostensibly) ready in early 2023, El Capitan is expected to deliver in excess of two exaflops of peak computing power – around four times the power of Fugaku, the current top-ranked supercomputer in the wor Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Royalty-free stock illustration ID: 537899029

Running GROMACS on GPU instances

Comparing the performance of real applications across different Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instance types is the best way we’ve found for finding optimal configurations for HPC applications here at AWS. Read more…

Faster Optical Switch that Operates at ‘Room Temp’ Developed by IBM, Skolkovo Researchers

October 19, 2021

Optical switching technology holds great promise for many applications but hot operating temperatures have been a key obstacle slowing progress. Now, a new optical switching device that can operate at room temperatures a Read more…

Killer Instinct: AMD’s Multi-Chip MI200 GPU Readies for a Major Global Debut

October 21, 2021

AMD’s next-generation supercomputer GPU is on its way – and by all appearances, it’s about to make a name for itself. The AMD Radeon Instinct MI200 GPU (a successor to the MI100) will, over the next year, begin to power three massive systems on three continents: the United States’ exascale Frontier system; the European Union’s pre-exascale LUMI system; and Australia’s petascale Setonix system. Read more…

D-Wave Embraces Gate-Based Quantum Computing; Charts Path Forward

October 21, 2021

Earlier this month D-Wave Systems, the quantum computing pioneer that has long championed quantum annealing-based quantum computing (and sometimes taken heat fo Read more…

LLNL Prepares the Water and Power Infrastructure for El Capitan

October 21, 2021

When it’s (ostensibly) ready in early 2023, El Capitan is expected to deliver in excess of two exaflops of peak computing power – around four times the powe Read more…

Intel Reorgs HPC Group, Creates Two ‘Super Compute’ Groups

October 15, 2021

Following on changes made in June that moved Intel’s HPC unit out of the Data Platform Group and into the newly created Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics (AXG) business unit, led by Raja Koduri, Intel is making further updates to the HPC group and announcing... Read more…

Quantum Workforce – NSTC Report Highlights Need for International Talent

October 13, 2021

Attracting and training the needed quantum workforce to fuel the ongoing quantum information sciences (QIS) revolution is a hot topic these days. Last week, the U.S. National Science and Technology Council issued a report – The Role of International Talent in Quantum Information Science... Read more…

Eni Returns to HPE for ‘HPC4’ Refresh via GreenLake

October 13, 2021

Italian energy company Eni is upgrading its HPC4 system with new gear from HPE that will be installed in Eni’s Green Data Center in Ferrera Erbognone (a provi Read more…

The Blueprint for the National Strategic Computing Reserve

October 12, 2021

Over the last year, the HPC community has been buzzing with the possibility of a National Strategic Computing Reserve (NSCR). An in-utero brainchild of the COVID-19 High-Performance Computing Consortium, an NSCR would serve as a Merchant Marine for urgent computing... Read more…

UCLA Researchers Report Largest Chiplet Design and Early Prototyping

October 12, 2021

What’s the best path forward for large-scale chip/system integration? Good question. Cerebras has set a high bar with its wafer scale engine 2 (WSE-2); it has 2.6 trillion transistors, including 850,000 cores, and was fabricated using TSMC’s 7nm process on a roughly 8” x 8” silicon footprint. Read more…

Enter Dojo: Tesla Reveals Design for Modular Supercomputer & D1 Chip

August 20, 2021

Two months ago, Tesla revealed a massive GPU cluster that it said was “roughly the number five supercomputer in the world,” and which was just a precursor to Tesla’s real supercomputing moonshot: the long-rumored, little-detailed Dojo system. Read more…

Esperanto, Silicon in Hand, Champions the Efficiency of Its 1,092-Core RISC-V Chip

August 27, 2021

Esperanto Technologies made waves last December when it announced ET-SoC-1, a new RISC-V-based chip aimed at machine learning that packed nearly 1,100 cores onto a package small enough to fit six times over on a single PCIe card. Now, Esperanto is back, silicon in-hand and taking aim... Read more…

US Closes in on Exascale: Frontier Installation Is Underway

September 29, 2021

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, held by Zoom this week (Sept. 29-30), it was revealed that the Frontier supercomputer is currently being installed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The staff at the Oak Ridge Leadership... Read more…

Ahead of ‘Dojo,’ Tesla Reveals Its Massive Precursor Supercomputer

June 22, 2021

In spring 2019, Tesla made cryptic reference to a project called Dojo, a “super-powerful training computer” for video data processing. Then, in summer 2020, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted: “Tesla is developing a [neural network] training computer... Read more…

Intel Reorgs HPC Group, Creates Two ‘Super Compute’ Groups

October 15, 2021

Following on changes made in June that moved Intel’s HPC unit out of the Data Platform Group and into the newly created Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics (AXG) business unit, led by Raja Koduri, Intel is making further updates to the HPC group and announcing... Read more…

Intel Completes LLVM Adoption; Will End Updates to Classic C/C++ Compilers in Future

August 10, 2021

Intel reported in a blog this week that its adoption of the open source LLVM architecture for Intel’s C/C++ compiler is complete. The transition is part of In Read more…

Hot Chips: Here Come the DPUs and IPUs from Arm, Nvidia and Intel

August 25, 2021

The emergence of data processing units (DPU) and infrastructure processing units (IPU) as potentially important pieces in cloud and datacenter architectures was Read more…

AMD-Xilinx Deal Gains UK, EU Approvals — China’s Decision Still Pending

July 1, 2021

AMD’s planned acquisition of FPGA maker Xilinx is now in the hands of Chinese regulators after needed antitrust approvals for the $35 billion deal were receiv Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

HPE Wins $2B GreenLake HPC-as-a-Service Deal with NSA

September 1, 2021

In the heated, oft-contentious, government IT space, HPE has won a massive $2 billion contract to provide HPC and AI services to the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA). Following on the heels of the now-canceled $10 billion JEDI contract (reissued as JWCC) and a $10 billion... Read more…

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

Quantum Roundup: IBM, Rigetti, Phasecraft, Oxford QC, China, and More

July 13, 2021

IBM yesterday announced a proof for a quantum ML algorithm. A week ago, it unveiled a new topology for its quantum processors. Last Friday, the Technical Univer Read more…

The Latest MLPerf Inference Results: Nvidia GPUs Hold Sway but Here Come CPUs and Intel

September 22, 2021

The latest round of MLPerf inference benchmark (v 1.1) results was released today and Nvidia again dominated, sweeping the top spots in the closed (apples-to-ap Read more…

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from Julialang.org. I Read more…

Intel Unveils New Node Names; Sapphire Rapids Is Now an ‘Intel 7’ CPU

July 27, 2021

What's a preeminent chip company to do when its process node technology lags the competition by (roughly) one generation, but outmoded naming conventions make i Read more…

Frontier to Meet 20MW Exascale Power Target Set by DARPA in 2008

July 14, 2021

After more than a decade of planning, the United States’ first exascale computer, Frontier, is set to arrive at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) later this year. Crossing this “1,000x” horizon required overcoming four major challenges: power demand, reliability, extreme parallelism and data movement. Read more…

Quantum Computer Market Headed to $830M in 2024

September 13, 2021

What is one to make of the quantum computing market? Energized (lots of funding) but still chaotic and advancing in unpredictable ways (e.g. competing qubit tec Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire