Chinese Supercomputer Set to Shatter World Speed Record

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China is looking to break through in 2017 by harnessing high-performance processors and other key technologies to build the world’s first prototype exascale supercomputer, the Tianhe-3. Ultimately this next-generation computer is expected to be 10 times faster than the current world champion. The prototype is expected to be completed in early 2018.

Exascale refers to a computer’s capability of making a quintillion (1 followed by 18 zeros) calculations per second. For a reference point, this is at least 10 times faster than the current world champion, the Sunway TaihuLight.

The current world champion is China’s first supercomputer that uses domestically designed processors and has a peak speed of 125 quadrillion (1 followed by 15 zeros) calculations per second.

Meng Ziangfei, director of application at the National Super Computer Tianjin Center, commented:

Its computing power is on the next level, cementing China as the world leader in supercomputer hardware. [It would be available for public use and] help us tackle some of the world’s toughest scientific challenges with greater speed, precision and scope.

The Tianhe-3 will be entirely produced in China, from its processors to the operating system. The plan is for it to be stationed in Tianjin and fully operational by 2020, potentially earlier than the U.S. plan for its exascale supercomputer.

It’s not out of the question that while this production is happening, another exascale computer is in the works. These projects generally take a few years to make and then are retired in about six to eight years.

The Tianhe-1, China’s first quadrillion-level supercomputer developed in 2009, is currently operating at full capacity and taking on more than 1,400 assignments each day.

Overall the team working with the Tianhe-3 supercomputer expects that it will generate over 10 billion yuan ($1.49 billion) in economic benefits per year.

Ziangfei, finished by saying:

The exascale supercomputer will be able to analyze smog distribution on a national level, while current models can only handle a district. Tianhe-3 also could simulate earthquakes and epidemic outbreaks in more detail, allowing swifter and more effective government responses.

The new machine also will be able to analyze gene sequence and protein structures in unprecedented scale and speed. That may lead to new discoveries and more potent medicine.