The Sunway TaihuLight, currently the world's fastest supercomputer, is powered by China's homemade CPUs. Photo: Xinhua
The Sunway TaihuLight, currently the world's fastest supercomputer, is powered by China's homemade CPUs. Photo: Xinhua

A prototype of China’s next generation “exascale” supercomputer capable of crunching data that’s equal to one billion billion calculations within a blink of an eye, is slated for trial later this year,  the National Supercomputer Centre in Tianjin said in a statement on Monday.

That number translates into 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 calculations per second.

Yet to be christened, the new supercomputer – co-developed with the People’s Liberation Army-affiliated National University of Defence Technology – will be 200 times faster and have 100 times more storage capacity than the 600 million yuan (US$95 million) Tianhe-1 (Sky River) supercomputer launched in Tianjin in 2010. The latter model was capable of a maximum range of 2.5 peta floating point operations per second (FLOPS), a measure of computer performance, and briefly retained the crown as the world’s fastest computer from October 2010 to June 2011, Xinhua reported.

The Tianhe-1 has been operating at full capacity as China’s military and commercial needs for supercomputing has shot up since it was launched.

Racks of servers for the Sunway TaihuLight, which was ranked as the world’s fastest supercomputer in November 2017. Photo: Xinhua

The power of supercomputers is harnessed for tasks such as simulated nuclear tests and weaponry design, oil exploration, equipment modeling, biological medicine, animation design and weather forecasting.

These machines are in fact clusters of tens of thousands of CPUs – central processing units – and graphic processing units, as well as legions of servers that typically occupy hundreds of square meters.

Chinese supercomputers occupy the top two spots of the latest Top 500 list compiled by computing scientists in several institutions in the United States, including the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

At the top is the Sunway TaihuLight currently in use in the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi. It has a LINPACK benchmark rating of 93 petaflops, on strength of the 40,960 Chinese indigenous SW26010 64-bit processors based on the Sunway architecture with a grand total of 10,649,600 CPU cores in a Linux-derived Sunway Raise operation system, after China shunned Intel’s Xeon processors and Nvidia GPUs previously used to power Chinese supercomputers.

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