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Chinese supercomputer challenges US dominance

Chinese supercomputer challenges US dominance
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First Published: Tue, Jun 01 2010. 08 22 PM IST
Updated: Tue, Jun 01 2010. 08 22 PM IST
San FranCisco: A Chinese supercomputer has been ranked as the world’s second fastest machine, surpassing European and Japanese systems and underscoring China’s aggressive commitment to science and technology.
The Dawning Nebulae, based at the National Supercomputing Center in Shenzhen, China, has achieved a sustained computing speed of 1.27 petaflops—the equivalent of one thousand trillion mathematical operations a second—in the latest semiannual ranking of the world’s fastest 500 computers.
The newest ranking was made public on Monday at the International Supercomputer Conference in Hamburg, Germany. Supercomputers are used for scientific and engineering problems ranging from climate simulation to automotive design.
The Chinese machine is actually now ranked as the world’s fastest in terms of theoretical peak performance, but that is considered a less significant measure than the computing speed achieved on a standardized computing test.
The world’s fastest computer remains the Cray Jaguar supercomputer, based at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. In November, it was measured at 1.75 petaflops.
In the last year’s ranking, the Chinese had the fifth fastest computer, a system that was based at a National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin, China. That machine has dropped to seventh place.
The US continues to be the dominant maker of supercomputers, and is the nation with the most machines in the top 500. The US has 282 of the world’s fastest 500 computers on the new list, an increase from 277 when the rankings were compiled in November.
But China appears intent on challenging US dominance. A new system, which is based on a microprocessor that has been designed and manufactured in China, is expected later this year. A number of supercomputing industry scientists and engineers said that it was possible that the new machine would claim the title of world’s fastest.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of this year they surpass the scientific computing power of the EU countries combined and have a computer system with an achieved performance to reach the No. 1 position on the top 500,” said Jack Dongarra, a computer scientist at the University of Tennessee and one of the researchers who has organized the twice-yearly rankings.
Americans designed the first machines that were defined as supercomputers during the 1960s, and the US has rarely been dislodged from its controlling position as technology leader. In 2002, however, the Japanese government’s Earth Simulator set off anxiety in Washington when that system briefly claimed the position.
©2010 / THE NEW YORK TIMES
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First Published: Tue, Jun 01 2010. 08 22 PM IST