Sundai TaihuLight is the new king of supercomputers

Part of Sundai TaihuLight (Photo courtesy Jack Dongarra. All rights reserved)
Part of Sundai TaihuLight (Photo courtesy Jack Dongarra. All rights reserved)

After three years, the world of supercomputers has a new king: the Top500 ranking crowned Sundai TaihuLight, Chinese as its predecessor Tianhe-2 and the first to use national processors while the previous Chinese supercomputers were still using American processors, especially Intel ones. The computing power of Sundai TaihuLight is 93 PFlop/s, nearly three times that of Tianhe-2.

Sundai TaihuLight is installed at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, a major city for manufacturing and technology to the west of Shanghai. It will be used for various research types ranging from scientific problems such as climate research to other engineering such as manufacturing. It was designed by the National Research Center of Parallel Computer Engineering & Technology (NRCPC).

For China it’s important not only to have very powerful supercomputers but also be independent from other nations in their construction, also after the American embargo on high-performance processors. Over the years, the use of foreign hardware got lower and in the latest generation Chinese systems the processors are also national.

Sundai TaihuLight uses 260-core Shenwei SW26010 processors that can develop a computing power of just over 3 TFlop/s each. The supercomputer has 40,960 nodes, each using a SW26010 processor so the maximum computing power could reach 125 PFlop/s.

The Shenwei SW26010 processors are of the 64-bit RISC type. No details were provided on the system’s architecture and there are only speculation that the project can be derived from the DEC Alpha architecture. No information was provided on the technological process information used to produce these processors. Concerning the system’s nodes, each contains 32 GBytes of RAM using DDR3 technology for a total of 1.3 PBytes.

As for the use of electricity, Sundai TaihuLight is better than Tianhe-2 because it consumes “only” 15.371 MW against the 17,808 of the previous king. In short, it’s a very efficient computer from this point of view and probably the hardware was designed also bearing in mind the problem power use.

Like other 496 of 500 supercomputers of the new Top 500 ranking, Sundai TaihuLight also uses Linux as its operating system. The distribution installed on this supercomputer is called Sunway Raise OS, a version of Linux brought to its architecture.

Sundai TaihuLight’s impressive performances show the enormous progress made by China in the field of supercomputing and in developing their processors. The USA is now at the third place with the old Titan supercomputer. Americans will have to do their very best if they want their supercomputer will get the crown back.

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