Thursday, October 28, 2010

COMPUTERS - The Really, Really FAST Supercomputer

"Supercomputer in China super fast: U.S. computers feel inadequate" by Melissa Bell, Washington Post Blog 10/28/2010

They own all sorts of credit lines with the world. They make our light bulbs. Both the Republicans and the Democrats are pretty sure they'll take us over by 2030.

And now, China may have the world's fastest supercomputer.

On Thursday, China unveiled the Tianhe-1A, out-powering the previous supercomputer record holder, the Cray XT5 Jaguar, by computing at a rate 43 percent higher.

The computer is "another sign of the country's growing technological prowess that is likely to set off alarms about U.S. competitiveness and national security," Don Clark at the Wall Street Journal writes.

Here's what Mashable has to say about it:

Tianhe-1A was designed by the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) in China, and it is already fully operational. To achieve the new performance record, Tianhe-1A uses 7,168 Nvidia Tesla M2050 GPUs and 14,336 Intel Xeon CPUs. It cost $88 million; its 103 cabinets weigh 155 tons, and the entire system consumes 4.04 megawatts of electricity.

To put that in Luddite speak: The computer is fast. Really, really fast.

A petaflop is the measure of one thousand trillion operations per second or (ops). Most consumer computers are lucky to get a few billion operations per second.

In computing, speed is of the utmost importance. Most supercomputers are used for the toughest scientific problems, such as simulating drug products and designing weapons.

The computer, though constructed in China, still uses materials sourced from Intel and Nvidia, two California-based companies. One major shift in the computer's construction is its use of Nvidia chips -- the graphic chips are more commonly found in video games instead of computers.

Although some see the release of the computer as an affront to the U.S. lead in computing, others see it as a "wake-up call," as Jack Dongarra, a supercomputer expert told the Wall Street Journal, similar to when Japan released the Earth Simulator supercomputer in 2002. It took the U.S. two years to regain the crown.

Plus, there could be more surprises in store. The Top 500 list of supercomputers around the world has yet to be announced. A computer faster than the Tianhe could be unveiled before the list is released in two weeks.

No comments: