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China gunning for three Petaflop systems

The Great Grid of China
Tue Apr 24 2007, 14:03
A BEHEMOTH like Intel wouldn't pay grand, Global IDF-scale, homage to the Middle Kingdom - the ancient name for China, for those few not in the know - without a good reason. Let's make it many good reasons, in fact.

Three of those good reasons are in the field of HPC - High Performance Computing, the boring official name for supercomputing. While other regional HPC powers, Japan and Korea, aim for one Petaflop+ class system each in the next few years, China is pushing to the forefront of the game by going for at least two, most probably three, Petaflop supercomputers by 2010.

And what a competition that is: The Olympic capital city, Beijing, will have one, most probably under the patronage of Chinese Academy of Science, where Lenovo is an incumbent with a large 1000-CPU Itanium Quadrics system right now. This will probably come on line first, since it is the central node of China National Grid.

The financial capital of Shanghai has a the go-ahead for another Petaflop, at its supercomputer centre. The incumbent there is (far less known) Dawning. Each of these is going ahead with 100+ TFLOP 'pilot' systems this year to, kinda, prepare for the final fun. For a comparison, each of those two 'pilots' would be faster than anything anywhere in Europe today. And yes, these two huge metropolises have committed to these mammoth supercomputer projects - no ifs and buts there.

Finally, the 'enterprising' southern province of famed Cantonese cuisine and shrewd businessmen may have its own Petaflop. Galactic computing, set up by the well-known Steve Chen of ex-Cray fame, uses its base in the ever-prosperous city of Shenzhen, now the richest city of Guangdong province together with the capital Guangzhou. Yes, they started without clear federal support, but you'd never know it down there. After all, Shenzhen was the size of Ellis Island 40 years ago, yet now it is greater than Greater London - both in size, well over 2,000 sq km, and population, with some 13 million, in a multitude of huge, well planned, gardens of skyscrapers. So, determination does it.

These Chinese moves will definitely have many supporters in the US and EU supercomputer centres - one sure result is, more funds available to these guys to match or exceed China's efforts, whether in civilian or military use. At the end of the day, what's supercomputing but yet another one-upmanship 'mine is bigger/faster/hotter than yours' game? Save for the honest hard-working exceptions of course... µ

 

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