For the first time in history, the world’s fastest supercomputer is powered by Chinese-designed semiconductors, so what does the arrival of the Sunway TaihuLight mean to the US technology dominance?
A supercomputer is a particularly powerful mainframe computer with a high level computational capacity compared to a general-purpose computer, performing at or near the current highest operational rate for computers. They are usually used for scientific engineering applications that must handle very large databases or do a large amount of computation.
In a major breakthrough for Chinese technological developments, the Sunway TaihuLight triples the speed of its predecessor to the number one spot Tianhe-2, performing at 93 quadrillion calculations per second making it roughly five times more powerful than the fastest US system which has now dropped to the third best worldwide.
The newly developed supercomputer was created by the National Research Centre of Parallel Computer Engineering and Technology (NRCPC), who are the organisation responsible for the Sunway BlueLight system which is installed at the National Supercomputing Centre in Jinan.
The most impressive aspect of the Sunway TaihuLight is that it is a completely innovative idea from the Chinese and as it is built from Chinese semiconductors it means it is not based on any existing architecture and was built purely by themselves with Chinese processors, unlike China’s previous fastest supercomputer which consisted of US-made Intel processors.
The supercomputer has been built using domestic chip technology, and is a major breakthrough for China in their attempt to move away from their dependence on imported technology and their reliance on US semiconductor technology, as well as the countrys advances in technological creations.
Other chipmakers are now working with Chinese organisations to build processors over there, with companies such as Qualcomm Inc. and ARM Holdings PLC both now becoming involved in Chinese chip production. The latter’s products are the centre piece of most modern day smart phones, which shows that the big players in the industry are taking notice of the Chinese and their developments.
So will this major breakthrough for China mean that the US will need to play catch up if they are to continue to dominate the industry? We shall soon see.