A little over one year ago, export blocks put in place by the US government threatened to derail China’s plans to upgrade its Tianhe-2 supercomputer, the world’s fastest since June 2013, to its originally planned capacity of 100 petaflops. At the time, many in the industry anticipated that the efforts to block China’s supercomputing capability by banning access to US technology from Intel and other hardware vendors would backfire.
Indeed, China was sufficiently incentivized to redouble efforts on its homegrown supercomputing program and it had the cash from the squashed Intel deal to do it. Less than six months after news of the blacklist came out, China revealed plans to build not one, but two 100-petaflops supercomputers using a variety of native chip, accelerator and interconnect technologies. The stalled Tianhe-2 upgrade was back on the table — supposedly slated for late-2016.
VR World, the same publication that broke the blacklisting story last year, is now reporting that China is on track to “debut” that fully-realized Tianhe-2 supercomputer in June at the 2016 International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt, Germany. If the system is early, it wouldn’t be the first time China exceeded expectations — the country launched its 33-petaflops (LINPACK) Tianhe-2 two years early.
From the VR World report:
“The new Tianhe-2 represents a hybrid design, featuring two new additions, as the old Xeon Phi cards are being phased out. Phytium Technologies recently delivered their “Mars” processors in the form of PCI Express cards that replaced the Xeon Phi cards, and motherboards to upgrade the system. Given that there are 48,000 add-in boards installed, the new 64-core design enables the system to reach its original performance targets. With the three million new ARM cores inside the Tianhe-2, its estimated Rpeak performance in the Linpack benchmark should exceed 100 PFLOPS.”
Phytium Technologies, the progenitor of the “Mars” ARM-based processors, was founded in August 2012. Although the planned target for Tianhe-2 was 100 petaflops peak and around 80 petaflops LINPACK, VRWorld reports that there is another planned iteration (using original Xeon CPUs plus homegrown ShenWei processors and Phytium accelerator cards) sufficient to boost the machine’s top speed 2-3X further.
Tienhe-2 was built by China’s National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) in collaboration with the Chinese IT firm Inspur, using 32,000 Intel Xeon E5-2692 v2 processors and 48,000 Intel Xeon Phi 31S1P coprocessors. The machine has led the TOP500 list since June 2013 with a performance of 33.86 petaflops on the LINPACK benchmark.
China’s processor developments are sponsored by the State High-Tech Development Plan, known as the 863 Program, which is funded and administered by the Chinese government to stimulate the development of advanced technologies for the purpose of strengthening China’s homegrown industries and reducing or eliminating dependence on foreign interests.
More to come on this story…