A PROTOTYPE EXASCALE COMPUTER that's 200 times more powerful than the original Tianhe-1 will be developed by the end of the year, according to China's National Supercomputer Centre.
Exascale computers are capable of at least one quintillion (one billion billion) calculations per second.
The crown for the most powerful computer in the world currently belongs to the Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer, developed by China's National Supercomputing Centre in Wuxi, which runs at 93 petaflops, but which its developers claim is capable of peak performance of 124.5 petaflops.
That is well ahead of the second fastest supercomputer, which was also developed in China. The Tianhe-2 was developed by the National Supercomputing Centre in Guangzhou and runs at 55 petaflops. The exascale computer is believed to be its successor, the Tianhe-2A.
However, the Tianhe-2 used Intel ‘Knights Corner' Xeon Phi co-processors. The original plan was to use upgraded ‘Knights Landing' Xeon Phi chips when they become available, but a US government export embargo means that the developers will have to resort to an alternative.
The US government claims that the Tianhe line is ultimately destined for use by China's National University of Defence Technology and believes that they are being used in the research and development of new nuclear weaponry.
In response, China has stepped up its own indigenous semiconductor research and development efforts, with the Sunway TaihuLight running 10.65 million cores of ShenWei 26010 processors, developed and produced in China, running at a relatively stately 1.45GHz.
According to Top500, the producers of the Top 500 list of the world's most powerful supercomputers, the exascale computer will likely not be powered by ShenWei chips.
"A presentation at ISC High Performance 2015 from NUDT professor Yutong Lu revealed that next Tianhe system will use general-purpose DSP coprocessors, developed in China, to provided much of its compute power," it suggests.
It continues: "The coprocessor, known as the Matrix2000 GPDSP, is projected to deliver about 2.4 teraflops of double precision performance (4.8 teraflops, single precision) per chip. It will also include support of high bandwidth memory of some sort, although the particulars weren't specified. That would put it roughly in the same league, performance-wise, as an Intel Knights Landing [latest Intel Xeon Phi] processor."
While the prototype exascale computer will be developed this year, the finished product will only be completed by 2020, according to Zhang Ting, an application engineer with the Tianjin-based National Supercomputer Centre, who was talking at the 16th Tianjin Municipal People's Congress last week. µ
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