China is building a 100-petaflops supercomputer

November 1, 2012

Tianhe 1A supercomputer (credit: National Supercomputer Center)

As the U.S. launched what’s expected to be the world’s fastest supercomputer at 20 petaflops (peak performance), China announced it is building a machine intended to be five times faster when it is deployed in 2015, IT World reports.

China’s Tianhe-2 supercomputer will run at 100 petaflops (quadrillion floating-point calculations per second) peak performance, designed by China’s National University of Defense Technology, according to the Guangzhou Supercomputing Center, where the machine will be housed.

Tianhe-2 could help keep China competitive with the future supercomputers of other countries, as industry experts estimate machines will start reaching 1,000-petaflops (1 exaflop) performance by 2018.

The government is aiming for China’s supercomputers to reach 100 petaflops in 2015, and then 1 exaflop (1,000 petaflops), in 2018, according to Zhang Yunquan, a professor at the Institute of Software Chinese Academy of Sciences, who also keeps track of China’s top supercomputers.

China briefly took the top spot on the world’s list of most powerful supercomputers in 2010 with the Tianhe-1A. That computer is now ranked fifth in the world, with a theoretical peak speed of 4.7 petaflops.

Note: Oak Ridge National Laboratory added confusion to supercomputer ratings by citing 20 petaflops for its Titan supercomputer in its Oct. 29 announcement. This is a peak value (Rpeak), whereas supercomputer ratings by Top 500 and the press have traditionally used the lower Rmax figure (the highest score measured using the LINPACK benchmark suite). To make matter worse, many press reports have failed to state which metric is being used. — Ed.