Chinese supercomputer overtakes U.S. machine as fastest in world

cray XT5 defeated by chinese supercomputer

A Chinese supercomputer is now the world's fastest machine, eclipsing the former U.S. titleholders with a 40 percent increase in performance. Image: CC Tom Purves/Flickr

A supercomputer in China has wrested the title of “world’s fastest” from machines developed by U.S. technology companies. The Tianhe-1A designed by China’s National University of Defense Technology dethroned the U.S. Cray XT5 “Jaguar” built at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. American supercomputer experts are saying the Chinese supercomputer is another threat to the West’s ability to compete economically with China.

A giant leap in supercomputing

Supercomputers are freakishly powerful machines that can simulate the behavior of such things as experimental drugs and advanced nuclear weapons. Wired reports that China’s Tianhe-1A has 262 terabytes of memory and is contained within 140 refrigerator-sized cabinets. The Tianhe-1A’s speed has been clocked at 2.507 petaflops, or 2,507 trillion floating point calculations per second. The mark is 40 percent higher than the Cray XT5, which set the previous standard of 1.759 petaflops in June. The Tianhe-1A is unique because it uses a combination of CPU and GPUs like desktop PCs to deliver the world’s fastest performance.

China’s supercomputing challenge

Another distinctive feature of the Tianhe-1A supercomputer, according to The Atlantic, is that even though it uses Intel and Nvidia processors, the system synchronizing all 21,000 of its chips is Chinese. Jack Dongarra, a computer scientist at the University of Tennessee, told the Atlantic that eventually the Chinese want to manufacture the processors in the U.S. as well. He described it as a challenge to the scientific establishment in the U.S. He called the Tianhe-1A a “wake up call” that the U.S. needs to invest more in supercomputing.

World domination through supercomputing

The Tiahhe-1A supercomputer is part of a long-range Chinese plan to dominate the world in military and commercial technology, according to the Wall Street Journal. Dongarra, who recently traveled to China, told the Atlantic that the scientists who created the machine say they plan to use it for oil exploration, biomedical research and climate science. The primary use of supercomputers in the U.S. is to simulate nuclear weapons.



The Atlantic

Wall Street Journal

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