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World's fastest supercomputer is the 93 petaflop Sunway TaihuLight

by Mark Tyson on 21 June 2016, 09:01

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A supercomputer based in China is the world's fastest, sitting proudly atop of the new TOP500 list published on Monday. This is the seventh straight year of the Chinese have been crowned TOP500 leaders but this year there is a difference: the Sunway TaihuLight uses locally-designed and manufactured processors.

The Sunway TaihuLight is not marginally faster than lower placed TOP500 supercomputers but offers multiples of the speeds offered by those slower machines. Key statistics of the chart topping supercomputer are as follows:

  • Processors: Sunway SW26010 260C 1.45GHz
  • Cores: 10,649,600
  • Linpack Performance (Rmax): 93,014.6TFlop/s
  • Theoretical Peak (Rpeak): 125,436TFlop/s
  • Power:15,371.00kW
  • Memory: 1,310,720GB
  • Operating System: Sunway RaiseOS 2.0.5

It has leapfrogged last year's champion, the Intel processor-based Tianhe-2 (Linpack Performance (Rmax) 33,862.7TFlop/s) which moves to second place in the T500 list. Furthermore, the Sunway TaihuLight is said to be "three times as efficient," as that second placed machine.

Interestingly this year the TOP500 champion doesn't use western processor tech, sourced from the likes of Intel, Nvidia, and/or IBM. The 93 petaflop Sunway TaihuLight, based in the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, west of Shanghai, uses Chinese-developed ShenWei processors. According to a report on The Next Platform, the ShenWei chips are said to "bear a strong resemblance to the Digital Alpha chip, but according to Top 500 list co-founder and renowned HPC researcher, Dr. Jack Dongarra, it is not an Alpha variant".

A ShenWei 26010 processor

In a statement released alongside the new TOP500 list, director of the Wuxi centre, Guangwen Yang, said "As the first No.1 system of China that is completely based on homegrown processors, the Sunway TaihuLight system demonstrates the significant progress that China has made in the domain of designing and manufacturing large-scale computation systems". The use of homegrown processors shows that China doesn't have to rely on western tech anymore to compete in the upper echelons of supercomputing.

In the newly published TOP500 top 10 the two fastest computers are China-based, four are USA-based, meanwhile Japan, Germany, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia all have one computer in the top 10.



HEXUS Forums :: 19 Comments

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Post withdrawn following moderators advice..and not wishing to cause any potential problems for Hexus.
Bagpuss
…in the sense that the Chinese government, desperate for an indigenous CPU manufacturer, hacked into a western CPU companies servers and ‘borrowed’ the blueprints.

China has built it's home grown tech & defence companies off the back of intellectual property theft. …

Got any hard evidence to back any of that up? If you don't I'd respectfully suggest that you refrain from slandering the Chinese government on a public forum; I doubt they'd take kindly to it. CERTAINLY keep such potentially slanderous comments off Hexus - the last thing this site needs is probing by a foreign government…

Most speculation suggests that the DEC Alpha processors were the main design influence on the Chinese chips - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SW26010

It's certainly not an x86 core, so I doubt AMD care either way. And even if it was, I suspect it'd be Intel taking the closest look, since they own the IP for x86.

Let's be honest, there's a limited number of ways to push calculations through a CPU. It's probably close to impossible to design a usefully working CPU that isn't similar to an already existing core, and I suspect there's enough information in the public domain to get you started without needing any risky corporate subterfuge. It makes no sense to try to steal CPU designs when you can just throw engineers at the problem (generating skilled employment as a nice side effect) until something sticks.
Bagpuss
Lol..'locally designed'

Yeah in the sense that the Chinese government, desperate for an indigenous CPU manufacturer, hacked into a western CPU companies servers and ‘borrowed’ the blueprints.

China has built it's home grown tech & defence companies off the back of intellectual property theft.

I bet AMD would like a close up look at those cores.

That seems harsh.

There will be some common features, it is generally accepted that the Chinese authorities pulled apart a DEC Alpha to work out how it ticked and more importantly went so damn fast. AMD on the other hand could just hire key members of the old DEC design team.

But in both cases that happened a long time ago, giving us the Athlon and ShenWei SW-1. The world has moved on and, here's the kicker, the best estimate I could find is that China has 650000 university engineering graduates every single year. Think of that number, that's more than the population of Sheffield every single year. Perhaps you will scoff that they can't educate that many people to a high standard, but they have been doing this sort of technical emphasis for some time now and out of that many people just through sheer weight of numbers some of them are going to be damned clever and interested in CPU design.

Even if they didn't have access to Alpha design features, the MIPS architecture has been rather well documented as part of various academic papers and courses and would make an excellent starting point for a design.

After more than a decade of working on CPUs, and not held back by x86 and needing to boot into DOS, I would expect things to be going very nicely indeed. The system seems to have a lot of the features of Intel's Knights Landing MIC module, except that the ShenWei seems to have got there first.
DanceswithUnix
… Even if they didn't have access to Alpha design features, the MIPS architecture has been rather well documented as part of various academic papers and courses and would make an excellent starting point for a design. …

It seems a Chinese project did exactly that, starting in 2002: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loongson - however it appears that a small number of MIPS instructions are patented, so they eventually bought a MIPS license so they could produce fully MIPS-compatible processors.

EDIT: just as a bit more food for thought - many of the brightest Chinese engineering students study overseas, and many of them return to China once they've graduated. So they've got both volume and quality. A small number of high-class graduates heading up large teams of engineers? Yeah, that's a pretty potent mix.
scaryjim
EDIT: just as a bit more food for thought - many of the brightest Chinese engineering students study overseas, and many of them return to China once they've graduated. So they've got both volume and quality. A small number of high-class graduates heading up large teams of engineers? Yeah, that's a pretty potent mix.

I agree with this. Just ask anyone who lives near a Univeristy town, there is a disproportionately high ratio of Chinese and other east asian nationals. Or at least it certainly appears that way. I've alzo noticed that the fields they study are more practical. Lots of engineer, computing, law and business. Not very much by way the arts. These are just my observations of course. :)

(note: I dont mind! They pay a good chunk more for the same education and sort of subsidise UK students)