China has built the world’s fastest supercomputer, almost twice as fast as the previous US record holder and underlining the country’s rise as a science and technology powerhouse.
The Tianhe-2, developed by the National University of Defence Technology in central China’s Changsha city, is capable of sustained computing of 33.86 petaflops per second, according to the semi-annual TOP500 official listing of the world’s fastest supercomputers. That’s the equivalent of 33,860 trillion calculations per second.
The computer uses a total of 3.12 million processor cores, using Intel’s Ivy Bridge and Xeon Phi chips to perform calculations.
The Tianhe-2, which means Milky Way-2, knocks the US Department of Energy’s Titan machine off the no. 1 spot. That machine achieved 17.59 petaflops per second.
Supercomputers are used for complex work such as modelling weather systems, simulating nuclear explosions and designing jet planes.
It’s the second time China has been named as having built the world’s fastest supercomputer. In November 2010, the Tianhe-2’s predecessor, Tianhe-1A, had that honour before Japan’s K computer overtook it a few months later.
The Tianhe-2’s achievement shows how China is leveraging rapid economic growth and sharp increases in research spending to join the US, Europe and Japan in the global technology elite.
“Most of the features of the system were developed in China, and they are only using Intel for the main compute part,” said TOP500 editor Jack Dongarra. “That is, the interconnect, operating system, front-end processors and software are mainly Chinese,” said Dongarra, who toured the Tianhe-2 development facility in May.