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Sunway-TaihuLight Outperforms Tianhe-2 as World's Fastest Supercomputer
   2016-06-20 16:15:21    Xinhua      Web Editor: Liu Yuanhui

The photo shows a new Chinese supercomputer called Sunway TaihuLight on Monday, June 20, 2016. [Photo: CCTV News]

Related: More About New TOP 500 Supercomputers

China's new supercomputing system, Sunway-TaihuLight, was named the world's fastest computer at the International Supercomputing Conference in Germany on Monday.

The National Supercomputing Center was also unveiled Monday in Wuxi, east China's Jiangsu Province, where the new-generation supercomputer is installed.

With processing capacity of 125.436 petaflops (PFlops) per second, which means it can perform quadrillions of calculations per second at peak performance, Sunway-TaihuLight is the first supercomputer to achieve speeds in excess of 100 PFlops.

The computing power of the supercomputer is provided by a China-developed many-core CPU chip, which is just 25 square cm.

"It would take 7.2 billion people using electronic calculators 32 years, or 2 million desktop computers working together for one minute, to do the same calculation the computer can solve in just 60 seconds," said Yang Guangwen, head of the Wuxi center.

Installed inside the center's 1,000-square-meter computer room, Sunway-TaihuLight is composed of 40,960 processors.

In addition to its speed, it is much more energy-efficient than its predecessor Tianhe-2, which was the world's best supercomputer for six years. One watt of electricity can support 6 billion calculations by Sunway-TaihuLight, which is just a third of the energy consumption by the China-developed Tianhe-2, which registered 33.86 PFlops per second, for the same calculations.

However, other countries are advancing their own supercomputing prowess, said Fu Haohuan, deputy head of the Wuxi center.

The United States aims to produce a supercomputer with 1,000 PFlops per second by 2025. At its current speed, by 2017, it is expected to have designed a supercomputer with speed three to five times that of Tianhe-2.

"Although speed is a primary target, controlling the energy level is just as vital. Otherwise, future supercomputers will consume power equivalent to the amount used by a middle-size city," said Fu.

China has channeled 1.8 billion yuan (273 million U.S. dollars) to support the development of Sunway-TaihuLight, about one third of which was from the central government and the other two thirds was shared by the Jiangsu provincial and Wuxi municipal governments.

China's supercomputing technology on Monday was also included on the shortlist of the German Innovation Award's Gottfried Wagnner Prize, for supercomputing technology. This was the first time that China has been included on the shortlist. The winner will be announced later this year.

Three Sunway-TaihuLight applications were nominated -- earth system modeling, ocean surface wave modeling and the microstructure of titanium alloy modeling.

In addition to the nominations, this new generation of supercomputer has already been used to determine precise calculations for weather forecasts with an accuracy of 9 square km. The technology was also used to support China's contribution to the international search for the missing Malaysian Airlines plane MH370. It processed big data sent via satellite radars.

After the invention of Tianhe-2, China has been been exploring the application of supercomputing, for example, in analyzing air pollution control measures, medical research and Internet technology applications.

Zhang Jian, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said China still lags behind developed countries in commercializing the use of its supercomputing technology.

He said commercial application is still dominated by the West. China needs more talent to explore and apply the technology in different fields.

With more precise marine forecast based on the high resolution supercomputing technology, patrol, shipping and fishing vessels will be able to optimize their route plans to avoid rough seas. Offshore oil platforms will also be able to make precautionary programs to prevent marine disasters, according to the First Institute of Oceanography under the State Oceanic Administration.

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