When I went to China in early 2015, I spent an evening at the Park Hyatt bar, a sprawling tavern that sits on the 93rd floor of the Shanghai Financial Center—then the sixth tallest building in the world. Today, less than two years later, it’s already been relegated to ninth place, a testament to the worldwide skyscraping race to the heavens. One needed only to look out the Park Hyatt’s window at the then-unfinished Shanghai Tower (the world’s second tallest building) to see that China doesn’t settle for 1,600-foot buildings when it can build 2,000-foot buildings. The industrious country applies that same tenacity to computer building, too.
Earlier today, Top500 released their semi-annual list of the world’s most powerful machines. China, whose Tianhe-2 topped the previous list, held on to the peak position, this time with a new machine made entirely from Chinese-built processors.
The 93-petaflop (meaning it has the capability of performing 93 trillion calculations per second) Sunway TaihuLight is housed at the National Supercomputing Centre in Wuxi. In addition to its astonishing speeds, the new supercomputer also helped China eclipse the U.S. in total number of machines represented on the list (167 and 165, respectively) for the first time ever.
“Considering that just 10 years ago, China claimed a mere 28 systems on the list, with none ranked in the top 30, the nation has come further and faster than any other country in the history of supercomputing,” said Top500.
The Sunway runs on a Linux-based OS and is built from 10.5 million locally made processing cores and 40,960 nodes. Its primary functions will be weather forecasting, advanced manufacturing, and big data analytics.
“As a computer scientist it’s difficult writing software that can take advantage of and control large numbers of computer cores,” University of Southampton’s Professor Les Carr told BBC. “They are like extremely high-spec Grand Prix racing cars – they are fantastic for racing on circuits but they’re not great for traveling from London to Edinburgh.”
This racecar, though, goes twice as fast and is three times as efficient as any other previously built. Will the U.S., who has four computers in the Top 10, have a response? Or will China continue its onslaught and emerge with its Burj Khalifa of computing? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Featured Image: Sandia Labs