Domestic supercomputer prowess wins competitive global plaudits

Source:Xinhua Published: 2016/6/22 23:38:00

China's delight at Sunway TaihuLight being named the world's fastest supercomputer was all the more sweeter because it marks a shift from using "off-the-shelf" processors to domestic alternatives.

The supercomputer, which is twice as fast as the previous holder of the top spot, China's Tianhe-2, boasts three of the world's top performance results - its peak performance of 125 petaflops per second, regular performance of 93 petaflops per second, and an energy efficiency rate of 6.05 gigaflops per Watt.

Since China first began to explore supercomputing in the 1980s, developments have relied on processors and chips brought from big Western firms like Intel, Nvidia and Linux.

Previously, the supercomputer sector was dominated by the US and Japan. Due to Western technology embargoes, however, Chinese scientists had to focus on independent development.

The development of the Sunway TaihuLight system was included in the National 863 Program, China's top science and technology development plan. The supercomputer was based on the Sunway BlueLight MPP model, China's first supercomputer that used a domestic CPU, produced in 2012.

Sunway TaihuLight is the first supercomputer to have all its key components made in China.

It uses a multi-core CPU chip, which is just 25 square centimeters.

Besides supercomputing research, China has caught up in applications, a previous weakness in China's scientific development.

Three Sunway-TaihuLight applications - earth system modeling, ocean surface wave modeling and the microstructure of titanium alloy modeling - have been included on the shortlist for the German Innovation Award's Gottfried Wagnner Prize, which acknowledges the world's top supercomputing applications. This is the first time that China has been included on the shortlist. The winner will be announced later this year.

In practice, China's supercomputers are already being used in a wide range of fields, including on the world's largest radio telescope, which is to be completed in southwest China's Guizhou Province by the end of this year.

Aided by the supercomputer's data storage and processing capabilities, the telescope can detect radio signals from tens of billions of light years away.

The application of supercomputer-based marine wave modeling is aiding the safeguarding of marine shipping by providing high-resolution ocean surface images and ocean forecasts.

In the life science and industrial spheres, supercomputers have greatly accelerated China's pace in developing medicine, new materials and advanced manufacturing.

According to the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, operator of Sunway-TaihuLight, the supercomputer's assignments have been "fully scheduled."

Looking ahead, although China may not retain the top spot in supercomputing, its progress will help bolster a number of new economic growth channels.

This is a commentary of the Xinhua News Agency.

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