World's First 'Exascale' Supercomputer to be Launched by China This Year

By Prei Dy, | February 20, 2017

China will develop a prototype of an exascale computer, dubbed Tianhe-3, which is 200 times faster than its current supercomputer developed by Sunway TaihuLight. (YouTube)

China will develop a prototype of an exascale computer, dubbed Tianhe-3, which is 200 times faster than its current supercomputer developed by Sunway TaihuLight. (YouTube)

An exascale computer prototype, which is 200 times more powerful than the current world champion, is slated to be developed by China within the year, according to the country's National Supercomputer Center.

The world's first exascale prototype, dubbed the Tianhe-3, will be equipped with cutting-edge processors and other key technologies, Meng Xiangfei, director of application at the National Super Computer Tianjin Center (NSCTC), said. The prototype is expected to be finished early next year.

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'Exascale' computing means it is capable of making a quintillion (1 followed by 18 zeros) calculations per second. To compare, Sunway TaihuLight's supercomputer, the world's fastest, has only a peak speed of 125 quadrillion (1 followed by 15 zeros) calculations per second.


Exascale is considered a significant milestone in computer engineering as its order of processing power is believed to be comparable to the human brain at the neural level.

"It's computing power is on the next level, cementing China as the world leader in supercomputer hardware," Meng said.

Tianhe-3 will be made available to the public and aims to address some of the most difficult challenges in the world with great speed, precision, and scope. It will be designed to analyze the country's smog distribution; simulate earthquakes and epidemic outbreaks in detail; and analyze gene sequence and protein structures, ECNS reported.

The entirety of the Tianhe-3, from processors to operating system, will be made from indigenous materials. It will be stationed in Tianjin. A fully operational exascale supercomputer based on the prototype is expected to appear by 2020, ahead of the US plan for its own exascale supercomputer.

While the 125-petaflop (peak) supercomputer TaihuLight is equipped with ShenWei 26010 processors, resource computing Top500 said the exascale computer will not likely be powered by the ShenWei chips. Instead, Tianhe-3 would use a China-made, general-purpose DSP coprocessor called the Matrix2000 GPDSP.

The coprocessor is "projected to deliver about 2.4 teraflops of double precision performance (4.8 teraflops, single precision) per chip. It will also include support of high bandwidth memory... That would put it roughly in the same league, performance-wise, as an Intel Knights Landing [latest Intel Xeon Phi] processor," Top500 suggested citing a presentation at ISC High Performance 2015 from NUDT Professor Yutong Lu.

The Tianhe-3 is poised to generate more than 10 billion yuan ($1.49 billion) in economic benefits every year, Liu Guangming, director of NSTCT, noted.

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