In the current edition of TOP500, Chinese made super computer Tianhe-1A (at 2.57 petaflops/second) has just overtaken the American Department of Energy’s Jaguar system (at 1.75 petaflops/second) in performance to top the current super computers world rankings list. (Here is the press release: “China Grabs Supercomputing Leadership Spot in Latest Ranking of World’s Top 500 Supercomputers.”)
This news is causing a stir in the U.S. media. Some are questioning the benchmark itself (never-mind the “gracious” acceptance of it when American made super computers topped the list). Various take on this news: China Daily, CNet, and WSJ.
The Tianhe-1A uses off the shelf Intel and nVidia processors, but the interconnect technology, “Arch”, was developed and produced in China. The interconnect is what allows information to flow from a processor to another processor at very high speed and is critical to the overall performance of the system. Tianhe-1A will be dedicated for petroleum exploration and aircraft simulation. It was developed by the National University of Defense Technology (国防科学技术大学).
The university also has an “open access” policy for this machine, which means foreign entities are allowed to lease time on this system.
The TOP500 press release went on to say:
Although the U.S. remains the leading consumer of HPC systems with 275 of the 500 systems, this number is down from 282 in June 2010. The European share – 124 systems, down from 144 — is still substantially larger than the Asian share (84 systems — up from 57). Dominant countries in Asia are China with 42 systems (up from 24), Japan with 26 systems (up from 18), and India with four systems (down from five).
Perhaps Tianhe-1A is challenging the widely held notion in the West that the Chinese cannot invent, but the important fact remains that China is still far behind in the number of such super computers deployed for research. China’s 42 systems in the TOP500 are only 15% that of the U.S.. For China’s population, we expect China to continue to climb this list.