Sugon’s cloud server system ups high-tech stakes

By Li Qiaoyi Source:Global Times Published: 2016/12/5 23:38:40

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT


While worries about China's lack of viable high-tech innovation continue, it should be stressed more than ever that the country has already become a tech power in certain arenas of strategic importance, and it is particularly appealing that the world's second-largest economy has strived to produce more readily available tech solutions, a trend that will certainly continue.

The announcement last week by Chinese high-performance computer maker Sugon that it mass-produced the world's first cloud server system capable of handling 100 million concurrent connections is indisputably the latest goal China has scored that goes beyond usual hardware upgrades.

The significance of the breakthrough - made under the support of the State-funded 863 Program, or the National High-Tech R&D Program - is rather obvious as the country envisions blazing a trail in key cloud computing technologies and systems as part of broader efforts to get rid of its dependence on foreign technologies especially in areas that raise national security concerns.

Cloud computing, which took on a life of its own a decade ago when Amazon launched the Elastic Compute Cloud, has underpinned the development of the digital economy, big data and the Internet sector. And it has increasingly turned into a crucial area for various economies including the US, the EU and China to occupy the commanding heights in the sphere of global information technology and economy amid concerns over cyber attack risks. In China's case, the country's rapidly growing digital economy and the prevalence of various applications of cloud computing technologies have prompted a rising number of government institutions and business organizations to move their operations to the cloud, which consequently renders it all the more important to ensure the security of cloud server systems.

Sugon's announcement of its cloud server system that is cost effectiveness as well as reliable in protecting privacy is indicative of an important step toward the country's shift toward a cloud server architecture based on domestic developed technology. 

However, based on an x86 architecture, Sugon's cloud server system runs on Intel's Xeon D processor, a move that is believed to support the current ecosystem applications are powered by. China's past experience in pushing for its own microprocessor architectures, notably Loongson, highlighted the difficulties of incubating a strong app ecosystem around an in-house alternative to Intel.

That being the case, Sugon's cloud server system which makes no changes to instruction sets or Ethernet protocols appears to be a domestic breakthrough that is readily available to the market rather than a mold-breaking effort that will stun the rest of the world. Still, by adapting the cloud server system architecture to enable tightly coupled connections that are cost-effective, and that essentially promises on-demand scalability, the cloud server system, typifying the country's transition toward a more practical solution to upping its high-tech stakes, could possibly translate into a genuine market success.

That doesn't mean efforts to incubate homegrown high-tech initiates should be abandoned, but that a more flexible approach to building the country's technology strength is needed. In cloud computing that is already penetrating into various aspects of the society, readily available solutions and products that address national security concerns are advisably a higher priority.

As such, a pure immersion into the achievements the country has made in cutting-edge fields such as supercomputing hardware will hardly benefit the economy. A practical solution mindset should be put into place to empower China's innovation-oriented growth.

China has continued its dominance in the list of the world's fastest supercomputers, according to the recent bi-annual list of the 500 most powerful supercomputers on the planet, released on November 14 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The top two were China's Sunway TaihuLight with a performance of 93 petaflops, or 93 quadrillion calculations per second, and Tianhe-2 claiming 34 petaflops. Moreover, both China and the US are home to 171 systems in the latest rankings, and in terms of system providers, Lenovo stood in the second place with 92 systems, behind Hewlett Packard Enterprise with 140.

However, all these figures signifying China's supremacy alongside the US in supercomputing remain largely limited to hardware. The country still has a long way to go in developing its supercomputing applications. It is hoped that more tangible efforts could be seen in establishing China's lead in supercomputing-enabled applications, among other various applications around cutting-edge homegrown technologies.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

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